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Rex Ryan 'absolutely' wants Mark Sanchez back in 2014

Head coach Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez of

Head coach Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets talk on the field prior to playing the Broncos in Denver on Nov. 17, 2011. Credit: Getty

INDIANAPOLIS – Jets fans may have already detached themselves mentally from Mark Sanchez. But there’s at least one person in the Jets' front office who definitely wants the veteran quarterback on the roster in 2014: Rex Ryan.

“I want him back, absolutely,” the Jets head coach said Thursday during media availability at the NFL Combine, when peppered by questions about Sanchez's future. “I want all my guys back. You guys know my answer and you know how I feel about my players.”

Ryan made similar statements about Darrelle Revis at last year’s Combine – just a few months before first-year general manager John Idzik dealt the All-Pro cornerback to Tampa Bay in exchange for draft picks. Perhaps having learned his lesson, Ryan also made sure to deliver the noncommittal company line Thursday – “Let’s just let it play out,” he said – when asked about the veteran QB’s future.

Sanchez – who missed all of 2013 after suffering a preseason shoulder injury that required surgery – is expected to be a salary-cap casualty fairly soon. The sixth-year quarterback is due a $2-million roster bonus in March and carries a $13.1-million cap hit in 2014. If the Jets trade or release him, they’ll be hit with a $4.8-million charge of “dead money,” but they also would save $8.3 million.

As expected, Idzik played it close to the vest when discussing the possibility of Sanchez returning. “We tend to let things play out, so that we still have some time there,” he said, referring to Sanchez, who recently underwent a knee scope. “I know one thing for sure: Mark’s diligently handling his rehab and we know that he’ll be ready but we’ll just let that take its course.”

Though the GM wouldn’t get into specifics about the QB’s recovery (i.e., his current arm strength), Idzik did say that the Jets are “assuming Mark’s going to be fine with his shoulder.” Now the only question is where Sanchez will end up.

If Ryan had his way, he’d get to keep the QB he moved up to draft fifth overall back in 2009. “If it’s up to me – you know how I feel about all of my guys – I’d like them all back,” the coach said, before explaining the realities of the NFL.

“It’s part of the business. I understand it. I think when people bleed for you, it’s hard to not be loyal to those players. But I also understand the most important thing is what’s the best thing for the football team. That’s one of the positions I’m in.

“So, obviously, I feel compassion and loyalty to anybody that’s ever played for me, and respect that way. But I also understand that what we go by is a simple creed. The three most important things are the team, the team and the team. And that’s it. Those are the cold, hard facts of the National Football League and that’s certainly what you have to do.”

When asked about the likelihood of releasing Sanchez and fellow veterans Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie, Idzik said: “We’re not going to get into speculation about what we may do in a couple weeks.

“Suffice it to say that we take those decisions very serious for players that have meant a lot to us, be it one season, two seasons, three seasons, whatever it is. We think if we take those decisions seriously and pour everything into it – that said, we like to wait and really all the information that we feel is necessary in order to make a sound decision. We’ll take advantage of time.”


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