Zach Wilson of the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium...

Zach Wilson of the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 24, 2023. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Zach won’t be back.

The Zach Wilson era ended on Monday when the Jets struck a deal to send the underperforming quarterback they drafted second overall in 2021 to the Denver Broncos.

Wilson and a seventh-round pick (256th overall) are heading to Denver for a sixth-round pick (203rd overall), league sources said. The Jets also will pay half of Wilson’s $5.5 million salary, according to a source.

The Jets gave Wilson’s agent permission to seek a trade after the season, but things moved slowly. It became evident that he didn’t have much trade value after three tumultuous seasons.

Owner Woody Johnson said last month that the Jets wouldn’t “just release” Wilson if they couldn’t trade him. General manager Joe Douglas called Wilson “an asset” on Friday but reiterated that the Jets were “open to trading him.” A deal finally came together just days before Thursday’s NFL Draft.

By moving on from Wilson, the Jets will clear some cap space and close the book on one of the worst draft decisions in franchise history.

They believed Wilson would lead them deep into the playoffs and maybe even to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1969. However, he failed to live up to the hype and deliver for this star-crossed franchise, which has missed the postseason for 13 consecutive seasons.

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The Jets went 13-21 when Wilson played. The former BYU standout passed for 6,293 yards, 23 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. He was benched three different times in the past two seasons and ended his Jets career on injured reserve with a concussion.

Douglas could use the Day 3 pick he acquired for Wilson on a quarterback who can watch and learn from four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers. That was the plan for Wilson in 2023, but things took a disastrous turn when Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon in Week 1.

Wilson became the starter, and as the season wore on, it became increasingly clear that his days as a Jet were numbered.

Wilson is the sixth quarterback the Jets have taken in the first or second round since 2006 who was gone in four years or less. He will get a fresh start in Denver under Sean Payton and in a quarterback room that features Jarrett Stidham and Ben DiNucci.

The Jets will host the Broncos during the 2024-25 season, so Wilson could face his former team at MetLife Stadium.

Wilson received the lion’s share of the blame for the Jets’ offensive troubles last season, but there was plenty to go around.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who is very close with Rodgers, had difficulty adjusting to life without him. Injuries also ravaged the offensive line. The Jets started 13 different O-line combinations and finished in the bottom four in scoring and total offense.

Wilson did show some growth and maturity in his third season. He completed a career-best 60.1 % of his passes last season for 2,271 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions in 12 games. The Jets started 4-3, but the offense was a mess.

Robert Saleh removed Wilson from the Jets’ Week 11 loss in Buffalo and replaced him with Tim Boyle, who started the next two games. Saleh dropped Wilson to QB3 behind Boyle and Trevor Siemian and made him the Jets’ emergency quarterback on game days. It appeared that he had thrown his last pass as a Jet.

But after Boyle and Siemian struggled, Saleh turned back to Wilson in Week 14. He led the Jets to a 30-6 win over the Texans with his third 300-yard passing game. Wilson, who completed 75% of his passes and threw for two touchdowns, had a 117.9 passer rating in the victory.

In the subsequent week in Miami, Wilson was under siege early and left the game in the first half with a concussion. He never took another snap for the Jets.

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