Mark Sanchez could be immediate starter if released, says one NFL coach

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Sanchez could be a hot commodity in a weak free agent quarterback market, assuming the Jets let him go.

Mark Sanchez's stock seemingly couldn't be lower, after spending the past year rehabbing from shoulder surgery and watching his starting job go to rookie Geno Smith. The New York Jets may decide to cut bait with Sanchez this offseason, now that Smith appears to be the future for the franchise. What would Sanchez do if left to his own devices on the free agent market?

Well, perhaps a lot, actually. Sanchez is still young, just 27 years old, and would enter what is expected to be a weak crop of free agent quarterbacks. One NFL coach told the New York Post that he would happily accept the beleaguered signal caller.

"We'd take Sanchez," the coach said. "He'd be the starter as soon as he walked in the door for us."

There may not be a better option expected to hit the market. The likes of Michael Vick, Josh Freeman, Chad Henne, Josh McCown and Matt Cassel will be unrestricted free agents in March, but all of them may have more serious question marks than Sanchez at the moment. Other quarterbacks, like Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans, are prime candidates for release, but they too have performance issues.

Sanchez's release from the Jets would make sense. He is set to count $13.1 million against the 2014 salary cap, and has just $4.8 million of his prorated signing bonus still due to him. The Jets may also want to enter the offseason without a quarterback controversy for a change, after dealing with Sanchez-Tebow in 2012 and Smith-Sanchez this past year.

Sanchez has been productive in the past. His best year was arguably 2011, when he threw 26 touchdowns to 18 interceptions while completing a career-best 56.7 percent of his passes for 3,474 yards. Nonetheless, that season sparked calls for Sanchez's job from fans, as the Jets went 8-8 overall and missed the playoffs after making the AFC Championship Game during Sanchez's first two seasons in the NFL.

If Sanchez can curb his turnover rate -- he had 52 combined interceptions and fumbles over the course of 2011 and 2012 -- he may still be able to lead a team deep into the playoffs. Having a reliable and healthy receiving corps and offensive line would also be a nice change of pace for the quarterback. The Jets have missed on several receiver prospects, notably 2012 second-round pick Stephen Hill.

Sanchez's return to a starting position is not a foregone conclusion, but what's clear is that he and the Jets would both be better served by parting ways. The demand for viable passers is always high in the NFL, but perhaps never more than this offseason. Sanchez can start anew, and perhaps even earn some appreciation for his efforts.

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