2018 cap hits of top returnees:
Pending free agents: Josh McCown
Key stat: In three seasons under coach Todd Bowles, the Jets are ranked 29th in passer rating (80.6) and their touchdown-interception ratio (68-53) is 28th. That’s a big reason why he’s 20-28.
Money matters: Since 2014, the Jets have paid $32.9 million in salary to their quarterbacks, a relatively low figure. If they sign Kirk Cousins, they could be paying close to that amount in average per year.
Big picture: General manager Mike Maccagnan is 0-for-2 when drafting quarterbacks and his veteran acquisitions have produced two good years and one bad year. In other words, he has a checkered track record. Now is the time to change that.
With more than $70 million in cap room and the sixth pick in the draft, Maccagnan has no excuse. He must resolve the issue that has plagued the Jets for decades. And, for a change, a quality backup would be nice. Petty is on thin ice and Hackenberg could be shopped in trade talks, although it’s hard to imagine any team showing interest. The one exception could be the Houston Texans, coached by Bill O’Brien, Hackenberg’s first coach at Penn State. By the time the regular season starts, the Jets could have an entirely new look at quarterback.
Free-agent market watch: Cousins, Drew Brees, Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, A.J. McCarron, Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith.
Also could become available: Tyrod Taylor, Blake Bortles and Mike Glennon.
The game plan: It’s simple: Get Cousins. The Jets want him badly, and sources say they’re willing to pay whatever it takes — unless the Washington Redskins decide to tag him for a third time (unlikely). Money aside, the Jets hope to convince him he’ll have a chance to win in New York. Because of obvious deficiencies on the current roster, they must sell him a championship vision. Their recruiting pitch also will stress his familiarity with the offensive system. In addition to making Cousins wildly rich, the Jets want to let him know he’ll be comfortable with the scheme and coaches.
If they miss on Cousins, the only thing close to a franchise quarterback on the market, the Jets have to lower their sights to a stop-gap option. There’s always a chance the Jets re-sign McCown, who has expressed interest in returning. If he does, it would make quarterback a top priority in the draft. Other fallback options are Keenum and Taylor, who should have some scheme familiarity because his former offensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills — Rick Dennison — is the Jets’ line coach/run-game coordinator.