The Jets' latest search for their quarterback of the future could be nearing a temporary conclusion. And if it is, they'll have yet another short-term answer to the franchise's biggest problem.
Josh McCown, a 37-year-old journeyman free agent, continued his visit with the Jets for a second day on Saturday, according to an NFL source. The two sides are serious enough about each other that they've discussed contract parameters, the source said. Indications were that his visit was going very well.
That seems to position McCown as the leader of the dwindling pack of Jets' quarterback options. The Jets are also interested in former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, according to a source, and though he was expected to be brought in for a visit that has not happened yet. A team source confirmed the Jets have no interest in ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and beyond that the market is extremely thin.
McCown would essentially be what Ryan Fitzpatrick was supposed to be when he was signed prior to the 2015 season - albeit an older version. Fitzpatrick was brought in as veteran insurance to help a young Geno Smith and to step in if Smith couldn't get the job done - which happened right away when Smith got into a locker-room fight and ended up with a broken jaw.
McCown would be a similar stop-gap, or bridge to a young quarterback. The difference now is that there is no obvious starter on the Jets roster, so McCown likely would be the starter when the 2017 opens. Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has said he'll give his young quarterbacks - Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg - a chance to battle for a starting job this summer, and McCown's presence could give them time to develop.
It also remains possible, although not likely, the Jets will draft a quarterback again in one of the draft's early rounds.
If McCown, who'll be 38 by Opening Day, ends up as the starter it's hard to tell exactly what the Jets would be getting. He has started 60 games in an a 15-year NFL career that he's spent with seven NFL teams, including three with the Cleveland Browns last season. He's had some brilliant runs and some terrible stretches too, completing 59.1 percent of his passes for 14,242 yards with 79 touchdowns and 69 interceptions overall.
He was actually outstanding in 2013 with the Bears, playing in eight games and starting five. He completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 1,829 yards with 13 touchdowns and one interception. Two years later, with Cleveland, he had an outstanding eight-start run, completing 63.7 percent of his passes for 2,109 yards with 12 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
But, as an indication of his up-and-down nature, he was far less successful in 2014, the year in between. Starting 11 games for the Bucs he completed just 56.3 percent of his passes for 2,206 yards, with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
The Jets, of course, hoped for something more when free agency began. According to various sources they had their eye on Mike Glennon, but were scared off by his price even before he got his three-year, $45 million contract with $18.5 million in guaranteed money from the Chicago Bears. Next they hoped to turn to Tyrod Taylor, but he renegotiated his contract to stay with the Buffalo Bills. They also had interest in Brian Hoyer, who signed with San Francisco. And they were open to bringing back Smith before he signed with the Giants to battle for their backup quarterback job on Friday.
The most accomplished quarterback left on the market is Kaepernick, who once led his team to the Super Bowl, but also became controversial last season when he refused to stand for the national anthem before games. New 49ers GM John Lynch said in a radio interview on Friday that Kaepernick nearly signed with an undisclosed team.
Jets spokesman Bruce Speight told the Sacramento Bee, after checking with Maccagnan, that "That's not us. Definitely was not us." A team source confirmed the Jets' lack of interest.
Beyond Cutler and Kaepernick the options are limited. Robert Griffin III drew some interest from the Jets last offseason, but there's no indication they've renewed that interest lately. Clearly the Jets won't be turning back to Fitzpatrick. They could explore trade options with the Bengals for A.J. McCarron or the Broncos for Trevor Siemian, and they still might. But they can't wait forever for those options to develop and then leave themselves without a viable, experienced quarterback at all.