Add Zach Wilson to the list of recent first-round quarterbacks who won’t see out their rookie contracts with the teams that drafted them. It’s virtually certain that he will not be back with the New York Jets next season.
In this instance, the uncertainty runs even deeper. We already have chronicled the disconnect between owner Woody Johnson and Saleh, whose hiring Johnson played no significant role in while he was serving an ambassadorship abroad. And as the Jets’ season unraveled and fans booed Wilson’s every move last week, throwing their support behind journeyman backup Chris Streveler, NFL personnel executives were pondering what changes Johnson might demand beyond the already inevitable exodus of Wilson.
“This is killing Woody. Trust me — I know him well,” said one high-ranking NFL official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to discuss other teams publicly.
“All of that booing is driving him crazy,” said the executive, who predicted more changes are in store, possibly reaching the upper levels of the front office. “He already wasn’t really sold on this coach. He’s going to want [offensive coordinator Mike] LaFleur out and some changes to that staff. He can’t help himself. Weren’t they 6-3 at the bye? And now they’re getting booed out of their own stadium at Christmas. I’m telling you, something is going to happen there.”
And to think, the Jets went into that bye week coming off what appeared to be a franchise-altering upset of the mighty Buffalo Bills. But Wilson’s epic failure is the kind of development that tends to cost people jobs, even in the steadiest organizations. This one, um, does not qualify as such; infighting, cliques and constant change have been the hallmarks of the Jets under Johnson’s stewardship.
During the Jets’ four-game losing streak, they have scored a grand total of 54 points. They have been held to 20 points or fewer in seven of their past nine games. Since Week 7, Jets quarterbacks have combined for eight touchdown passes — tied for the fourth fewest in the NFL — with a 77.5 rating that is also fourth worst. They’re tied for last in offensive points per game since Week 7, somehow level with the broken Denver Broncos.
They still must travel to Seattle and Miami to close what’s becoming a lost season, with their playoff hopes not officially expunged but nearly so. The specter of ending this once-promising campaign with six consecutive losses and a last-place finish in the AFC East — the miserable Patriots already swept them — won’t improve Johnson’s mood. The Jets seem a mess once more. The quarterback probably won’t be the only one to go, and one NFL general manager posited the potential return for Wilson in a trade as a sixth-round pick or perhaps a fifth. Yikes.
After the Commanders, another sale?
Among the interested parties awaiting the massive sale price the Washington Commanders are sure to command: Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.
Other owners and executives have long eyed him as among the next owners to sell, with Bisciotti possibly seeking the right moment on the other side of the pandemic. His presence at league meetings has waned over the years, and the retirement in the spring of longtime team president Dick Cass — the de facto daily boss within the Ravens’ facility — was taken as another strong indicator that Bisciotti could explore a departure sooner rather than later. The owner made it clear on a team-sponsored podcast around that time that he has no succession plan, that this franchise won’t be staying in his family and that he will sell when he feels the time is right.
“He’s been on my shortlist for a few years,” said one well-connected individual who has been involved with franchise transactions in the past but who is not permitted to speak freely about them. “After [the Commanders sale], he goes to the head of the class.”
Watching Daniel Snyder — the unpopular billionaire down the street whose team is facing multiple investigations — potentially get up to $7 billion for a franchise with no winning pedigree, no quarterback, a run-down stadium without a plan for a new one and a bottom-tier headquarters/practice facility — is going to get Bisciotti’s attention. The Panthers’ and Broncos’ sales sent prices soaring, and there are going to be a good number of billionaires who miss out on the Commanders sale who are already vetted, liquid and keenly interested in owning an NFL franchise in the Mid-Atlantic. The Ravens also have a path to an additional $600 million in potential stadium upgrades that could lead to a new lease at M&T Bank Stadium, which provides even more incentive to invest in them now.
“This is going to set off a chain reaction,” said a plugged-in, high-ranking official with an NFL club that probably will be sold in the coming years. “There are going to be one or two more sold right behind it.”
So it might be the perfect time for Bisciotti to cash out on an investment that he bought into for just $600 million in 2000.
Notes from around the league
A few weeks back, we chronicled what appeared to be the end days for Derek Carr and the Raiders. That proposition has only gained steam in NFL circles, and expect the Raiders to be jostling for draft position to try to land their quarterback of the future this spring. What is Carr worth in a trade? Maybe a second-round pick, suggested one GM, pointing to the complicated Carson Wentz deal as a potential comp. “I think he’s better than Wentz,” said the GM, who mentioned Carolina, Washington and Tampa Bay as potential destinations for Carr. …
How good is Brock Purdy? With a growing sample size — including another strong outing against the Commanders — the 49ers’ third starting quarterback of the season is earning high marks around the league. “I liked him some coming out of college,” said one evaluator who has watched Purdy start in the NFL but is not allowed to comment publicly on players on other rosters. “What I liked most was the way he throws with anticipation. He’s a perfect fit with [Coach Kyle] Shanahan. He fell into the perfect situation. But he’s smart, he throws with anticipation, he knows where to put the ball, and he makes strong reads. And he’s a winner. The kid wins games. Hell, he was a winner at Iowa State.” That executive said he is becoming more convinced by the week that the 49ers will trade Trey Lance, whom they moved up to take one pick after Wilson in the 2021 draft.