The New York Jets' meandering quarterback search came to an end Monday evening, with the news that Josh McCown had signed a one-year, $6 million contract. Now the question on everybody's mind is, what does it mean for the big picture?
Coach Todd Bowles won't be available for comment until next week's NFL owners meetings in Phoenix, but here are a few thoughts on how I see things playing out:
1. McCown will be the opening-day starter (by default): Bowles may paint it as an open competition, but logic dictates that McCown will emerge from the preseason as the No. 1 quarterback. Despite his recent struggles in Cleveland and Tampa Bay, he's too seasoned and too smart to begin the season behind a couple of neophytes, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. They're all learning a new system, but McCown can draw on 14 years of experience. He also has an ally in new quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates; they were together in 2012 in Chicago.
2. Hackenberg will take over sooner than later: I'll put the over-under line on McCown starts at four. He's old (38 in July) and injury prone, and he hasn't been a productive starter since 2013 with the Bears -- his only successful run as a No. 1 quarterback. If McCown is a bridge quarterback, it'll be a short bridge. The Jets know this, and that's why they're paying him like a low-end starter/high-end backup -- a $6 million guarantee. He will earn an additional $125,000 for each start, which could bring him up to $8 million. By opting for an inexpensive, one-year rental, the Jets have set it up for Hackenberg. As a rookie, he had no game experience and he didn't get much quality practice time, but they need to find out about him; that's what 2017 is all about.
3. Don't be surprised if they draft a quarterback: It's not a particularly strong draft class, but general manager Mike Maccagnan subscribes to the Ron Wolf philosophy: Draft one every year, if possible. It would be a bold move to pick one at No. 6 overall, but the Jets are very intrigued by North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, widely regarded as the top QB prospect. They will be present Tuesday at his pro day and could return to Chapel Hill, North Carolina for a private workout. This is something to watch.
4. Petty could be in trouble: His roster spot will be in jeopardy if the Jets draft a quarterback. They kept four quarterbacks last season, but that didn't work out too well. Despite his experience last season, Petty is behind Hackenberg in the big-picture pecking order. He's also recovering from surgery on his left shoulder, which could keep him out for part of the offseason program.