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Christian Hackenberg's Jets future could hinge on Cousins sweepstakes

Without a single regular-season snap under his belt since he was drafted in 2016, Christian Hackenberg might not be what the Jets want in a No. 2 quarterback. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

INDIANAPOLIS -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets at the NFL scouting combine:

1. Odd man out? There was a time, not long ago, when Christian Hackenberg's development dominated the quarterback narrative. We're so past that stage, particularly with the Kirk Cousins storyline. With Hackenberg, the question no longer involves whether he gets a shot, but if he'll be on the team in 2018.

The Jets are poised for an overhaul at quarterback, one that could leave Hackenberg and Bryce Petty looking for new teams. Based on the buzz at the combine, it would be a minor upset if Hackenberg survives the rebuild. His fate could be tied to the outcome of the Cousins sweepstakes. Here's why:

If the Jets don't sign Cousins, they will look to acquire a veteran, possibly two -- say, Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater -- then draft a quarterback. There would be no room for the slow-developing Hackenberg.

If they land Cousins, Hackenberg could stick as a clipboard holder, but not even that is a sure thing. The Jets would probably look to sign an experienced No. 2, because if you're going to pay big money to buy a Cadillac, your second car has to be dependable. Hackenberg, not ready for No. 2 status, could continue in his No. 3 role ... unless the Jets draft a quarterback in the later rounds. In that case, he'd be toast.

Truth be told, it's probably time to move on. The 2016 second-round pick has yet to play in a regular-season game, and you get the feeling he'll never play as long as Todd Bowles is the coach. Bowles operates a meritocracy, and he made it clear Hackenberg hasn't earned the right to play.

"We’ll see what his role is going forward," Bowles said at the combine. "Obviously, he got a little more playing time last year in preseason, not so much in the season. But he’s got to get better. ... He’s got to correct a lot of things, obviously. The more he plays, the more he’ll correct. He’s a young guy. The more time he plays or gets to play ... but you’ve got to earn that playing time, so it’s a tricky situation there."

That's what you call a lukewarm endorsement.

2. March Madness: The Jets are one of four finalists for Cousins, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Saturday. You might say it's their first final four since January 2011, when they reached the AFC Championship Game.

Word on the street is that Cousins is looking for $90 million in guarantees over the first three years. "Most" of the four finalists, Schefter noted, are mulling three-year proposals instead of five, which is surprising. For the Jets, a three-year contract makes little sense. By the time the team gets good, it'll be staring at another big quarterback decision.

3. 'Backer could be a goner: The Jets could be in the market for a new middle linebacker. Demario Davis, a pending free agent, is seeking $8-10 million a year, according to sources, and there's no way he'll get that much from the Jets.

Davis changed agents recently, thinking it would help his chances of landing a monster deal, but he needs to adjust his expectations. Yes, he played well last season, but he's a 29-year-old linebacker heading into a buyer's market. No team will meet his asking price. The Jets see him in the $3-4 million range, so we're talking about a considerable gap.

If he doesn't bend, the Jets are prepared to move on. Other options include Nigel Bradham, Avery Williamson, Anthony Hitchens, Tahir Whitehead and Paul Posluszny.

4. A tough corner: The cornerback situation will be interesting. The Jets are interested in re-signing Morris Claiborne, but the two sides aren't close. They're expected to have interest in Trumaine Johnson, but the word is he's headed to the Oakland Raiders or San Francisco 49ers. The Jets also like Malcolm Butler, but he, too, will be highly coveted. If I'm the Jets, I'd be careful about committing long term to Claiborne, whose injury history makes him a risk.

5. No Joshing: Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen put on a show Saturday during the throwing drills, highlighting his day with a 70-yard dime. To no one's surprise, he threw it high and far. The question is, can he throw it short and straight?

Allen completed only 56 percent of his passes in college, including only 61 percent on throws of 5 yards or fewer -- two points below the national average, per ESPN Stats & Information. History tells us that inaccurate college quarterbacks don't become accurate pro quarterbacks. The Jets should be wary of Allen if he's still on the board with the sixth pick.

5. Nittany Lion King: Wow, how talented is Saquon Barkley?

The former Penn State star impressed in his interviews and blew up the drills: 4.41 seconds in the 40, a 41-inch vertical jump and 29 reps on the 225-pound bench press. He's a physical freak and, oh yeah, a gifted running back. One AFC scout told me he wouldn't be surprised if he was picked No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Browns.

If that happens, here's my top-six mock draft:

1. Browns -- Barkley; 2. New York Giants -- QB Sam Darnold; 3. Indianapolis Colts -- DE Bradley Chubb; 4. Browns -- Allen; 5. Broncos -- QB Baker Mayfield; 6. Jets -- QB Josh Rosen.

If the Jets sign Cousins, it could be G Quenton Nelson over Rosen. They'd also be in position to trade down with a team looking to jump up for a quarterback (Rosen).

6. Jersey Boys and a Bronx Tale: Nelson (Holmdel, New Jersey) and Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (New Brunswick, New Jersey) were born only 20 miles apart -- each only 60 miles from Barkley's birthplace (Bronx, New York). All are likely top-10 picks. That's a lot of talent for one area.

7. Hill Street Blues: Teams spend crazy amounts of money and invest countless man hours in evaluating prospects, and sometimes it still comes down to a crapshoot. You just never know how these things will turn out.

Classic example: In 2012, the Jets were choosing between wide receivers Stephen Hill and Alshon Jeffery in the second round. Jeffery bombed in his combine interview with the Jets; it was so bad he was asked to leave the room. He was overweight and his 2011 college tape was lackluster. Meanwhile, Hill aced the interview, impressed in his on-field drills and showed up for a pre-draft visit wearing a business suit.

Every Jets fan knows how it turned out: Hill is an out-of-the-league bust and Jeffery is an accomplished player and current Super Bowl champion. You never know.

8. The sons also rise: This is a cool father-son story involving former Jets general manager Terry Bradway and ex-coach Al Groh.

In January 1991, Bradway and Groh celebrated a Super Bowl championship with the Giants. Bradway was a Big Blue scout; Groh the linebackers coach. They were led by a backup quarterback, Jeff Hostetler, who replaced the injured Phil Simms in the 14th game.

Fast-forward to last month.

Their sons -- Mike Bradway and Mike Groh -- found themselves in virtually the same situation with the Philadelphia Eagles. Bradway is the director of college scouting; Groh the receivers coach (since promoted to offensive coordinator). Their Super Bowl title run also was led by a backup, as Nick Foles replaced Carson Wentz in the 13th game.

The dads got a chance to celebrate with their sons, sharing a laugh as they recounted the eerie similarity between the two championships.

9. The last word: I caught up with Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who had some kind words for new Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. He thought enough of Bates to hire him twice, at USC and in Seattle. The latter gig didn't end well, as Carroll fired Bates after only one year. The details of the divorce are murky and might have extended outside football. Still, Carroll said of Bates:

"A gifted football guy. Has a great mind. Rooted in the [Mike] Shanahan schemes, him being a West Coast guy and all that. Really gifted, though, very well-rounded. Understands the game from front to back. Had experience with the offensive line, which was always really valuable to him, as well as what he's done with quarterbacks. Innovative and a tough competitor. Very bright and innovative with his stuff. He's going to do a good job."

10. Only 53 days to the draft: How many mocks will you read by then?