One day after cutting Tim Tebow, New York Jets general manager John Idzik said Tuesday the five remaining quarterbacks on the roster will compete for the starting job, including the embattled Mark Sanchez.
"Mark's in the competition," Idzik said on the "Mike & Mike in the Morning" show on ESPN Radio. "We fully expect it will help him get better. It'll help David [Garrard] get better. It'll help Greg [McElroy]. It'll help Matt Simms. It'll certainly help Geno [Smith]."
Later, in an interview with WFAN, Idzik sent out mixed signals on Sanchez. He said he "would expect him to be here," but he refused to make a commitment, even short term. Asked if Sanchez will be on the roster after June 1, Idzik said, "Let's let it play out. ... I don't want to make any definitive statements at this time."
There have been smaller fields in the Kentucky Derby than the Jets' quarterback competition. The depth chart ballooned to six on Friday when they selected Smith, the former West Virginia star, in the second round. There was immediate speculation that Sanchez could be released.
Coach Rex Ryan, speaking later in the day on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's "The Michael Kay Show," reiterated that nothing will be handed to Sanchez.
"There's no guarantee Mark will be our starting quarterback," Ryan said. "That job will have to be earned."
Although Sanchez's place on the 53-man roster is hardly secure, the plan is to bring him to training camp, according to a league source. His $8.25 million base salary is fully guaranteed, which, of course, is a huge factor.
The Jets would get stuck with a $12.4 million cap charge if they release him with a June 1 designation. There's no trade market for Sanchez because of his contract. But at the same time, he's the only experienced and durable quarterback on the roster. Garrard, 35, has missed the past two seasons because of injuries.
Idzik said "something had to give" when they drafted Smith, and that something was Tebow, released early Monday morning after one unproductive season with the team.
"We entered the offseason open-minded and said, 'Let's bring Tim in and let him begin our offseason program and take it from there,' " Idzik said.
In truth, the Jets had been prepared for several months to part ways with Tebow, sources said. They tried to trade him for the better part of the offseason and through the draft. Idzik refused to say whether any teams called to express interest.
Idzik said he never considered the possibility of asking Tebow to switch positions.
"While I was here, he was slated as a quarterback," said Idzik, who was hired in January.
Ryan admitted the team dropped the ball with Tebow.
"We really didn't take advantage, in my opinion, of his skill set," he said. "Ultimately, that's my fault."
Tebow's departure should alleviate some of the sideshow element, which Sanchez admitted recently was a distraction for both of them.
Idzik praised Sanchez's attitude, calling him "even-keeled" amid the intense scrutiny and Tebow turbulence.
"I told him I admire how he's handled some very difficult situations," Idzik said. "The same holds true right now. ... He's focused and he's energized and he's been very positive."
Now the spotlight will shift to Smith, Sanchez's potential successor. Even though he was drafted in the second round, Smith will get a heavy dose of New York pressure.
"Being he's in the New York market and at a high-profile position," Idzik said, "I think he's going to be center stage, regardless."