FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- With quarterback Mark Sanchez expected to miss at least a few weeks with an injured shoulder, the New York Jets signed veteran Brady Quinn on Monday to back up presumptive starter Geno Smith -- a move that casts doubt on Sanchez's future with the team.
Sanchez is due to make a guaranteed $8.25 million this season from the Jets, whether he's on the team or not. It would be unusual for a team to eat that much salary, but general manager John Idzik hasn't ruled out the possibility of cutting Sanchez at some point, according to a source.
Rex Ryan gave a vague explanation for the Quinn signing, saying it was simply an opportunity to add a good football player. Ryan provided no update on Sanchez, except to say he didn't practice Monday.
It has been nine days since the injury, and Sanchez still hasn't thrown a football, sources said. He won't play in the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a source said. Even Smith acknowledged, "Mark's status is very uncertain."
Sanchez seemed at a loss to explain the Quinn move, saying, "I don't know, just keeping a veteran guy around as an emergency guy."
But it's more than that. Because he's a vested veteran, Quinn's salary (probably $715,000, the veterans' minimum), will be guaranteed if he's on the roster Saturday. Quinn arrived Sunday night, worked out for team officials in the morning and participated in practice, wearing No. 9.
"It's a great opportunity," he said. "The Jets are a historic organization."
If Quinn learns the offense quickly and is willing to serve as a mentor to Smith, the Jets could decide that Sanchez is expendable. The organization is prepared to move on without him, sources said. The holdup is his contract. He's counting $12.9 million on the 2013 salary cap. If he's released, his cap number would remain the same this year, and there would be a $4.8 million charge in 2014.
The Jets have options. They can stash Sanchez on injured reserve; short-term IR is eight games. Ryan said injured reserve is "not what we're looking at right now," but he didn't rule it out. They also could carry four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, releasing Sanchez when/if they're comfortable with the Smith-Quinn-Matt Simms troika. The previous No. 3 quarterback, Greg McElroy, was released Saturday.
To make room for Quinn, the Jets released quarterback Graham Harrell, who lasted less than a week.
Ryan gave the impression there are no plans to cut Sanchez, saying, "If Mark's healthy, then, yes, I would say he'll be part of this team." The Jets also could look to trade him. Obviously, they'd have to agree to eat most of the contract, but a team could be desperate if it suffers a quarterback injury.
Clearly, Sanchez's injury is worse than the team is letting on. The Jets still are characterizing it as a day-to-day injury. Sanchez sounded like a robot, giving a prepared answer to every question about his shoulder.
"I'm not going to get into the rehab process or what stage we're at," he said. "I just know it's feeling better every day."
Asked if he's still hoping to start Sunday, Sanchez said with a straight face: "I'm trying, I'm trying. We'll make a good push this week and see where I'm at. You just want to take this thing slow, take it the right way and make the right progression without re-injuring yourself."
The feeling in the locker room is that Smith is a definite to start the first game. Ryan still hasn't named his starter, perhaps for competitive reasons, but he's not fooling anyone.
"Nothing new there," said Ryan, who may make the announcement Wednesday.
Sanchez and Smith waged a summer-long competition. The clear preference is Smith, but he performed poorly in his only extended outing -- three interceptions against the New York Giants in the third preseason game.
Nevertheless, Smith, a second-round pick, said he's ready to start.
"I've been preparing extremely hard and I think I've gotten a lot better," he said. "This is only the beginning. I've got a lot to learn and I'm preparing for everything that comes my way. If my chance is Sunday, I'm going to go out there with the intent to lead my team to victory and that's just the way it is. I'm always going to be like that -- aggressive."
On paper, Sanchez outplayed Smith in the preseason, but he was injured in the fourth quarter of the Giants game when Ryan made the controversial decision to insert Sanchez behind the second-team line.
"Some people get shopped around the league, that's how it goes," said tight end Kellen Winslow, who played with Quinn in Cleveland. "Brady is a veteran now. It's crazy how fast it goes. He's very smart and he gives us some veteran presence and some leadership."