New York Jets Joe Douglas
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Jets GM Joe Douglas hinted the team could add a veteran quarterback to assist in the development of a rookie.

Ryan Honey

Sam Darnold is gone. Nearly three years after drafting him, the Jets have traded the young quarterback to the Carolina Panthers for a number of picks over the next two drafts.

This clears the way for the organization to select BYU quarterback Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall.

Nothing will be official until the night of Thursday, April 29 (the draft’s first round), but the fat lady is seemingly warming up the vocal cords.

The Jets are looking to undergo a full restart with a new head coach in Robert Saleh. If Wilson does indeed come to Florham Park, he’ll likely come in as the presumed starter.

But while it’s difficult to take on the role of an NFL starting quarterback at such a young age, it’s a sheer struggle without notable mentorship. It would make sense to commence the developmental process with a rookie signal-caller.

Thus, with the likelihood the Jets will draft Wilson, Jets general manager Joe Douglas may be looking to fix that potential issue.

While the Jets have already signed a number of offensive weapons — wide receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole along with running back Tevin Coleman — to eventually assist in the development of a rookie and will likely draft more, a veteran quarterback with starting experience to back that first-year player up could be a legitimate requirement.

The Mike Maccagnan regime took this route after drafting Darnold — the organization kept veteran Josh McCown to push the then-rookie quarterback in training camp and ultimately mentor him as he developed.

Whether the Jets draft Wilson (who’s most likely going to be the pick) or any of the other top quarterback prospects, a veteran by his side could prove beneficial.

The options? Well, there are a few.

Alex Smith

For this conversation, the favorite could be longtime quarterback Alex Smith, who’s most certainly on his way to retirement at 36 and coming off a gruesome leg injury that just occurred in 2018 and kept him out of football until this past season.

Smith has obviously seen it all in this league — from awful nights to phenomenal achievements.

There was the time when the San Francisco 49ers crowd chanted “We want Carr,” referring to then-49ers backup David Carr when Smith struggled during a Sunday night game with San Francisco in 2010.

There was also the time when he led the 49ers to the NFC Championship game during the 2011 season after throwing a game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis against the Saints in the postseason.

The point is: a rookie usually possesses a ton of questions, so employing a veteran like Smith who has a significant number of answers would be a superb fit.

Blake Bortles

Despite leading the Jaguars to the postseason in 2017, it’s clear Blake Bortles — the 2014 No. 3 overall pick — is a backup in this league. He hasn’t started a game since 2018 and didn’t appear in a single matchup for either Denver or the Los Angeles Rams last year.

But given his experience (78 career appearances, 73 starts), he would definitely be a superior mentor-type quarterback in comparison to current Jets backup James Morgan (2020 fourth-round selection).

Bortles would additionally be a cheap acquisition on the market — after all, he’s thrown just two passes since the conclusion of the 2018 campaign.

Josh McCown

A reunion in Florham Park? Josh McCown going the “full circle” route to return to the Jets and be a mentor for the second consecutive long-term quarterback project?

He would be a better option for this type of role than some of the other free-agent veterans, but it’s unclear if he’d be willing to spend another year in the league. McCown has bounced around from NFL team to NFL team (he’s been with a dozen different ones since 2002) and has already retired once (following the 2018 season before spending time with the Eagles and Texans the last two years).

McCown would not compete for a starting job (he’ll be 42 years old by the time training camp starts), and despite the fact Joe Douglas wasn’t around when he was last with the organization, bringing him in wouldn’t be a horrific idea.

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