Who will be Gang Green’s starting quarterback in 2023?

Who lines up under center for the Jets in 2023?

That is the biggest question Jets fans are asking themselves following the quarterback circus of 2022.

The Jets defense was good enough to get them to the playoffs in 2022. Their defense unit improved from 32nd a season ago to fourth in both yards allowed (311.1) and points allowed (18.6).

Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft, is expected to return next year. However, the Jets want to bring in a veteran in a critical year for both coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas.

The good news for the Jets is there will be 37 available free-agent quarterbacks this offseason, plus other wayward veterans such as Derek Carr, whom the Raiders will undoubtedly either trade or release next month.. The bad news is only a few of them could make a significant impact under center.

Let’s look at the available realistic quarterback options for the Jets.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Of all the available options for the Jets, Garoppolo makes a lot of sense for various reasons. He is unlikely to return to San Francisco with the emergence of Brock Purdy and 2021 No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance still on the roster. Saleh knows Garoppolo well from his four seasons as the 49ers defensive coordinator.

Second, Garoppolo has performed well when he’s been available as he has a 40-17 record as he has thrown for 14,289 yards. He also has a career completion percentage of 67.6, with 87 touchdowns to 42 interceptions. Garoppolo has also shown he can help lead a team to the playoffs as demonstrated in 2019 and 2021 when the 49ers reached the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship.

This season, Garoppolo began the year as the 49ers backup. However, after Lance’s season-ending ankle injury against the Seahawks in Week 2, Garoppolo became the team’s starter once again as the 49ers went 8-4 in their first 12 games of the year.

But Garoppolo broke his foot Week 13 against the Dolphins and has been out since, although 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said the 31-year-old could be available to be Brock Purdy’s backup for the NFC Championship game against the Eagles. Injuries have been a theme of Garoppolo’s career as he’s only played only 15 games or more in any season twice (2019, 2021).

If Garoppolo does sign with the Jets, he would be an instant upgrade and provide stability at the quarterback position. His health history is a significant concern for any team wanting to sign him this offseason.

Derek Carr

Garoppolo isn’t the only 31-year-old quarterback the Jets will consider acquiring this offseason. Carr has been more durable than Garoppolo and had more individual success throughout his career.

The Raiders are expected to release or trade Carr quickly after the Super Bowl. If he is on Las Vegas’ roster on Feb. 15, Carr’s $32.9 million base salary for 2023 and his $7.5 million bonus would be guaranteed. If the Raiders release Carr before Feb. 15, the team would owe him nothing in guaranteed money.

The 2022 season was a bit of a down season for Carr, coming off his first playoff appearance with the Raiders in 2021. He passed for 3,522 yards, 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while completing 60.8% of his passes in 15 games. The Raiders benched Carr for Jarrett Stidham during the final two games with the thought of trading or releasing him during the offseason.

Carr is a three-time Pro Bowler and has shown he has the potential to play at a high level at times. However, his interceptions and boneheaded decisions were problematic with the Raiders, even with weapons such as Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow.

Carr’s play in cold weather should concern the Jets, however. He has played in seven games where the temperature was 36 degrees or lower, and has a 0-7 record all-time, with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Tom Brady

This sounds sacrilegious, but Brady could be an option for the Jets in 2023. If Gang Green is genuinely committed to developing Wilson, why not have the greatest quarterback of all-time help tutor him for at least a season?

Brady will become a free agent for the second time in his career in March, coming off a season where he began to show signs of decline. He passed for 4,694 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 17 games for the Buccaneers. These numbers are down from his 2021 campaign where Brady was an MVP candidate after throwing for 5,316 yards, 43 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Brady will be 46 at the start of next season and it is fair to wonder how much he has in the tank after his poor performance in the 31-14 NFC Wild-Card game loss to the Cowboys. He finished 35 of 66 with 351 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception as Brady looked scared to take a hit when defenders were close by.

Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill isn’t scheduled to be a free agent, but the Titans could release him and gain nearly $18 million in cap space. If the Jets strike out with Garoppolo, Carr and Brady, Tannehill, a 10-year veteran, might be a short-term solution if he hits the market.

After the Dolphins traded him to the Titans in 2019, Tannehill revitalized his career in Tennessee. He has passed for 12,831 yards, 89 touchdowns and 33 interceptions while completing 66.9% of his passes. He also helped the Titans reach the postseason three out of four seasons, including in 2021 when they were the top seed in the AFC.

Tannehill was bothered by a right ankle throughout the season as he initially suffered the injury in Week 7. He later aggravated the injury in Week 15 and was put on season-ending injured reserve.

Critics will point out that Tannehill could never get the Titans over the hump during his time in Nashville as they lost in the divisional round twice and in the wild-card round once. Then there’s his age, as Tannehill will turn 35 in July, and his best days are likely behind him.

Despite all of that, the Jets could be a playoff team in 2023 with a player like Tannehill, who doesn’t have to be a superstar quarterback. Gang Green has enough supporting players like Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, who could help Tannehill succeed in New York if he comes to the Meadowlands.

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