Jets Give QB Zach Wilson Permission To Seek Trade

Expected for months to be set for a Big Apple departure, Zach Wilson may soon take another step toward that reality. The Jets have given the former No. 2 overall pick permission to seek a trade, Joe Douglas said Wednesday.

Given the trade buzz around Wilson — which includes the underwhelming quarterback looking into potential fits elsewhere — this is not surprising. The Jets will first try to trade the three-year starter, who has been tied to potentially fetching a late-round pick in a swap.

Supplanted as the Jets’ starter by Aaron Rodgers, Wilson had been benched for Mike White previously. The Jets effectively admitted their mistake — not acquiring a veteran option to either challenge Wilson for the QB2 role and not landing one after Rodgers’ Achilles injury — and are ready to move on.

The Jets’ decision comes as the Bears are likely to trade Justin Fields. The No. 3 overall pick from that 2021 draft — Trey Lance — has already been moved, being dealt from the 49ers to the Cowboys, and Mac Jones is certainly on unstable ground with the Patriots. That five-first-rounder 2021 QB class features only one of those players — No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence — assured of being his team’s starter in 2024.

This separation will bring familiar territory for the Jets, who have seen their repeat investments in first- and second-round QBs fail to produce a long-term option. The team traded Sam Darnold after three seasons and did not re-sign Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez. Christian Hackenberg famously never played an NFL snap. Wilson, of course, goes on this regime’s balance sheet. Choosing the once-fast-rising BYU prospect second overall has done the most to push Douglas and Robert Saleh onto hot seats. The two decision-makers have this year to convince Woody Johnson they are worthy of keeping their jobs.

As of now, it appears unlikely the Jets will resort to cutting Wilson. Doing so would bring a cap charge over $11MM. A possible sixth- or seventh-round pick could be the return here. That obviously would fall well short of what Darnold fetched in 2021 (second-, fourth- and sixth-rounders), but Wilson has faceplanted in New York and is on the verge of becoming one of the game’s biggest modern-era busts. Through 34 games (33 starts), Wilson has completed just 57% of his passes — at 6.3 yards a clip — and is 12-21 as a starter.

Saleh benched Wilson in November 2022, amid concerns in the locker room, and then sat him during a nationally televised Thursday-night game later that year. Summoned once Rodgers went down four plays into his New York tenure, Wilson was again erratic. Saleh benched him for Tim Boyle, though the three-year HC later admitted he always thought Wilson was the most talented option following the Rodgers injury. (The Jets cut Boyle a day after his second start.) That benching led to the rumor circulating that Wilson was hesitant to move back into the starting role. He finished the season out with a concussion.

Rodgers, 40, has said he is planning to play at least two more seasons. His 2023 injury — and previous admission he was 90% retired before changing his stance and joining the Jets last year — should give the team some pause about that timeline. But the Jets are committed to Rodgers, who has significant influence in the building. Johnson went as far as to say the Jets had no backup quarterback last season. Now, it will be a matter of finding a replacement soon and seeing if they can salvage a late-round draft choice for Wilson.

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