Quarterback Vick Joins NFL’s N.Y. Jets as Mark Sanchez Era Ends

The New York Jets signed Michael Vick and cut Mark Sanchez, adding a veteran backup quarterback while ending an up-and-down five-year relationship with the passer who led them to two conference title games.

The signing of Vick, who played his last five seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles after serving time in prison for a dog-fighting conviction, was announced yesterday evening on the team’s website. Sanchez was released shortly before, making him an unrestricted free agent, the team said in a news release.

Contract terms for Vick weren’t disclosed by the Jets. ESPN reported it’s a one-year deal worth $5 million, citing a person in the National Football League who was not identified.

The quarterback change ends a run by Sanchez with the Jets that included trips to the American Football Conference championship game in each of his first two NFL seasons, followed by turnover-plagued play and a shoulder injury that kept him out for the entire 2013 campaign.

The Jets missed the playoffs the last three seasons. In Vick, they add a 33-year-old, injury-prone 11-year NFL veteran who has been to four Pro Bowls.

“It means a lot to have the chance to come in and play for a great organization that had a lot of success last year and being on the brink of doing some good things,” Vick said yesterday in a statement. “Maybe I can come here and be an asset whenever my number’s called.”

Geno Smith led the Jets to an 8-8 record as a rookie quarterback last season. Vick, who was bothered by an injured hamstring in 2013, started six games in Philadelphia before backing up Nick Foles, who took the team to the playoffs.

Vick’s Role

“He’s here in a role where he’s going to compete and push Geno Smith to become the very best that he can be,” Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said in a statement about Vick. “Michael will be able to go in and play at a high level and a winning level if called upon.”

Vick, who was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001, played six seasons in Atlanta before serving 18 months in prison for his role in an interstate dog-fighting ring. Having missed two seasons of football and damaged the reputation of the NFL, he joined Philadelphia in 2009 and grew into a respected leader on the team, speaking out about the inappropriateness of his past actions.

“I really enjoyed getting to know him over the last five years,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said yesterday in a statement. “He always represented our team with a tremendous amount of class. Michael was a great teammate, a great leader and we’re thankful for everything he provided to our organization and to our community.”

Vick’s Record

Vick has a 58-48-1 record as a starter, having thrown 128 touchdown passes and 85 interceptions.

The Jets would have owed 27-year-old Sanchez a $2 million bonus had he remained on the team’s roster as of March 25. They saved $8.3 million against the salary cap by releasing him.

Sanchez missed the entire 2013 campaign after injuring his shoulder during the team’s third preseason game. He had surgery in October.

In 2012, Sanchez had an NFL-high 27 turnovers, including 18 interceptions, as the Jets went 6-10. He also threw 18 interceptions in 2011, and during the following offseason the team traded for Tim Tebow, creating an uncertain situation at quarterback throughout the 2012 season.

“I’d like to thank Mark for everything he’s done for this team and me personally,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said in a statement. “We were rookies together and had some early success, becoming the first rookie head coach and quarterback to go to back-to-back championship games.”

Sanchez, who was the fifth pick in the 2009 NFL draft, went 37-31 as a starter for the Jets, including the postseason. He took the team to the AFC title game as a rookie, where it fell to the Indianapolis Colts. The team repeated the feat the following season, losing 24-19 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sanchez departs having thrown 68 touchdown passes and 69 interceptions.

Jets backup quarterback Greg McElroy announced his retirement yesterday at the age of 25.

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