Prior to the start of the 2023 season, the New York Jets weren’t expecting to finish with a 7-10 record. With Aaron Rodgers in town, the hype surrounding this team was soaring through the roof, with some experts predicting the Jets would make the playoffs.
However, those hopes and aspirations came crashing down when Rodgers sustained a torn Achilles in his first game as a Jet, leaving him sidelined for the entire season. And when the Jets turned to backup Zach Wilson, the youngster struggled to handle the pressure that came with his new role as well as galvanize a team that had lost its leader.
Following two miserable outings over Weeks 2 and 3, Wilson delivered a promising performance over Week 4 in the Jets’ 23-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. That said, Wilson would continue to struggle with delivering consistent, mistake-free performances, which eventually led him to be benched for Tim Boyle.
Two weeks later, Gang Green decided to cut Boyle and reinstate Wilson, who produced another strong outing that led to a big Jets win. In their 30-6 victory against the Houston Texans over Week 14, Wilson delivered his best game of the season, completing 75% of his 36 pass attempts for 301 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Since then, Wilson has been recovering from a concussion he suffered against the Dolphins over Week 15 and hasn’t seen any more playing time to finish the season. But with the 2023 campaign now over, the offseason has officially begun, and the Jets have several decisions to make, including what to do with Wilson, seeing Rodgers will be returning as the starter next season.
The Jets Should Keep Zach Wilson Around For Another Season
Although Wilson proved to be a solid backup at times, the lack of confidence, belief, and support he received from fans and teammates alike over the last two seasons reached new heights and impacted his ability to perform at his best on a weekly basis. And if there’s one thing that’s vital to implement in a locker room and or within an NFL organization aiming to make a Super Bowl run, it’s a unified level of camaraderie and chemistry.
In short, the Jets have to come to a definitive agreement on whether they support Wilson and whether they want to invest in him or not. Having a divided locker room and a fanbase up in arms about a quarterback they are unwilling to get behind won’t allow the Jets to build the solidarity and bond they need universally in order to win ten-plus games.
Though Rodgers will likely be back as the starter next season, the Jets have to be prepared for him to get banged up once more and, as a result, might have to rely on their young backup all over again. After being selected second overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets have to come to terms as a team and decide whether Wilson’s someone they can get behind or not. And most importantly, if he’s a part of their future plans.
If the Jets were wise and patient enough, it would be in their best interest to at least keep Wilson for another season to see how things play out, and here’s why. What comes into play when making this decision, is that the Jets gave Wilson a 4-year, $35 million dollar rookie contract that runs until the end of the 2024 season. So if the Jets look to cut Wilson by any means in 2024, they’re looking at an $11,184,307 dead cap hit, which is frankly quite a hefty pill to swallow.
In addition, it would be naïve of experts and fans alike to bypass the reality that the Jets offensive line was absolutely abysmal over 2023. In fact, the Jets offensive line finished first in pressures allowed (181) and third in sacks (64). In nearly every game Wilson played, he was constantly under fire and was sacked a total of 46 times, third most in the NFL.
Lastly, the Jets didn’t run the ball well either, which makes passing it even that much harder. To finish the 2023 regular season, the Jets were 22nd in rushing yards per game (96.9). Keeping defenses guessing is what offenses genuinely want to aim for, and the Jets had a hard time achieving that this season largely because the run game found it difficult to be effective.
Despite having to work with a feeble offensive line and a run game that struggled to get much going, Wilson happened to produce career-bests in completion percentage (60.1), passing yards per game (189.3), and quarterback rating (77.2). Though Wilson took baby steps with his overall progression, it was still a step in the right direction, and the Jets should at least hold onto him for one more season to back up Rodgers.