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Jets' Woody Johnson Would 'Absolutely' Spend on a Free-Agent QB

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Woody Johnson has his checkbook ready to sign a quarterback.

The Jets owner spoke with reporters on Thursday to discuss the 2022 season and the state of the franchise. One of the biggest topics discussed was what the Jets will do at quarterback.

Zach Wilson, the second overall pick in 2021, was expected to be the Jets’ franchise quarterback for the next decade. But he struggled mightily in his second season and was substituted twice. While the Jets have made it clear they want to keep Wilson on the roster, he is no longer the undisputed starter.

That led to speculation that the Jets would seek a veteran quarterback in free agency or through a trade this offseason. Johnson was asked if head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas came to him and said they want to bring in a senior, would he be willing to spend the money on one.

Jets owner Woody Johnson before a game against the Dolphins on January 8, 2023.
Jets owner Woody Johnson before a game against the Dolphins on January 8, 2023.
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“Absolutely,” Johnson said.

He was asked the following: “Does it matter the cost?”

“We have a cap, so there’s an amount you can spend,” Johnson said. “But yes, yes. This is the missing piece.”

Indeed it is.

Johnson was clearly irritated by the offense’s struggles and how they’ve held the team up in 2022. He has repeatedly mentioned that the defense is near the top of the league, but the offense struggles to score.

The Jets started three different quarterbacks in Wilson, Mike White and Joe Flacco, something Johnson acknowledged was difficult to do. The Jets decided to make an offensive coordinator change on Wednesday, waiving Mike LaFleur. They are now looking for his replacement.

The Jets finished 7-10 after a season-ending six-game losing streak. They have now gone 12 consecutive seasons without making the playoffs, the longest active drought in the NFL. Johnson said he believed the team was “loaded” and expected them to make the playoffs next year. He praised the young talent that Douglas has added to the roster.

Zach Wilson during a Jets practice on January 4, 2023.
Zach Wilson during a Jets practice on January 4, 2023.
Corey Sipkin

Johnson was asked if he thinks Jets fans are tired of being told they are close to turning things around.

“I think our fans are not tired of it,” Johnson said. “They can see with their own eyes what happened this year. … They are optimistic, but they have been optimistic. I want to give them what they want. They want wins and they deserve wins and I’m going to try to make them win. I’m doing everything I can to make that happen for them. No stone unturned.

Johnson and the Jets certainly thought they were on the verge of fixing their offense when they drafted Wilson in 2021. Johnson echoed some of what Saleh and Douglas said recently about still believing in Wilson.

“Zach has had a tough year. There’s no denying that,” Johnson said. “I’m still confident that I saw some cores of real talent there. … But the confidence level, whatever it was, has dropped.”

LaFleur said last week that he thought the Jets made a mistake in developing Wilson by playing him right away. Johnson agreed with him on Thursday when asked if the Jets had properly developed Wilson.

“No, I don’t think we did everything right. No, no,” Johnson said.

How could they have done things differently?

Zach Wilson struggled for the Jets this season, throwing seven interceptions and just six touchdowns in nine games.
Zach Wilson struggled for the Jets this season, throwing seven interceptions and just six touchdowns in nine games.
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“Well, if he sat behind a senior, but which senior do you have in mind?” said Johnson. “We didn’t have the veteran but yeah, I think we could have done a better job for sure and we’ll do a better job next year.”

Johnson said the 2022 season has been a rollercoaster of emotions for him, with a slump coming at the end of a six-game losing streak.

“Frustrating, very frustrating,” Johnson said, “because I see the potential in the team and what Joe and Robert have done to improve the team and get all those unbelievable young stars that we have now. So we have a lot of potential. It makes everything more frustrating.”

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