The Jets’ quarterback shuffling took another curious turn on Wednesday.
Coach Robert Saleh announced Mike White as the starter against the Bengals on Sunday. That was expected, but Saleh also said the newly acquired Joe Flacco won’t join the team until Friday because of personal reasons, making his availability for Sunday as White’s backup a question.
The Jets acquired Flacco in a trade with the Eagles on Monday night to serve as White’s backup while Zach Wilson recovers from a right knee injury. Wilson is expected to miss two to four weeks.
Saleh said Flacco is participating in meetings virtually with the Jets but won’t practice until Friday. The Jets made the move to get Flacco despite having Josh Johnson on their practice squad. It is a clear indication they feel Flacco is an upgrade over Johnson, but Saleh indicated Johnson likely will be the backup against the Bengals unless Flacco wows them Friday.
“Josh will be up this week and he’ll be ready to go if he has to step in,” Saleh said. “I feel like we’re in a good situation. Getting Flacco, we have good stability in the quarterback room. Now we just got to go play.”
Some may have thought Flacco, who spent the 2020 season with the Jets, was being brought in to start, but Saleh made it clear the team believes in White, who will make his first career start on Sunday.
“Mike is, obviously, he’s starting. We have a lot of faith in him,” Saleh said. “We think he’s going to do a hell of a job, and then from there we’ll go on.”
The Jets play on “Thursday Night Football” next week against the Colts, so Flacco will even have very little time to get up to speed for that game. On a short week, the Jets likely won’t even have a true practice but mostly walk-throughs.
The Jets traded a conditional sixth-round pick to Philadelphia that can become a fifth-round pick based on playing time. The move raised some eyebrows because one of the main storylines of this offseason was the Jets’ decision not to sign a veteran quarterback. Now, they had to give up a draft pick to get one.
Sources said the Jets did try to sign Flacco in the offseason, but the Eagles were willing to give him more money ($3.5 million), and Flacco also felt he had a better shot at playing with the Eagles, who have Jalen Hurts as their starter, than with the Jets, who were expected to take a quarterback No. 2 overall. The Jets now are only on the hook for about $600,000 of Flacco’s deal.
“I can’t speak for Joe Flacco on that,” Saleh said on why the Jets did not sign Flacco in March. “Obviously, as a free agent, he has opportunities and the decisions he makes are personal, obviously. But we’re happy he’s here now, and we’re excited to get to work with him.”
Saleh said the Jets still have not made a determination on whether to put Wilson on IR. That would knock him out of at least three games. The Jets initially said the timeline for Wilson is two to four weeks. It feels like they still hope there is a chance it will only be two, and Wilson would be back to face the Bills on Nov. 14.
“We’re assuming the worst,” Saleh said. “We’re still trying to make sure that that quarterback room is exactly where we need it to be. Obviously, Zach got hurt, an opportunity came, and it’s a good one. So, we took advantage of it.”
General manager Joe Douglas knows Flacco well from his days as a Ravens scout. Douglas was the area scout who recommended Flacco to Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome in 2008 when the Ravens drafted him. Douglas also brought him to the Jets last year when Flacco started four games in place of an injured Sam Darnold.