FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Priority No. 1 for the New York Jets this offseason: Find a starting quarterback.
Sure, that seems obvious, but it's an issue that doesn't have a simple solution. And, mainly because the answer might not be on the current roster.
Josh McCown had the best season of his 15-year NFL career, but he's a free agent and will be 39 in July. The Jets are interested in bringing him back in some capacity — either as a stopgap starter or experienced veteran backup — but it's uncertain if McCown even wants to continue playing.
"Josh had a great year," coach Todd Bowles said Monday. "It would be great to have him back. It's business in this league. He has decisions to make, we have decisions to make. Hopefully, they can meet and we'll go from there."
McCown set career highs by throwing for 2,926 yards and 18 touchdowns before having his season end in Week 14 with a broken left hand. He was emotional after that game in Denver, saying he was "proud" to have been part of a close-knit locker room.
"Thankfully, they let me be part of this team," he said a few weeks ago, "and we'll see what happens."
Since McCown ended the season on injured reserve, the Jets didn't make the quarterback available to the media — with Bowles citing a team rule instituted at the beginning of the season — as the players cleared out their lockers.
So, his thoughts on his playing future remain uncertain, especially since retirement could be an option.
"With Josh, we have other pieces we have to add," Bowles said when asked if he thinks the Jets could contend for a Super Bowl with McCown. "If we add all the pieces and the chemistry is right, we'll go from there."
Meanwhile, Bryce Petty was uninspiring in his three-start audition to end the season.
And, Christian Hackenberg has failed to get into a regular-season game for even just a snap in his two years since being a second-round pick out of Penn State.
Petty, who finished his third NFL season, threw for 544 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions in four overall games.
In the season-ending 26-6 loss at New England, the Jets went 0 for 12 on third downs and failed to generate much with Petty under center.
"Yeah, that's on me, but it's nothing you can't fix and that's the positive part of it," Petty said. "It was near-misses.
"You don't want misses, but when you look back on tape, it's just little things here and there, whether it's timing, whether it's mechanics, whatever. Doesn't mean I can't throw. Doesn't mean I can't complete them, so that's what's positive about it.
"We're going to keep getting better."
There's no guarantee, however, that Petty will get that chance with the Jets. He still has another year left on his rookie contract, but he did little to prove to New York that he can be a potential regular starter, or at the very least, a competitive backup.
"That's what it is, is uncertainty," Petty said. "I try not to put too much thought into things that I can't control, so just excited about the future in general. Hopefully it's here. I want to be here, but if it's not, that's OK, too. It's a business. Everybody understands that."
The Jets hold the No. 6 pick in the draft in April, meaning they could be in prime position to take one of the top-rated available quarterbacks.
Players such as USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Wyoming's Josh Allen, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Louisville's Lamar Jackson could all be options for New York.
McCown could be re-signed to serve as a bridge and mentor to whomever is drafted, with the idea that that youngster could eventually be the starter — maybe even to start the season.
Or, New York could go a different route by addressing the position in free agency and focusing on one of their other needs — pass rusher, offensive line, cornerback, running back — at No. 6.
Washington's Kirk Cousins and New Orleans' Drew Brees are two of the more-established quarterbacks who are scheduled to hit the free-agent market.
The Jets are expected to have between $90 million and $100 million in salary cap space this offseason, so their approach to free agency in March will set up their game plan for the draft.
"It's not just the quarterback position that we have to solidify," Bowles said. "It's D-line, O-line, receivers, backs. We need quite a few people at certain positions, or guys to play better or come off of injury. Picking the guys to add to this team this offseason, whether it's a free agent or (through the) draft, it's going to be critical."
NOTES: The Jets signed nine players to reserve/future deals: G Ben Braden, T Korren Kirven, WR Jalin Marshall, WR Tre McBride, DL Claude Pelon, DB Terrell Sinkfield, QB Joel Stave, WR Damore'ea Stringfellow and WR Dan Williams.