By Kimberley A. Martin
---- — FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Mark Sanchez issued a not-so-subtle warning to incoming quarterback Geno Smith.
Sporting a thin, green headband over his slicked-back curls, Sanchez made it clear he has no intentions of relinquishing the starting job to Smith — or to the other three QBs on the Jets’ roster.
Sanchez said without hesitation yesterday that he “of course” expects to be the Week 1 starter and “absolutely” sees himself as the future franchise QB.
“I’m not shy about voicing my opinion,” Sanchez said. “You have to own it and compete your butt off.”
Center Nick Mangold said he’s noticed “something different” about Sanchez’s maturity level and focus in Year 5. “I’m hoping for big things cause that’ll help all of us,” Mangold said. “Mark’s got that resilient fighter (in him).”
Sanchez agreed, adding that he’s “excited and not shying away from competition. I never have. It’s not in my makeup. There’s a little fire going.”
He encouraged Jets fans to “just hang in there” and vowed that he’s “thrilled” for a five-QB competition that “will bring out the very best I have.” But it’s debatable whether the front office, including new general manager John Idzik, have the same level of faith in him. That’s why Smith and free agent David Garrard are here.
Sanchez’s spot on the roster is due, in large part, to the guaranteed $8.25 million the Jets owe him for 2013. If the organization were to cut him with a June 1 designation, it would be charged with a $12-million salary-cap hit. When asked about the financial implications of his contract, Sanchez said, “I have no idea, ask John.”
Last season, the Jets made it clear Tim Tebow (who was released Monday) was not a threat to Sanchez. But nevertheless, Tebow’s presence in the locker room — and the media circus that followed the former Heisman Trophy winner — helped derail Sanchez’s 2012 production. Yet the fifth-year quarterback who committed a league-high 52 turnovers over the past two seasons is confident that he’ll thrive against competent competition.
“They drafted a quarterback, so let’s compete,” Sanchez said of Smith, who was taken 39th overall in last week’s NFL draft. “It’s one of those situations where there’s a challenge for something that I hold very dear to my heart. Something that has really been my life’s goal, to play on this level and being a starting quarterback. When somebody challenges you that way, it really brings out your best.”
Having received no assurances about his role, or even his roster spot, Sanchez knows he has no other option but to perform. Though the Jets didn’t give him advance notice about the Smith pick, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called Sanchez multiple times during the draft to see if Sanchez was “doing all right” and to make sure he was “hanging in there” before and after the selection.
“I said, ‘I’m fine, Coach. Come on, man. That’s part of the job,”“ said Sanchez, who said he’s currently channeling his “inner soccer player” in hopes of donating his long locks to charity.
Sanchez reiterated the Tebow trade wasn’t “advantageous” for either quarterback last season, adding that they might have been “really good friends” had they not been competing. But Tebow was never the answer to the Jets’ quarterback woes. Smith, however, might be. And Sanchez knows it.
“I will help him out as much as I can,” he said. “But when we have to compete, we have to compete. If he has a question, of course, I’ll answer it. I’m not going to be a jerk.”
Notes"es: The Jets waived Claude Davis and Cliff Harris, signed to futures contracts, on Tuesday. They were arrested for possession of marijuana on Monday, according to the Morristown (N.J.) Police Department.