Making a Case for Christian Hackenberg’s Roster Spot
The Jets uncertain situation at quarterback during free agency could mean the days are numbered for quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
After a couple of developmental seasons in New York, the much-criticized Jets second-round pick could be a guy holding on to the roster bubble for dear life.
There are currently three signal callers under contract at the Meadowlands. Bryce Petty was a fourth-round pick in 2015 and if the past two seasons are any indication of his development, Petty could very well be on his way out.
Joel Stave is another quarterback who finds himself buried in the depth chart without realistic chances of starting a game for Gang Green. The undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin has been a practice squad journeyman since the beginning of his career in 2016 and hasn’t seen meaningful NFL action during his short tenure in the league.
Finally, Hackenberg was a physically gifted prospect coming out of Penn State in 2016. His freshman year tape showed a poised quarterback who could hang in the pocket and deliver accurate strikes while commanding a pro-style offense. His mechanics were never the most polished, but the potential for a promising career flashed. In the coming years, terrible recruiting classes, a turnstile offensive line, subpar talent on the outside and the departure of head coach Bill O’Brien made Hackenberg’s college career a nightmare.
Despite this, some draft analysts and scouts were optimistic about his career, citing a landing spot and time to develop as potential career turnarounds for a guy with all the physical tools to succeed at the position.
At the pro level, the learning curve seems to have proven too steep for Hackenberg, as he has never seen the field during the regular season. He has spent two seasons behind Petty and veterans Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2016 and Josh McCown in 2017, only playing limited snaps in the preseason.
Even when McCown went down last season, head coach Todd Bowles decided to give Petty the starting job for the remainder of the campaign.
Despite his inactivity, Hackenberg doesn’t have a high salary and his cap hit amounts to $1.3 million, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. For a team with a ton of cap space, keeping Hackenberg could prove a cost-effective move. Especially after the Petty experiment seems more than over at this point in the offseason.
His status as a second-round pick could also secure him at least another year of competition during training camp if the team decides to draft a signal caller with the sixth overall pick. Even if the Jets sign another quarterback in free agency and draft another arm for competition, General Manager Mike MacCagnan might not be ready to admit that Hackenberg was a mistake that early in the draft and could end up keeping the former Nittany Lion.
While it is almost a guarantee that Hackenberg will not see the field in a Jets uniform next year, cutting the former second-round pick might seem a little rushed, especially when no one has been able to see his talent on the field during meaningful games.