NEW YORK — Joe Flacco’s health highlighted a busy cutdown day for the Jets, who trimmed their roster to the league-mandated 53 by Saturday afternoon.
Flacco passed his physical, but still is expected to miss at least the first two or three games of the season, prompting questions about how the Jets will handle their quarterback depth chart. David Fales and Mike White, who were competing for the backup job in camp, were both cut.
However, one or both of the signal callers is expected to return to the practice squad after clearing waivers Sunday. The Jets will elevate Fales or White to the active roster to be Darnold’s backup for the season opener against the Bills next weekend.
Rookie fourth-round pick James Morgan also made the 53-man roster, but it would be a stretch to expect him to be ready to play in Week 1 if Darnold got hurt. So, the Jets will likely have four quarterbacks on the 55-man gameday roster for Week 1, which is far from ideal given the team’s roster deficiencies. Flacco and perhaps Morgan would be inactive on gamedays.
New rules this season would allow Fales or White to go back to the practice squad after the game without having to go through the waiver process (for two games at most).
The Jets created this scenario by signing Flacco, who underwent neck surgery in April, after drafting a quarterback in the fourth round. The Jets knew in May that Flacco would miss at least a few games to start the season, so carrying additional signal callers appeared inevitable.
Since Flacco was on the 53-man roster Saturday after passing his physical, he theoretically could be placed on Injured Reserve on Sunday and return to practice after three weeks. However, it would behoove the Jets to get Flacco as much practice time in the first couple weeks of the regular season before he can actually be ready to be the backup for a game. Flacco is expected to get his next medical checkup in the next week or so, but he could begin non-contact practice work with the team.
The Jets also have moves to make along the offensive line after cutting both backup centers Jonotthan Harrison and Josh Andrews. Andrews would be a candidate to return to the practice squad. For now, the Jets have no backup center. Guard Greg Van Roten has some experience at the position, but moving him would create more problems than it’s probably worth.
The decision to cut Harrison, who started 10 games last season after the failed Ryan Khalil Experiment, raised eyebrows. Harrison signed a two-year deal last offseason with the belief that he would either start or compete for the starting center job. General manager Joe Douglas’ decision to lure Kalil out of retirement a couple days into training camp last year moved Harrison, who had also replaced ineffective starting center Spencer Long in 2018, to a backup role again.
The Jets structured Harrison’s two-year deal to include fair play-time incentives with the shared understanding that he would likely be the starter for 2019. He came up just short of those incentives after taking a backseat to Kalil for the first month and a half. Harrison would have easily surpassed the play-time percentage threshold that was specifically set based on the good-faith agreement that he would have been a starter or at least competed for a starting gig.
The Jets did not pay out the bonus or come to a middle-ground agreement after the season. Teams routinely make some sort of payout in similar circumstances.
The Jets kept just three running backs after cutting Josh Adams. They waived cornerback Nate Hairston, who started six games last season after being traded by the Colts during the draft.
Undrafted rookie wide receiver Lawrence Cager, who flashed at camp before suffering a knee injury, was also cut. Veteran Donte Moncrief, who was signed a few days ago, was released.
The Jets will learn Sunday which of their waiver claims were accepted before starting to fill out the expanded 16-player practice squad.
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