The Jets Have a $20 Million Problem on Their Hands After Another Mike White Win

The New York Jets are now 7-4 after a 31-10 win over the Chicago Bears. With starting quarterback Zach Wilson benched after an anemic 103-yard offensive performance in Week 11, Mike White came off the bench and led the Jets to a victory. This is great for the 2022 season, but now the Jets have a $20 million problem moving forward, and there likely isn’t any way to solve it that doesn’t involve eating the money.

Mike White may have ended Zach Wilson’s NFL career with the Jets

Just three years after the Jets took USC QB Sam Darnold No. 3 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, the team took another swing and selected BYU’s Zach Wilson No. 2 overall.

Much like the Darnold pick just a few years prior, the early returns on Wilson are not good. Wilson is 8-12 as a starter with a 55.6% completion rate and 13 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. In his last start against the AFC East rival New England Patriots, the second-year signal-caller was 9-of-22 (40.9%) for 77 yards.

With the Jets in the thick of a playoff race, New York head coach Robert Saleh went to quick hook and decided to start backup Mike White in the team’s Week 12 matchup with the Bears.

White — aka Mike “F’in” White — responded accordingly and helped the Jets beat the Justin Fields-less Bears handily. The QB was excellent on Sunday, going 22-of-28 for 315 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.

Between White’s excellent performances and reports that Wilson is struggling to make the simplest throws, even in practice, it looks like the job of Jets starting quarterback is White’s for the foreseeable future.

Whether White keeps the job long-term or not, it seems clear that Wilson is not the answer for Gang Green. Some notable QBs (Troy Aikman, Josh Allen) have made a leap in year three. However, most NFL star signal-callers are who they are by year two.

If Wilson isn’t the guy, that is tough for the Jets’ bottom line. The team is still on the hook for $20.77 million in 2023 and 2024, and there isn’t any way around that after drafting Wilson so highly. That means the options are to keep him for the next two seasons and pay him or cut him and pay the money anyway.  

Who is Jets quarterback Mike White?

Mike White, in for Zach Wilson, and Garrett Wilson of the New York Jets celebrate in Week 12 win.
Mike White and Garrett Wilson | Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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The Mike White story was one of the big ones of the 2021 NFL season, and it is replaying in the 2022 campaign. Last season, taking over from Zach Wilson after an injury to the then-rookie, White was 1-2 as the starter.

White was a 2018 fifth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys out of Western Kentucky (after two seasons at South Florida). Ahead of the 2019 season, the Cowboys cut White, and he signed with the Jets.

When he got his big opportunity in 2021, the QB initially made the most of it.

In his first start against the Cincinnati Bengals, White was 37-of-45 for 405 yards with three TDs and two INTs. In start No. 2, though, White left with an injury after going 7-of-11 for 95 yards and a score. Start three brought a 24-of-44 for 251 yards with no TDs and four INTs performance, and Wilson got his job back.

This season, White is again off to a great start. However, we’ve seen what he can do when left in too long. That said, this year’s Jets supporting cast is much better than last year, which Jets fans hope will keep the clock from striking midnight on another Mike White run.   

In Week 13, White’s second act continues when the Jets travel to Minnesota to face the 9-2 Vikings. And, just one more contractual note for Jets fans: Mike White is a free agent after the season.