FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Mark Sanchez wanted no contract squabbles or training camp headaches.
The New York Jets’ rookie quarterback got his big deal — and a huge sense of relief — before minicamp was even completed, signing a five-year deal Wednesday that could be worth up to $60 million, including $28 million guaranteed.
“It sends the right message,” Sanchez said. “It’s not in my makeup to hold out like that. That would’ve just been terrible for me. This just eliminates that whole factor. I’ll be there Day 1, ready to go and compete. It’s going to be a good time and a competitive time.”
Agent David Dunn said the deal is worth “around the $50 million mark,” but could reach as high as $60 million with incentives. That would make it the richest rookie deal ever given out by the Jets.
“This is just the beginning,” Sanchez said. “I’ll be working every day to justify this contract.”
Detroit gave quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick and the only other first-rounder to sign, a six-year contract worth up to $78 million, with $41.7 million in guarantees. While Sanchez’s deal falls short of that, Dunn said doing the contract for five years instead of the usual six for top picks satisfied both sides.
“I think from the Jets’ standpoint, there’s probably a little bit less money at risk,” Dunn said. “And from our standpoint, I think $28 million in guaranteed money will tide him over fine for a while. And, obviously, he reaches free agency a year sooner.”
Sanchez led Southern California to a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State with a record-setting performance in his final college game. He’s competing with veteran Kellen Clemens for the Jets’ starting job, up for grabs after the retirement of Brett Favre.
“The one thing that really comes to my mind is, breath of fresh air and, wow, let’s go now,” Sanchez said. “Let’s really compete for this job and let’s get into camp. I’ll be in on time and I have nothing to worry about there. It’s time to focus on football.”
New York’s last two top picks, linebacker Vernon Gholston and cornerback Darrelle Revis, reported to training camp late while trying to negotiate deals.
“We had some discussions a few weeks ago,” general manager Mike Tannenbaum said of Sanchez’s representatives. “I give them a lot of credit. We were trying to create a sense of urgency, even though it’s still early. ... We didn’t think there was any need to wait if both sides could create that sense of urgency and if both sides could come up with a deal that was good for both sides.”
Tannenbaum said the contract, drawn up by Dunn, Andrew Kessler and Nick Sanchez, Mark’s brother, was 47 pages long. Sanchez was headed to Tannenbaum’s office to finish signing all six copies of the contract.
“It’s only the tip of the iceberg,” Sanchez said. “There’s so much more I want to accomplish. This doesn’t assume that you’re going to be successful. It’s going to take a lot of hard work.”
Sanchez has impressed at times during organized team activities and minicamp practices, showing poise, confidence and good decision-making skills. He and Clemens have been about even in their competition. Dunn represents both quarterbacks, which could be a potentially uncomfortable situation for an agent.
“Kellen and Mark are two great players and they’re two great guys, and they’re two great competitors,” Dunn said. “I think that’ll make it both good for them and for the Jets.”
The Jets made a bold draft-day move to get Sanchez, acquiring the fifth overall pick from Cleveland, and former coach Eric Mangini, for their first-round pick, their second-rounder (No. 52), and defensive end Kenyon Coleman, safety Abram Elam and quarterback Brett Ratliff.
Sanchez went 14-2 as a starter with the Trojans. His lack of experience — he had only one full season as a starter — had some questioning whether he was ready for the NFL, but the Jets loved what they saw of him in private workouts and a classroom session in a hotel room at the owners’ meetings in California in March.
After drafting Sanchez, coach Rex Ryan said there would be an open competition for the quarterback job.
“From here on out, it’s about football,” Ryan said. “He’s a great young man who has been working hard since he got in here and I’m excited that we have him in the fold.”
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