Rex Ryan's Jets were not very good last year.
They forget that Mark Sanchez's offensive line struggled to protect him, especially right tackle Wayne Hunter, who was never talented enough to start in the NFL. Furthermore, the team's wide receivers didn't help matters with limited production (they accounted for a combined 1,676 yards and 18 touchdowns).
Sure, it isn't good that the New York Jets didn't win a single game against a team with a winning record and that they lost five out of seven games to teams with eight wins or more. Sanchez did regress in his third year with 26 turnovers (18 interceptions and eight fumbles lost) and may not be the franchise quarterback fans had hoped for.
That doesn't mean that Mike Tannenbaum, the general manager of the Jets, should throw caution to the wind and sign Manning to a massive contract worth nearly a quarter of the NFL's 2012 salary cap.
Fans also forget that Manning has been injured for over a year. He's had numerous procedures done on his neck. Rumors indicate that the icon can't even throw the ball for more than 20 yards.
Regardless of what some might believe, the Jets can't even afford to sign Peyton Manning. According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, the team is only $464,000 under the projected salary cap. They need at least seven new starters at various positions and they have 11 players that are set to become free agents (including nose tackle Sione Pouha).
Mark Sanchez has performed well in the playoffs and played much better when the team's rushing offense was successful (as it was his first two years with the Jets). I don't believe Sanchez is the next star quarterback in the NFL, but right now he's the starter for the New York Jets.
A more realistic option is to sign a quarterback to compete with Sanchez, like Jason Campbell, Chad Henne or Vince Young. This would allow the team to have a short-term backup and if things go awry, the Jets could then draft a different player to lead the team.