Four years ago, Kellen Clemens was drafted by the Jets as their heir apparent at quarterback. On his way to the throne, things happened. Brett Favre happened. Mark Sanchez happened. And now Clemens' days in New York are numbered.
With only two days until the draft, the Jets are trying to trade Clemens for a late-round draft pick, league sources have told ESPNNewYork.com. If they can't trade him -- and it will be difficult -- the Jets are prepared to release the former second-round pick.
Clemens is one of a few veterans on shaky ground. The Jets have been quietly shopping Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca for several weeks, league sources said. If they can't find a taker during the draft, the Jets could release the 32-year-old lineman and his $7.5 million salary.
Coach Rex Ryan, speaking Tuesday night to reporters, sidestepped questions on whether Faneca is in danger of being released or traded. Ryan offered the same response on defensive end Shaun Ellis, 32, also the subject of speculation because of his age and big salary ($3.4 million).
This could be a wild week for the Jets, who started Tuesday by agreeing to a contract with former Dolphins pass-rusher Jason Taylor.
That the Jets are willing to dump Clemens now, as opposed to waiting until training camp, indicates they're confident in landing a veteran backup. They met recently with Mark Brunell, 40, but they can't sign him until they lose another unrestricted free agent. They had one open slot, and that went to Taylor.
If the Jets fail to acquire Brunell or another experienced backup, they would be living dangerously with Sanchez, Erik Ainge and Kevin O'Connell. Ainge and O'Connell have only six career pass attempts between them -- all by O'Connell in mop-up duty for the Patriots in 2008.
In the meantime, the Jets have given Clemens' agent permission to speak to other teams about a potential trade, sources said. He has been participating in the Jets' offseason program, although he didn't sign his $1.1 million tender as a restricted free agent until last week. But that doesn't tie him to the Jets; it means he can be traded.
Faneca's fate could be tied to the draft. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the Jets are high on Idaho's Mike Iupati, who happens to be a left guard. The 6-foot-5, 331-pound mauler is widely regarded as the best interior lineman in the draft, projected to come off the board in the 15-20 range.
The Jets also visited with Florida center Maurkice Pouncey at their facility, another projected first-round pick. With All-Pro Nick Mangold on the roster, they don't need a center, but Pouncey started at guard early in his career at Florida.
The Jets own the 29th pick, but general manager Mike Tannenbaum has a track record for trading up for players he covets. And he's not afraid to add to a perceived strength, evidenced by last year's decision to trade up in the third round for running back Shonn Greene.
If the Jets believe Iupati has the ability to eventually play right tackle, as some teams do, it will increase his value and could justify a trade-up. Their two oldest linemen are Faneca and right tackle Damien Woody, both 32. Faneca is guaranteed $5.25 million of his salary, so they'd have to eat a lot of money. He allowed 6½ sacks last season, according to STATS -- a high number for an interior lineman.
Ellis is the longest-tenured Jet, and he looked old at times last season, playing on a bad knee. But he still registered 6½ sacks and, considering the lack of depth on the line, it's hard to imagine him being unloaded. But the Jets are considering a defensive lineman with their first pick, with Penn State's Jared Odrick, Alabama's Terrence Cody and East Carolina's Linval Joseph the top candidates.