TOJ Roundtable – New York Jets 2016 Quarterback Edition

The TOJ Roundtable discusses how the New York Jets should handle quarterback this off-season

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How should the New York Jets handle the quarterback position this off-season? What would your ideal depth chart look like heading into training camp?

Joe Caporoso – My colleagues below all presented logical and pragmatic solutions for this off-season. For the record, I’d be stunned if Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t the starting quarterback to open training camp and back on reasonable money because I’m not sure there is a team out there who is going to offer substantially more than the numbers thrown around below. Second, it feels like a 50/50 situation on the Jets taking a quarterback in the first two rounds, depending how the board breaks and their pick flexibility. Third, it also feels like a 50/50 situation when it comes to Geno Smith being back next season, which is likely dependent on how the draft goes.

Here is one outside the box thought: see if you can get RG III on a low cost, incentive laden one or two year deal. He is 9 months older than Bryce Petty, so he still holds value as a potential long term option if he could get his career back on track. It feels like a low risk, potential high reward deal (shrugs).

Connor Rogers1) Re-sign Fitzpatrick to a 2 year, $18 million dollar deal that can reach $20 million with playoff incentives. Only half of money in year two is guaranteed.

2) Draft Carson Wentz 20th overall. Let him sit out the entire 2016 season then compete with Bryce Petty and Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job in 2017.

3) See if there is a trade market for Geno Smith. If you can snag a late day 3 pick, great. If not, go into training camp with him and see what you have. A strong preseason could pick up his trade market as teams could need a number two quarterback by the end of August.

Cole Patterson – Ryan Fitzpatrick provided the Jets with the best statistical season under center in franchise history. He is a free agent. There are some talented passers near the top of the draft. The Jets are picking 20th. Fitzpatrick is an ideal bridge quarterback but the Jets currently do not have an entrenched quarterback to bridge to.

The best plan of attack would be to resign Fitzpatrick on a one or two-year deal and allow him to retain his job, unless his performance dips significantly. The team should then take from “Ron Wolf’s Big Book of Team Building” and draft a quarterback. If Carson Wentz is available at 20, jump. If Connor Cook or Christian Hackenberg are available in the second or third rounds, make a move. Roll into camp with Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, and Wentz/Cook/Hackenberg.

Fitzpatrick provides a solid presence as a starter in the interim. Geno Smith could step in should Fitz get injured or starts to play particularly poorly. Petty and Wentz/Cook/Hackenberg can sit, learn, and adjust to the professional game.

Anthony Cappuccino – Although the Jets were gifted with their best statistical season from a quarterback in franchise history, the wild card match ups provided me with a wake-up call.  In today’s league, it is near-impossible to win without a stud QB.  All four losing teams had a quarterback with 0 postseason starts, compared to the 37 combined starts for the 4 quarterbacks on the victorious teams.  Even though Ryan Fitzpatrick played the best football of his career and helped the Jets to 10 wins, the Jets still need their future franchise QB in order to find a ring.

That being said, Ryan Fitzpatrick is an ideal bridge. I believe the Jets should bring Fitzpatrick back as the starter on a 2 year deal worth around 16 million, and have Petty and or whoever else they may acquire via draft or FA sit and develop under him. What Fitzpatrick brought to the table as a leader and as a teammate this year is priceless, and he absolutely deserves at least another year of being the starter for Todd Bowles’ team. As a backup, Geno Smith should be kept aboard. Smith is competent and can win games if need be. As for Petty, it’s very unclear how the Jets feel about him at this point, especially considering the crop of QBs in this year’s draft class.  If I were the Jets, I would franchise Muhammad Wilkerson before the draft. In doing so, they can have preliminary talks about trade partners for the Pro Bowl defensive end.  When the draft unfolds, if they feel they have a shot between rounds 1 or 2 to land a top tier QB that the Jets brass has taking a liking to, trade Mo and draft your guy (Wentz). It’s not an extremely likely scenario, but it’s possible.

Ideal QB Depth Chart headed into camp: Fitzpatrick, Wentz, Petty, Smith

Joe Malfa – I really do not see many changes coming for the Jets at the quarterback position this offseason unless a great opportunity presents itself. In all likelihood, it will be Ryan Fitzpatrick back as the starter, Geno Smith back as the backup, and Bryce Petty back for another year of development as the third-string. When I say “a great opportunity,” I mean someone like Matthew Stafford becoming released by the Lions (if Megatron retires, I strongly believe Stafford will get cut and Detroit will hit the reset button — Johnson and Stafford alone free up around $25 million in cap space) or Carson Wentz falling to the 2nd or 3rd round (which seems unlikely at this point). This team is built to win now, and if there are no star QBs available (like a Stafford), Fitzpatrick is the best option to lead this team. He is at his best when in Chan Gailey’s offense, and he has built tremendous chemistry with Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall.

David Aitken –  I’m of the mindset that if you don’t have your long term answer at quarterback, finding him is always one of your biggest needs. The first order of business regardless is retaining Ryan Fitzpatrick. That’s partly due to what he did this season on the whole, but also in part because the quarterback alternatives are lacking. I expect the Jets to get a relatively favorable deal for Fitzpatrick, something that may look like a nice payday in basic figures but is really just a pay-as-you-go contract with a guaranteed first year.  In the short term you hope to continue building a better team with Fitzpatrick at the helm, while in the long term a talented prospect is drafted this season and can be redshirted in 2016.

The Jets in my opinion should be giving quarterbacks serious consideration in the first two rounds of the draft, and shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger in round one if there is a prospect available they like enough. While that isn’t going to help the team much in 2016, it is a major step forward toward building a consistent contender. The blessing of bringing in Fitzpatrick is that if nothing else, he’s the veteran stopgap the team desperately could have used the last two times they gambled on talented but unrefined quarterbacks in Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez.

Depth chart prediction: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Wentz, Bryce Petty.

John Hargaden – Going into this off-season, the Jets are in a interesting spot.  Due to the injury to Geno Smith before the season started, Ryan Fitzpatrick took the job and ran away with it and one of the best years any Jets quarterback has ever had. Going into this off-season, Fitzpatrick is a free agent and the Jets would need to work out a new deal to bring him back. What I would like the Jets to do is bring back Fitzpatrick on a 2 year deal hoping to be around 6-9 million a year to be the starter. In terms of the backup, it is going to be interesting to see what the Jets will do with Smith. His cap number is extremely low for next year and the Jets could use their assets in other areas of the team.  However Smith said after this season that he may want to move on and does not want to be a backup and be given a shot, whether if it is with the Jets or on another team. I do want the Jets to draft a QB this year in the first 3 rounds. There will be some depth in terms of the QB spot this draft.  My ideal dream going into next season would be: Fitzpatrick, Smith, Petty and a rookie QB with hopefully either Petty or the other QB taking over for Fitzpatrick long term.

Kevin Zielaznicki – As usual, the New York Jets will have questions surrounding the quarterback position going into the offseason. Barring anything crazy, I’d expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to be the starter by the time training camp rolls around. Fitzpatrick broke several Jets single season records and led the team to a 10-6 record. “FitzMagic” is a free agent and will be out on the open market this upcoming offseason, but I really don’t think a 33 year old journey man quarterback will garner much attention. The  Jets should be able to resign Fitzpatrick with a contract that is worth anywhere from 8-10 million dollars a year. Regardless of what they do with Fitz, I think quarterback should be an option for the Jets at #20 come April. Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, and Paxton Lynch could all be prime targets for GM Mike Maccagnan. Going into camp, an ideal QB depth chart would be Fitzpatrick as the starter, a rookie (Wentz, Goff, Lynch), and then have Geno Smith and Bryce Petty battle it out for the final spot.

Nikki Charlesworth – The quarterback controversy which has plagued the recent offseasons should be diminished this year by the performance of Ryan Fitzpatrick last season. He may not be perfect or a long term solution but has provided a solid basis for an offense which improved exponentially across the year.  itzpatrick fits well with Decker and Marshall alongside Chan Gailey, who knows how to get him to produce his best.  Consistency at QB will also help further develop the offense, especially the likes of Smith, Thompkins and Enunwa.  Therefore the priority has to be deal to keep Fitz on board.  Understandably given his level of success, Fitzpatrick seems keen to stay in a market which has treated him well. He is unlikely to be in great demand due to his age and past record, so an acceptable contract should be possible to keep him as starter for next year without breaking the bank.

Further down the depth chart, it’s got to be about finding a future successor to Fitzpatrick. Bryce Petty is still an unknown quantity and while Geno Smith may stick around as the official ‘back up’, drafting a rookie QB to compete with Petty seems a sensible option. ‘What to do with Geno’ now seems less important than looking for a longer term option, as long as Fitz is retained. However, if Maccagnan doesn’t find a prospect to fit the bill I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the same QB depth chart enter camp.

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Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports