A New York Jets offseason wouldn’t be complete without some sort of quarterback controversy riling up social networks and polarizing opinions. Rather than a broken jaw or a broken system, this year it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick’s impending free agency ruffling feathers. ‘Should the Jets pay Fitz?’, ‘how much is too much?’ and ‘who else could we get?’ are all questions being currently debated. Beyond all this heated discussion though, is there really a better option that re-signing Fitz?
The case for FitzpatrickIn 2015 Ryan Fitzpatrick had one of the best Jets quarterback seasons in years, despite dropping off towards the end of the year. He now holds the second highest franchise single season passing record, behind Joe Namath, with 3,905 yards for 31 TDs. He ranked 15th amongst all QBs last year placing him firmly amongst the decent but not elite starters in the league meaning he ranks well above any still available free agents which could be considered. Fitz played an important role in driving the new look team to within touching distance of the playoffs and the 10-6 record was certainly a better look than 4-12.
Staying in New York is also likely to appeal to Fitzpatrick as he only seems to thrive under Chan Gailey. Other teams know this too and it’s unlikely they’ll will be falling over themselves to sign him, at least not as a starter. Given this, hopefully a reasonable deal can be thrashed out especially as the other options are limited and diminishing rapidly. Obviously, with his limitations and age, the Jets cannot afford to overpay for his services, especially with other big name deals to complete but this is a mutually beneficial situation which should give the team some leverage.
Of course, Fitzpatrick’s inconsistency was also major reason the team didn’t make it into the post-season and why some understandably question whether paying to keep him in 2016 is worth it. He’ll need to work hard to ensure greater consistency and cut out games where the offense barely seem to show up. However consider the following: Fitzpatrick has played a year for the franchise, he has good relationships with his receivers (one of the best duos in the league) and he knows the system. Will the Jets really be able to find a better fit in the short term?
Other free agentsFor a few weeks the list of QB free agents has been dissected and debated by those seeking for a better or longer term solution than Fitzpatrick. The most attractive of those options was Kirk Cousins, who has now been franchise tagged by the Redskins and will not be leaving DC. Sam Bradford, whose actual NFL impact has never fully been tested due to injury, has also been resigned by the Eagles.
There still remains a range of free agent quarterbacks who could be signed more cheaply than Fitzpatrick but most are at best back up quality and rank outside of the top 32 QBs in the league. Chase Daniel, Colt McCoy and Mark Sanchez (let’s not even go there!) are just a few available, but surely all are more risky than keeping Fitz. For a franchise trying to build and move forwards saving pennies by signing one of these is a move in the wrong direction.
Colin Kaepernick might be of interest to some as he has demonstrated excellence in the past, being minutes away from leading the 49ers to a Superbowl win in 2013. However, since then he has slipped further and further, culminating in being benched for serial back up Blaine Gabbert in 2015. This isn’t the most attractive resume and it’s possible his trade request is just posturing. Besides, Kaepernick is due big money if he stays in San Francisco, way beyond what he the Jets should reasonably pay any non elite QB.
The DraftThis year is not a vintage class for quarterbacks and predictably the most NFL ready prospects will be long gone before the Jets’ pick rolls around at 20. Likely, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff will go in the top few picks to teams with desperate needs at QB such as the Browns. The Texans may look to take Christian Hackenberg, given his past record with Bill O’Brien and other decent prospects such as Cardale Jones could end up as a long term insurance policy for a team such as Dallas or Pittsburgh. Regardless, the Jets have bigger issues to solve in the draft than quarterback and should continue to work on developing Bryce Petty for the future.
Let’s be honest, Fitzpatrick isn’t the long term franchise solution the Jets seek but he put in a solid performance last year making him the most common sense option going forward into 2016 all things considered. Who knows, next year Petty may have developed well enough to be viable option. Finding a decent financial agreement to keep Fitzpatrick needs to be high on Mike Maccagnan’s agenda as is avoiding a mistake similar to the six year, $59 million one the Bills made in 2011. There does need to be some sort of back up plan, in case Fitzpatrick holds out for an amount which won’t be paid but lets hope it doesn’t get that far, given the limited options. Juggling this alongside Mo Wilkerson’s deal will be a true test of Maccagnan’s now as an NFL GM and a chance to show that last year wasn’t just beginner’s luck.
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