While the Jets continue to prepare for training camp, their quarterback is out and about, playing celebrity golf.
That might be stretching the truth somewhat, although not by much. Free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick has indeed been working on his golf swing in Nevada, and recently rubbing elbows with numerous celebrities from sports and politics. The Jets, meanwhile, are less than a week away from training camp without a definitive answer as to who’s their starting quarterback for the 2016 season.
A three-year deal worth $24 million, including $15 million guaranteed, reportedly was on the bargaining table from the Jets. Fitzpatrick’s camp, not long afterwards, reportedly proposed a one-year deal worth $12 million guaranteed, which would allow for him to return to free agency next year.
The speculation that the Jets will get up and move on from Fitzpatrick continues to gain steam with each passing day.
If there’s any common ground reached on a new contract, Fitzpatrick isn’t talking. Head coach Todd Bowles made it clear, during minicamp, he’s also done talking about it.
Fitzpatrick has reasonable leverage for a pay raise. He led the Jets to a 10-6 record in 2015, bringing the team within one win of reaching the playoffs, while throwing a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes.
Before signing with the Jets, as a potential backup quarterback for Geno Smith, Fitzpatrick had stints in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Tennessee, and Houston. Fitzpatrick shouldn’t be faulted for seeking long-term financially stability, however there comes a time where ambition should allow room for some perspective.
It was that final game, last season against Buffalo, where a strong case can be made as to why the Jets are holding firm to their position. Fitzpatrick’s three interceptions sent New York to a disappointing finish to their season.
In that game, Fitzpatrick’s past reared it’s ugly head. The inconsistencies, and ill-timed mistakes, that come with an average quarterback were on full display.
Fitzpatrick looked every bit the quarterback who’s been a journeyman throughout his career. His season, as statistically successful as it was, was substantially stained by that one game against the Bills.
The Jets were prepared to play last season with Fitzpatrick holding the clipboard for Smith. That all changed when Smith’s jaw was broken in a locker room altercation with former teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali.
Fitzpatrick, 33 years old, is right to test his free agency to it’s fullest extent. The lack of an interested market, however, along with his inconsistent past, is more than enough to justify why he’s still a quarterback without a contract.
The Jets are a team built to win now and Fitzpatrick’s veteran presence fits that scheme. However it must be at a reasonable cost. Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan will have to make that decision sooner rather than later.
The alternatives for the Jets, after Smith, would be the inexperienced Josh Petty and this year’s 2nd round draft pick Christian Hackenberg.
The longer Fitzpatrick and the Jets continue their stalemate, the greater the odds increase that Smith, the quarterback with the most on his resume, will get another chance as the starter.
Bowles, throughout minicamp, was consistent in his message of not tolerating off-the-field distractions for very long. The Jets are dangerously close to Fitzpatrick becoming a major distraction as they prepare for the upcoming season.
It’s gone on long enough and it’s time to make the difficult decision.