The New York Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick haven’t had the reunion many were picturing this offseason.
After Fitzpatrick had arguably the best season of his career, throwing for over 3,900 yards and 31 touchdowns for the 10-6 Jets, both the Jets and Fitzpatrick expressed interest in a new contract this offseason.
However, almost two months since free agency began, the two sides remain far apart on a deal, according to reports.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that it’s unlikely the Jets and Fitzpatrick will get a deal done before the draft. ESPN’s Rich Cimini said the Jets are offering over $8 million per year, but Fitzpatrick hasn’t accepted the offer.
If the standoff continues, the NFL Draft could have some serious effects on the negotiations.
Fitzpatrick was one of the most attractive free agent quarterbacks in a weak class this year with only a select few teams needing quarterbacks. Some of those teams — the Texans and Browns — have seemingly addressed those issues, while QB-needy teams like the Broncos and 49ers don’t seem interested in Fitzpatrick or his price tag.
The draft, therefore, could be leverage for both sides. According to Rapoport, without a deal, the Jets could weigh making a move from the 20th pick into the top of the draft to go after Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, the top two quarterback prospects. If the Jets want a shot at either, they will have to move high up, as indications are the Rams and Browns, with the first two picks, will go after them.
By taking Wentz or Goff, it creates leverage for the Jets. Fitzpatrick could still seek offers elsewhere, but it seems no other team will increase their offer for Fitzpatrick. Though Cimini says he doubts Fitzpatrick would want to “babysit” Goff or Wentz, if he decides to return to the Jets, it seems it will be at a lower price, since the Jets can lower their offer with a quarterback in place.
However, given what it may take to get into the top of the draft, the Jets may strike out altogether. Memphis’ Paxton Lynch could be in play, but he’s not viewed as a franchise quarterback in the way Goff or Wentz are. If the Jets strike out, that leverage could turn back to Fitzpatrick. The Jets could still hold out, but with only Smith and Petty in place, Fitzpatrick could up his contract demands to return as a starter.
The two sides have two weeks to try to find a middle ground, and if not, it could create for a dramatic draft night if the Jets search elsewhere for an answer at quarterback.