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Breaking Down The Jets: The Quarterback Group

As we hurtle (or creep) towards training camp we're going to focus in on each group. Looking at the current depth chart, the possible story lines, the contract situation and how the group is looking for the next 5 years.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Current Depth Chart

Geno Smith

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Bryce Petty

Jake Heaps

The Jets have thrown their eggs into the Geno Smith basket. Geno improved over the final 5 games of the season and that was illustrated perfectly in a recent article by Can't Wait! Is that encouraging? Absolutely! Can we rely on that as an indicator that Geno Smith is going to vastly improve in 2015? Absolutely not. Geno has labored through a two year period where he has struggled to consistently play at at average level. This year he'll have the luxury of a Chan Gailey offense, something that got Ryan Fitzpatrick a $60 million contract and made Tyler Thigmen a serviceable option. If Gailey can't get Geno playing to an acceptable level, then nothing will.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is coming off a serious leg injury that derailed his promising 2014 season. He has extensive work with Gailey having worked with him in Buffalo for a number of years, there is a comfort there that means we should be confident that if Geno doesn't get the job done, Fitzpatrick could come in and play to a high standard.

Bryce Petty was our 4th round selection from the 2015 NFL draft. He comes from an up-temp, no-huddle spread offense at Baylor which has very little resemblance to an NFL offense. He has exceptional arm talent but you need a lot more, does he have an "It" factor about him? Yes he does, is he ready to start? No, but who knows what happens. The best thing for him and the Jets is to come along slowly, take a redshirt year and develop. If you're expecting a Russell Wilson type situation, don't, Wilson came from a similar offense to Seattles established attack, Petty does not.

Jake Heaps is the outside man here, after drifting around the college scene, he's really looking at a tough task to make the roster, in fact it's going to be near impossible. You have Geno who's the projected starter, Fitzpatrick the veteran backup and a highly thought of draft pick. Good luck, but the best hope is a spot on the practice squad. I wrote about Jake Heaps in more detail HERE.

The Salary Situation

Year/Cap Hit Geno Smith Ryan Fitzpatrick Bryce Petty Jake Heaps
2015 $1,368,983 $3,250,000 $573,424 $435,000
2016 $1,597,146 $663,424
2017 $753,424
2018 $843,424

As you can see, we really don't have a great deal committed to the QB situation. Heaps is on an undrafted wage, Geno only has two years remaining and can be cut after 2015, which would save nearly $1 million. Bryce will be on his rookie contract so will be affordable for the next 4 years and Ryan is on a one year deal. We're not handcuffed with any of these contracts and we can move in another direction quite easily at any point.

Possible Storylines

How much will Geno need to struggle before Chan Gailey loses patience and turns to a trusted old hand in Ryan Fitzpatrick. I know John feels this way as well, but I don't see any reason why the Jets couldn't have held a Quarterback competition this year. Fitzpatrick has knowledge of the system and has shown capability to perform in the NFL. I know we want Geno to work out but the team comes first. Personally I get the impression Geno has a long leash, but if he really bombs in the first 2 pre-season games, things could get interesting.

Bryce Petty's development. This is a story that we're all going to pay attention to. I expect there to be many growing pains. He'll be seeing coverages he's only dreamed about, he'll be dropping back and calling plays, all very foreign concepts to him. On top of this, he'll be facing a top of the range defense, even if he's not against the ones, he'll be facing some high caliber talent on the two's. Can he surprise everyone and push for a starting spot? I don't think so but you never know.

Is Fitzpatrick 100%? We have to remember that Ryan experienced a broken leg last year with the Houston Texans and although his rehab went perfectly, we'll need to keep an eye on the leg as soon as live contact drills start. Usually you can come back quite well from this injury, but when you've experienced that pain, sometimes your ability to react and deal with pressure changes.

Projected Depth Chart

1- Geno Smith

2- Ryan Fitzpatrick

3- Bryce Petty

Cut- Jake Heaps

As mentioned earlier, I have to imagine all three of Smith, Fitzpatrick and Petty make the final 53, nothing else makes sense. Jake will be cut but he may be signed to the practice squad if he can show enough talent to make the coaching staff believe he can be developed. There is no point just stashing someone on the squad for the sake of it.

As far as pre-season games go. I expect Geno to play 1-2 series in the opener, deep into the second quarter in game 2, around 3 quarters of game three and then sit out game 4 entirely. Bryce will get the majority of game four to show off his arm talent.

The Future

Frustratingly, the future of the Jets quaterback situation is as unclear as ever. Only one quarterback is signed past 2016 and that's Bryce Petty. There are big question marks around Bryce and whether he can translate from the college game to the pro game and that will determine how long he sticks on the roster. However he was drafted as a development prospect, so he'll get a minimum of 3 years to prove his worth.

This is a make or break year for Geno and if he struggles again, I wouldn't be surprised to see him cut next off-season. Hopefully he shows why he was highly touted coming out of West Virginia and we end up signing him long-term. If not I could see someone like Fitzpatrick getting another one year contract and holding the fought until Bryce or someone else is ready.

The Free Agents

From our perspective, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be a free agent in 2016.

On the open market, there are a few players who at this point in time will be available, they include:

Eli Manning - New York Giants (34 years old)

Phillip Rivers - San Diego Chargers (33 years old)

Sam Bradford - Philadelphia Eagles (27 years old)

Russell Wilson - Seattle Seahawks (26 years old)

Nick Foles - St Louis Rams (26 years old)

Brock Osweiler - Denver Broncos (24 years old)

You have to imagine that Manning, Rivers and Wilson all get signed by their respective teams before they even hit the open market. Contract talk is already heating up for all of them and it would be a surprise to see any of them hit the open market. Sam Bradford will get re-signed if he performs and stays healthy this year, likewise with Nick Foles and if neither of them improve and stay healthy, would you even want them?

Brock Osweiler is the interesting one here. The Broncos think very highly of the former Arizona State man and see him as the heir apparent to Peyton. Again, he probably gets re-signed as Manning is probably in his final year in the NFL. They can get Brock on a very friendly contract if they do it sooner rather than later. Will he turn out to be good enough? That's the big question.