Things are starting to get interesting between free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the New York Jets.
As the 2015-2016 season came to a close and the offseason began, it seemed as if it was inevitable that the Jets and the journeyman QB, who had an outstanding season, would eventually come to terms on a deal that would be beneficial for both sides.
At age 33, after enduring some harsh peaks and valleys throughout his career, Fitzpatrick broke out this past season throwing a team record 31 touchdown passes along with 3,905 passing yards—both of which were career highs.
For the Jets—a team that has been in search of a stable situation at quarterback for years now—locking up Fitzpatrick became important as the veteran signal-caller put together one of the greatest seasons a Gang Green QB has ever had during the team's 10-6 season.
For Fitzpatrick—a player who's been on six different teams in 10 career seasons—returning to the Jets would appear to be a priority for him, based on having dynamic receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker to throw to and the offensive coordinator he's had the most success under calling plays in Chan Gailey.
While a reunion appears to make the most sense (and one could still very well occur) talks have apparently stalled between Fitzpatrick and the Jets, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.
Earlier on Thursday, Ed Werder of ESPN reported that the Jets had offered Fitzpatrick a contract less or comparable to what Chase Daniel received from the Eagles.
From the perspective of Fitz and his camp, I understand their likely frustration. Daniel, who is 29-years-old and has thrown a total of 77 passes in his six-year career, got a three-year, $21M contract from Philly. Similarly, Sam Bradford, who has dealt with injuries throughout the course of his career and by all accounts had a worse year than Fitzpatrick last season, was given a two-year, $36M deal with $26M in guarantees.
You can even look at the Brock Osweiler situation. While yes, Osweiler is far younger than Fitzpatrick at age 25 and showed some promise last season, the young QB has started just seven games in his four-year career, throwing for 11 total touchdowns with six interceptions. And yet, the Houston Texans gave Osweiler a four-year, $72M contract on Wednesday as free agency began.
On the Jets side of things, they're in a bit of a bind.
The hope, you'd think, is that at some point the team will get Fitzpatrick to blink and come to terms on a reasonable contract. It is believed by some that the team's reported interest in trading for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is merely posturing in order to get Fitz and his camp to reduce their asking price.
This, however, could very well be a dangerous game that the Jets are playing.
If Fitzpatrick does wind up getting a more suitable offer from say the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns or even the San Francisco 49ers (if they do trade Kaepernick), New York isn't left with a suitable option.
In his first three seasons, Geno Smith has struggled to show any semblance of consistency all while turning the football over at a high rate. Bryce Petty, who some believe could one day compete for the starter's job, still isn't viewed as ready to be the team's quarterback entering his second career season.
Outside of the organization things aren't much better, as the top free agents at quarterback are guys like Brian Hoyer, Matt Cassel and Robert Griffin III.
It's possible that the team could look to address the position in the upcoming NFL Draft, but with the 20th overall pick, there's no telling what caliber of quarterback will be available once they select.
If Fitzpatrick's demands do not decrease to a point that the team is comfortable with, New York is going to be put in an interesting spot.
If the Jets are the ones to blink, they'll have a chance to make another run at the postseason over the next couple of years with the veteran core they've established. However, signing a 33-year-old QB who's coming off of a career season also has it's major risks. Even if Fitz can somehow resemble the player he was last season, a contract that he seems to be looking for at this time is one that could very well hamper this franchise down the line in terms of both dollars and years.
Only a couple of seasons removed from cap hell, which was in part due to the contract extension of former quarterback Mark Sanchez, one of the last things the Jets want to do is put themselves in a similar position by overpaying for Fitzpatrick.
On the other hand, though, if the Jets are indeed set a specific price tag and let Fitz walk, they are very likely mortgaging their present.
This team is currently built on veterans such as Darrelle Revis (30), Matt Forte (30), Brandon Marshall (31) and Eric Decker (28). While they do have younger players like Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams, among others, this is a team that's built to win now.
If the Jets let Fitzpatrick leave and turn to a wildcard whether it be internally, externally or through the draft, there's no telling on how competitive this team will be despite the talent they have elsewhere.
Even with Fitz having arguably the greatest statistical season a Jets quarterback has ever had this past year, the team still missed out on the postseason.
Entering the 2016-2017 season, the Jets have a much tougher schedule as they're set to face two of the best divisions in the league with the NFC West and the AFC North. And, as they do every year, they'll have four total games against the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, whom they finished with a 1-3 record against last season.
With Fitzpatrick it'll be a battle for the Jets to reach the postseason for the first time since 2010. Without him, though, it may be nearly impossible.
For the Jets' sake, they'd better hope that Ryan Fitzpatrick, who knows that this is probably the best situation for him, eventually blinks and settles on a fair contract.
If not, however, they're going to have a difficult decision to make. And personally, I don't envy their position.