Yesterday word broke that the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick are far apart on contract negotiations. Fitzpatrick is now likely to be unsigned by the time free agency begins tomorrow. Naturally, this has brought on a bit of panic. We need to wait and see how this plays out, though. This is a bit of a cat and mouse game as many negotiations are.
Fitzpatrick's representation is making a smart move if their initial demands are high. Quarterbacks are in demand these days. This is a league where even Sam Bradford is getting a contract averaging $18 million per season. Nineteen starting quarterbacks have a contract averaging at least $16 million. If you are Fitzpatrick, why not aim for a deal in this ballpark.
The question is whether there is another team that will give him that deal. The answer to this is unclear. I think most of us would agree he is not. The Jets would be poor negotiators if they panicked and gave Fitzpatrick everything he wanted immediately. That's a good way to sink your team. There are a handful of irreplaceable players in the NFL. They are guys like Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and J.J. Watt. Fitzpatrick is not one of them. He is not a keep at any cost free agent. The Jets absolutely have to be restrained in their dealings with him.
The question here is whether there is a team that thinks Fitzpatrick is its future. That $16 million and up annual price is given to franchise quarterbacks. Also every quarterback who got a long-term deal at that price was viewed by his team as a potential long-term player at that position. Frequently that team made a mistake. Will anybody view Fitzpatrick in this way at 33 with the track record he has? Maybe, but there is also the chance that they won't. Fitzpatrick might want way more than the Jets are offering, but there has to be a team willing to give it to him. I myself have been back and forth as to whether I think he can get a deal that big on the market.
If he can't get that deal, where does he go? Even though there are nineteen quarterbacks making $16 million a year and over, there are only two making between $8 million and $15 million. This is probably where the Jets would want Fitzpatrick to slide in, and it could be a good deal for both sides.
I think the Jets have probably played things correctly so far, but some of this is out of their hands. If some team wants to make a crazy deal to bring in FItzpatrick, the team will probably lose him. They won't lose him because of their cap situation. They will lose him because they aren't going to make a vast overpay. At some point you have to take the mentality that you produced an environment where a cheap journeyman could thrive last year. Now you can go out and find another quarterback who fits and can succeed.
That is down the road, though. The main point is this is a cat and mouse game. Even though I have seen a few people raise the white flag on the 2016 season already, we need to wait and see what happens. Fitzpatrick's days with the Jets are not officially over.