We are getting close to the 2016 NFL Draft. The situation at quarterback for the Jets is still murky. Ryan Fitzpatrick remains a free agent. With that in mind, I have seen many analysts suggest the team is more likely to take a quarterback than it would be with Fitzpatrick. I cannot tell you whether that is also the thought process of Mike Maccagnan. I do think such thinking is misplaced, though, for two reasons.
Fitzpatrick is not a long-term answer at quarterback.
Let's face it. Fitzpatrick is a journeyman. He is also 33 years old. The Jets want him back because he is likely the best short-term option at the quarterback position. Look at the other options out there. Do you think Brian Hoyer is a better bet than Fitzpatrick to have a quality season for the Jets? If we were living in a vacuum, you might be able to cobble together an argument. For this team, I do not think you can build a case. Fitzpatrick has years of experience in the Jets' offensive system. He built great chemistry with the receivers over the last year. He had legitimate success last year.
None of this makes him a long-term answer. He is a stopgap solution. If the Jets re-sign Fitzpatrick, they still need to figure out a long-term option at quarterback. Let's assume for a second that Geno Smith will not have a historic career turnaround and that while hopeful for his future development, the people running the Jets are not going to stake their careers on fourth round project Bryce Petty developing into a franchise quarterback without a backup plan. A quarterback will still need to be drafted sooner rather than later.
You do not want to be in a position where a rookie HAS to start.
With a handful of exceptions, it is not a good idea to draft a quarterback with the idea that player has to start immediately. Sometimes a prospect shows he is ready to start on day one. That is great. A team should avoid at all costs a situation where the rookie has to start simply because there are no other viable options. The last two times the Jets drafted a quarterback near the top of the Draft, they were in that position. Mark Sanchez's only competition in 2009 was Kellen Clemens, the failed quarterback prospect he was set to replace. In 2013, Sanchez himself was the replaced failed prospect competing with Geno Smith. In both cases, it felt like the powers in charge had already decided to go with the rookie no matter what. (Sanchez's injury in 2013 means we will never know for sure.) Neither of those worked out very well. (Yeah, I know. You're going to argue about the 2009 Jets. That team had the top run game and top defense in the league. How did that team only go 9-7?)
If the Jets draft a quarterback early, there needs to be a veteran placeholder at the very least. Even if that guy only buys you half a season, those are eight games that can help the prospect. Fitzpatrick is the best placeholder option available.
Even with Fitzpatrick back, the Jets would need a long-term quarterback. Even with a long-term quarterback, the Jets need a decent veteran. The free agent strategy should not impact the Draft strategy in this case.