Woody Johnson, Super Bowl Boulevard

Ryan Fitzpatrick And Woody Johnson Play Hardball, Fans Want ‘Fitz’ To Play Football

Ryan Fitzpatrick needs the Jets more than the Jets need Ryan Fitzpatrick. I don’t care who says otherwise. Until Jets owner Woody Johnson tells me that he needs Fitz more than Fitz needs him, I’m stickin’ to my story… But! If the Jets don’t sign Fitzpatrick, they’ll never know what newly acquired and perfect fit Matt Forte, as well as second-year man Brandon Marshall and veteran Eric Decker, could have produced with Fitzpatrick under center.

This is a dangerous team with Fitzpatrick leading it — opposing defenses do not want to game plan for Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker — but if Geno Smith is leading them, you have to imagine that teams facing the Jets will feel they have an edge. Geno is not the answer if the Jets are serious about their Super Bowl aspirations.

Gang Green deserves a chance at seeing what Fitzpatrick can do on the field surrounded by the greatest collection of elite talent this franchise has ever fielded. It’s up to Woody Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick to settle a deal. Given all that, I still think the $16 or $18 million per year that Fitzpatrick is reportedly seeking is way too high, and apparently so does Woody Johnson.

The “saga” between Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets is like a superstar singer and a Las Vegas hotel that can’t agree on terms. Unfortunately for Johnson and the Jets, there aren’t any other superstar singers on the strip that can take Ryan’s spot, not to mention the fact that Fitzpatrick has great chemistry with the hotel’s band members, a.k.a. the Jets offense. If Woody trots out a bruised and beaten Geno Smith in front of the crowd, fans might boo, but MetLife won’t go bust. The Jets might not bring home a banner, but Woody Johnson and co. will still bring home the bacon in spite of the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick won’t be there to throw post-corner routes to Brandon Marshall for touchdowns.

Ryan Fitzpatrick MetLife Stadium
[Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images]
I get it! The Jets lose today if they don’t sign Fitzpatrick yesterday, but I don’t blame them for not wanting to pay Fitzpatrick semi-elite QB money because his talent does not garner that. The only problem is, the Jets want to win, and they want to win this season. They have their coach in Todd Bowles, they have their running-back in Matt Forte (who is the perfect fit for Fitzy’s limited arm strength, not to mention Forte’s third down prowess and blocking ability, which will surely keep the often-tackled and liable interception-throwing Fitzpatrick a little more accurate and a little more upright.) They’re spoiled with the best wide receiver duo this storied franchise ever assembled. On the other side of the ball, the Jets defense is sturdy and Darrelle Revis is still a nightmare. So yes, this could be the year, and yes, they need Fitzpatrick, and trust me, the Harvard mathematics educated man and fifth smartest athlete in sports (according to Sporting News) knows it just as much as everyone else, but Johnson can’t devastate the Jets organization going forward for a 33-year old QB with no playoff experience.

Allow me to put my screenwriting skills to work and assume what the battle of ideologies at the negotiating table sounds like.

Fitzpatrick:

I give this team the best chance to win and the only chance to make a playoff run. The fans want me, the team wants me and I want to be part of the team. There’s no one left for this organization to sign that can produce like me. We were one game away from our first playoff birth in years, let’s finish what we started. Let’s make a deal and make a run at the Super Bowl.

Jets:

You can take the most money you’ve ever been offered in your career and ride off into the sunset with a playoff run and potentially more, or you can keep asking other teams around the NFL if they’re willing to pay you 18 million per year for the next three years, and if you don’t get it, you can look back while you’re sitting on your La-Z-boy and think what could have been. We’ll get another shot at a Super Bowl, you won’t.

On May 30, Rich Cimini of ESPN reported that the Jets offered Fitzpatrick “$12 million in the first year … the hang up, from the Fitzpatrick perspective, is the second- and third-year payout. The combined salary for 2017 and 2018 is $12 million, making it a three-year $24 million offer … it’s not known how much of that, if any, is guaranteed,” adding, “Fitzpatrick has no other known suitors. The only team willing to hand him a starting job is the Jets.”

Ryan Fitzpatrick at $8 million per year would be right above RG3 and way below the majority of NFL starters (21 NFL starting quarterbacks make above $16 million per year.)

I don’t think Fitz is worth $16 or $18 million per year, but there is an argument to make when you look at the quarterbacks around the league that may or may not be better than Fitzpatrick and are making double what the Jets are willing to pay him.

Will Brinson of CBS Sports is estimating that Fitzpatrick “wants to get Sam Bradford money (a.k.a. $18 million a year or somewhere in the range.) But teams see him as successful in Gailey’s system and, at 33-years-old, a bridge quarterback at absolute best” adding, “Signing Fitzpatrick to a 3-year, $45 million deal is the type of move that will end up making you regret about $40 million of the contract.”

Perhaps Brinson goes too far by saying that the Jets would regret “40 million of that contract,” because Fitz can still play, he can still win, and most importantly, he gives players like Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker (who aren’t getting any younger), a good chance at a playoff berth in 2017 and afterwards.

Marshall & Decker celebrate
[Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images]
Fitzpatrick needs to understand that he is barely a starter in the National Football League – too harsh? Let’s go through the teams with average talent at the QB position heading into 2016 and you decide if Fitzpatrick is better or worse than the QB’s on this list (don’t forget Fitzpatrick’s wide receivers last year were Marshall and Decker), here’s the way I see it.

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Tyrod Taylor = Fitz
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Ryan Tannehill = Tannehill
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. RG3 = Fitz
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Brock Osweiler = Osweiler
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Blake Bortles = Bortles
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Mark Sanchez = Fitz
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Alex Smith = Smith
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Sam Bradford = Bradford
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Nick Foles/Jared Goff = Fitz
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Blaine Gabbert/Colin Kaepernick = Fitz

According to my ranking, Fitzpatrick is better than Taylor, RG3, Sanchez and the tandem QB’s of the Rams and 49ers, which makes him the sixth worst starter in the NFL. Out of the quarterbacks mentioned: Tannehill, Osweiler, Smith, Bradford and Kaepernick all make over $16 million per year.

Here’s where it gets interesting, RG3 just signed a two-year deal with the Cleveland Browns that will pay him $7.5 million per year for the next two years, hmm.

Mark Sanchez, $4.5 million over the next two years.

Tyrod Taylor, $1.1 million per year (chances are Taylor’s contract will be re-negotiated.)

Fitz is arguably better than Taylor, Sanchez, and RG3. A case can be made that he is almost as good, if not better, than Smith and Tannehill, who are in the $18 million range.

So, is $8 million per year for three years fair for Fitzpatrick? So far it isn’t, according to number 14. Reports indicate Fitzpatrick would be willing to take $12 million per year for three years, which seems more appropriate, but other reports say he’s looking for $18 million, which seems excessive.

Just because teams like the 49ers and Texans might have overpaid for their quarterbacks, doesn’t mean they created a standard market price for starting QB’s in the NFL. The same goes for teams that might be underpaying their QB’s.

Fitzpatrick has leverage, but the Jets have the last say. The only problem is, Fitzpatrick could really damage the Jets product if he doesn’t play, because the New York media could (and probably will), skewer the Jets all season long if Geno Smith is the starter and things don’t pan out on the field. Decker has already caused a mini media storm by not attending OTA’s until Fitzpatrick is signed. Surely the Jets do not want Decker and Marshall (two intelligent and articulate superstars with a tendency to be outspoken) to add headlines to the Jets media frenzy. Both star receivers support Fitzpatrick, which bodes terribly for Geno Smith and the Fitzpatrick-less Jets.

I’m sure Jets owner Woody Johnson is aware of all of this, but so far it seems the Johnson & Johnson majority shareholder is calling Fitzpatrick’s bluff. How long is this willing to go on is the question and to what level of detriment? Is Fitzpatrick willing to call it quits if he doesn’t get his bottom dollar? Both men are exhibiting pride and both will wear shame if a deal isn’t struck, if it isn’t, expect the teams fans and the media to constantly remind them of their opinion during and afterwards.

Whenever there’s a stalemate negotiation like the one between Woody Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick, I always defer to Henry Clay, who said, “A perfect compromise is one where both parties are equally dissatisfied.”

Final word: At this point in Fitzpatrick’s career, it should not be about the money, it should be about the ring. The 33-year-old quarterback is a 12-year veteran who’s only played three full seasons, only thrown for over 3,500 yards three times in his career, only cracked 30-plus touchdowns once, and only scored 20-plus TD’s three times. His only semi-elite season was last year: 31 TD’s, 15 INT’s, 3,905 passing yards with a 10-6 record – one win shy of the playoffs (which would have been his first.) Fitzpatrick and the Jets have the pieces to make a run (albeit a dark horse run) at the Super Bowl. With Forte, Fitzpatrick, Marshall and Decker, this team is a force to be reckoned with. There is no doubt that this is the year for the New York Jets, but without Fitzpatrick it’s just another year for Woody Johnson and the fans that pay good money to fill MetLife Stadium.

Prediction: Ryan Fitzpatrick signs with the New York Jets for 12 million per year for the next three years, with 18 million guaranteed, a 2 million dollar signing bonus and 6 million in base salary escalators tied into playoff performance, which in my opinion is the perfect situation for everyone involved, including back-up quarterbacks Geno Smith and the Jets 51st overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, Christian Hackenberg.

[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]

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