The New York Jets are rumored to be moving beyond Ryan Fitzpatrick, letting the free agent remain on the market in favor of a return to Geno Smith.
The drama between the Jets and Fitzpatrick had now stretched beyond days and weeks and into months, with the team reportedly no closer to a deal with their 2015 starter than when negotiations first began in the spring. Though Fitzpatrick led the Jets to a 10-6 record and had the best season of his career last year, the Jets had balked at his asking price and appear content to go forward without him for next season.
There has been silence from both sides on any contract progress, NFL reported, and the Jets now appear ready to move ahead by looking back to Geno Smith.
Jets coach Todd Bowles told reporters this week that he believes Smith is up to the job of being starting quarterback, a role he filled after being drafted in 2013.
“I think Geno can be a good starter, but he’s got to prove it in training camp like everybody else,” Bowles told the New York Daily News. “It’s not just about the quarterback position. You got to have a team around that position to play ball, but he’s been in the system a year. He has a better grasp of it going into training camp and we’ll see what he does.”
Smith was in line to be the starter last year until a locker room punch from IK Enemkpali left Smith sidelined with a broken jaw. Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped into the starting role — as he has done now at all of his six stops in the NFL — and threw for a career-best 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns.
But it was also Fitzpatrick’s erratic and gunslinging style that helped keep the Jets out of the playoffs. He threw three fourth-quarter interceptions in the season finale against the Buffalo Bills, keeping his team out of the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. That has long been the knock on Fitzpatrick, as he tends to make mistakes at the worst possible time.
As NFL noted, there is a lot of urgency for the New York Jets to find the answer at quarterback, as they are sporting what is a playoff-ready team everywhere else.
“New York will return one of the most feared defensive lines in the league, complete with a newly-inked Muhammad Wilkerson, and the top receiving duo in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Gang Green also replaced Chris Ivory with Matt Forte, an older, but more versatile back that will help either quarterback in the short game.”
If the New York Jets aren’t going to step in and make an offer Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t refuse, then there are rumors a divisional rival could snag him. The New England Patriots will be without Tom Brady for the first four games of the year thanks to his newly re-instated Deflategate suspension, and there are reports that the Patriots are seeking out a steady hand who can guide the team while he’s gone, or at least provide some steadiness behind the untested Jimmy Garoppolo.
However, the New York Jets rumors play out, it could be a pivotal offseason for the team looking to make the playoffs for the first time under Bowles. The AFC East appears suddenly open after Brady’s suspension as well as the underwhelming 2015 performances from the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. Whether they find a way to sign Ryan Fitzpatrick or can squeeze a strong performance out of Geno Smith, something needs to work at the quarterback position to put the Jets in the running for the division.
[Photo by Gary Wiepert/AP Images]