The Jets have repeatedly said they expect to have Ryan Fitzpatrick back next year and Fitzpatrick has said he would like to return to the Jets, so you're probably wondering what's taking so long?
Well Sam Bradford signing a contract worth $18 million per year certainly isn't helping the Jets, nor is Kirk Cousins getting the franchise tag or Brock Osweiler reportedly being offered a contract worth around $15 million per year. Fitzpatrick and his agent are looking at those contracts and thinking he deserves a similar contract and there in lies the problem. The market for quarterbacks in the NFL is so out of whack, and not just because of a huge level of demand and stunningly low supply, the issue here is how there is no middle class for quarterbacks. Quarterbacks are either on their rookie deals, backups making around $5 million per year or starters getting paid close to $20 million even if those starters aren't actually good.
If Osweiler only gets the $15 million per year, and it seems he'll likely get more with the Houston Texans already planning to call his agent today, that would be as close to a "middle class" as we'll get. And remember Osweiler didn't even play well enough to keep the job that the Broncos so desperately wanted to give him, instead they benched Osweiler for a broken down Peyton Manning and now the Broncos might have to pay Osweiler more than $15 million per year just to have a quarterback on their roster.
All of this explains why the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted this earlier, "This is a surprise: #Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to hit the free agent market, sources say. Sides are far apart on a potential deal."
While Fitzpatrick and his agent are looking at the other quarterbacks and their contracts and thinking they should get a similar deal the Jets are looking at Fitzpatrick and thinking not only that they shouldn't give Fitzpatrick anything in the range of $18 million per year but they don't even have that much money available. And sure the Jets will find ways, through cuts and restructuring, to free up more money in the next couple of days but they still have to sign other players as well. This is not a team that's just a quarterback away and even if they were can anyone really think Fitzpatrick is that quarterback?
With the two sides so far apart the Jets are willing to let Fitzpatrick test the market and are banking on him realizing the best place for him is with the Jets. There are only a handful of teams that could potentially be interested in signing Fitzpatrick as a starter and none of those teams have Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker or Chan Gailey. Would the 33-year-old Fitzpatrick rather grab an extra couple of million to potentially play for the Browns, 49ers or the Rams? The Texans need a quarterback but would they really give Fitzpatrick a big contract after trading him for peanuts just last year?
The only realistic scenario that could present itself where Fitzpatrick could find a better situation is if someone outbids the Broncos for Osweiler and Fitzpatrick and the Broncos say 'if they won a Super Bowl with a washed Peyton Manning why couldn't they do the same with Fitzpatrick?'
Barring that scenario playing out Fitzpatrick will test the market but will most likely come back to the Jets realizing that this is the best place for him. Outside of Denver the Jets give him the best chance to win and he wouldn't have to move his family yet again. Once all is said and done look for Fitzpatrick to return to the Jets on a two, or three-year deal worth around $10-12 million per year.
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInside.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (email@example.com)