New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan is making the right decision by not overpaying 33-year-old veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
By Jeff Jarboe
New York Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan doesn’t have $40 million in spending money this off-season like he did last off-season, but that hasn’t stopped him from making a splash in the first few days of free agency.
Following the departure of starting running back Chris Ivory, who accepted a five-year $32.5 million offer from the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night, Maccagnan signed veteran running back Matt Forte to a team-friendly, 3-year $12 million deal Wednesday afternoon.
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Maccagnan followed the Forte signing by releasing veteran Jets, Jeremy Kerley and Jeff Cumberland, a move that freed up a combined $3.2 million in cap space. He then used this increased cap space to retain running back Bilal Powell–who was being heavily pursued by the Denver Broncos and the rival New England Patriots–and add former Saints running back Khiry Robinson.
Now, suddenly, the Jets have a three-headed monster at running back and it’s all thanks to Maccagnan’s wise decisions not to re-sign Chris Ivory and Damon Harrison, who accepted a 5-year $46.25 million deal ($9.25 million/year) from the New York Giants on Wednesday.
Had Maccagnan brought either of these guys back for the amount of money they were asking for, not only would he not have been able to sign Forte/Powell/Robinson, but he also wouldn’t have had enough money to even be in the running for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick’s popularity around the league has grown in the last few days as fellow free agent quarterbacks Brock Osweiler and Chase Daniel found homes elsewhere, leaving Fitz as the top free agent quarterback on the market. The Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams are two teams who are reportedly interested in signing Fitzpatrick, but have yet to do so because of his unreasonable demands.
The Harvard man is seeking a multi-year contract in the $15-18 million range, which when based on Sam Bradford‘s contract is generally considered the “going rate” for starting quarterbacks.
The Jets too have been firm on their stance regarding Fitzpatrick’s value. According to Bleacher Report, Maccagnan offered the veteran quarterback a 3-year $21 million contract similar to the one Chase Daniel was given and is refusing to offer anything higher.
After signing the trio of Forte, Powell and Robinson, New York can’t afford to give a 33-year-old quarterback who had one productive season and a favorable schedule to work with, a long-term contract averaging anything more than $7 million/year.
With that being said, the team still wants Fitzpatrick back of course. They want him to be the starting quarterback in 2016, but the same cannot be said about the Rams and the Broncos.
There have been multiple reports that the Broncos are closing in on a deal with San Francisco for Colin Kaepernick, in which case Fitzpatrick would be brought in to serve as back-up. Other reports have linked Los Angeles as a possible landing spot for RGIII, in which case Fitz would again be battling for the starting spot.
Fitzpatrick knows that New York is the only place where he’ll be given the starting job, and he already knows how successful he can be on this team. Unless a team emerges that is willing to overpay him and meet his demands, he’ll likely return to New York.
If this happens, Maccagnan is going to look like a genius, but if it doesn’t happen the Jets aren’t dead in the water either. This offense has only gotten better with the losses of Kerley and Cumberland, and the additions of Forte and Khiry Robinson. Free agent veterans like Brian Hoyer and Matt Moore are more than capable of serving as short-term starter with weapons like these at their disposal, and a defense like New York’s backing him up.
Mike Maccagnan’s long-term plans for the quarterback position remain to be seen. He and Bowles seem to like Bryce Petty so far, though they don’t think he’s ready to start, and they could also select a quarterback in the draft depending on how things unfold.
But short-term, Maccagnan knows what he’s doing.