When New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan addressed reporters on Jan. 22, he sounded optimistic about the Ryan Fitzpatrick talks, saying, "Hopefully, we'll be able to get something done here in the near future."
Don't look now, but the near future is training camp.
This has been an eye-opening negotiation for both sides, a lesson to us all that feel-good stories come with a price tag. There have been twists and turns along the way, and there will be more to come, you can count on that. As we sit here on Thursday, let's touch on two subplots.
This idea that the Jets will wait patiently until training camp for a resolution no longer seems as likely as it once did. Yes, coach Todd Bowles said during the draft he could live without Fitzpatrick until training camp in late July, but I get the feeling the Jets might want to accelerate that timetable. Maybe it's just posturing, maybe not.
Whether it admits it or not, the organization is being held hostage by the Fitzpatrick standoff. Bowles is doing a nice job of containing the controversy -- notice how Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall fell into line this week? -- but there has to be a point where the Jets say enough is enough. I'm starting to get the sense that it may come sooner than July 27.
The Nick Foles situation in Los Angeles bears watching. If the Rams release Foles, as many expect, he'd jump to the top of the list of free-agent quarterbacks, which is a rather lean list right now. If the Jets see Foles as a last-chance option for an experienced quarterback -- Geno Smith insurance, if you will -- it could prompt them to force the issue with Fitzpatrick.
The Jets are offering Fitzpatrick a three-year, $24 million contract, including $12 million in the first year. He's willing to accept a one-year, $12 million contract, according to the New York Daily News. In essence, his people are telling the Jets -- through the media -- he'd settle for a 50 percent raise. He'd go from an $8 million-a-year quarterback (the Jets' offer) to $12 million; that's mighty gracious of him.
I can tell you this: It's not happening. The Jets won't pay him $12 million for one year. First of all, they'd be forced to do some serious contract restructuring to absorb a $12 million cap hit, considering they have only $3 million in space. The cap charge for the three-year contract would be significantly less, at an estimated $6 million.
The main reason, though, is they don't think he's worth $12 million for one year. Also, they'd like to retain him as insurance in case the two kids, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, aren't ready to quarterback in 2017. There's very little downside for Fitzpatrick on a one-year deal. Yeah, he'd be surrendering a $3 million guarantee in 2017 -- reportedly part of the current offer -- but he'd easily recoup that next year on the open market. The Jets evidently feel they'd be taking on most of the risk.
I'm not saying it's fair, but I'm telling you how it is. Personally, I think the current offer is too low, as the total guarantee (reportedly $15 million) would rank him 27th among quarterbacks. Look, we all know about his background as a journeyman quarterback with no playoff appearances, but Fitzpatrick played well last season and he's the right fit for the Jets. He's certainly a better fit than Smith.
Unfortunately for Fitzpatrick, he got a cold shoulder from the quarterback market, killing his leverage. His only suitor is the Jets, so his choice is simple: Take their $15 million or stay home.
He will take the money.