NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, July 25, 2016, 10:36 AM
BY MANISH MEHTA
The latest wrinkle in the painstaking attempt to reunite the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick has a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure theme that might put an end to this six-month impasse.
The Daily News has learned that the Jets have given the veteran quarterback multiple offers with the hope of bringing back their undisputed leader from a year ago before the start of training camp this week.
The Jets’ three-year, $ 24 million offer (which is below market value but includes $ 15 million in guarantees) has dominated the conversation for the better part of two months, but the organization has presented at least one other option for Fitzpatrick, whose franchise-record 31 touchdowns helped Todd Bowles to 10 wins in his rookie season.
It stands to reason that Fitzpatrick isn’t thrilled with any of the offers laid out by the Jets’ brain trust given that he’s still unsigned.
There’s been a decidedly Where’s Waldo? vibe to this offseason for the 33-year-old quarterback.
Why didn’t he renew the lease to the North Jersey house that he rented last season? (Maybe it just wasn’t big enough for his super-sized family).
Ryan Fitzpatrick set a Jets franchise record with 31 passing touchdowns in 2015.
(Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)
Why is his beard in mid-season form? (It’s real and it’s spectacular. Before long, it might be dragging along the floor).
Why didn’t he do The Carlton with Justin Timberlake and Steph Curry at the celebrity golf tournament that he participated in last weekend? (Highly doubtful that he can dance).
All valid queries. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to get definitive answers soon enough.
In the meantime, the smart play for the Jets would be to offer more fully guaranteed money in a multi-year deal. If the organization is unwilling to do that, the fair move would be to present a one-year deal for a fully guaranteed $ 12-$ 14 million.
The Jets would almost certainly prefer a one-year, $ 8 million pact (to keep in line with the $ 8 million/year average in their well-publicized three-year offer), but that’s simply insulting given Fitzpatrick’s true value to this team.
Although the organization might be amenable to a one-year deal with a base value of $ 8 million that includes incentives that would push the max value to $ 12 million, that still isn’t fair for a player that gives the Jets the best chance to snap a five-year playoff drought.
Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t signed a front-loaded contract offer from the Jets that would give him $ 15 million in guaranteed money.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
The fact that the Jets have engendered ill will over a few million dollars with their team leader is baffling. The organization isn’t actually hurting for money. The cap-strapped narrative has always been a red herring. The organization, which freed up $ 5.7 million a week and half ago by signing Mo Wilkerson to a long-term extension, can easily execute base salary-to-signing bonus conversions on any one of a handful of contracts to get additional money to sign Fitzpatrick without crippling their future financial structure.
Bowles insists that the offseason drama with Fitzpatrick and Wilkerson issues weren’t an annoyance.
“It’s not because other guys get a chance to play,” Bowles told the Daily News. “If he were hurt the first day he was here, somebody has to play. You get guys ready to play to (help you) win football games. The more, the merrier. If not, you work with what you got and you win anyway.”
That’s much easier said than done. Even if Fitzpatrick returns at some point in the coming days or weeks, it won’t be a seamless return. The Jets squandered valuable offseason time for him to build off his 2016 success with his pass catchers.
“If he comes back, it’s going to take some time,” Eric Decker told the Daily News. “Even when you play with Peyton Manning, you still got to refine the craft in the offseason. … Last year, we were all new to this this. So, let’s just figure it out. We all understand the offense and each other (now), but I still think it (will take time) to mold our game.”
The business of football, frankly, can be a pain in the posterior.
The Jets are trying to convince anyone who’ll listen (and themselves, too) that they’re OK with Geno Smith being the team’s starting quarterback.
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
“It’s tough,” Decker said. “I like it because free agency allowed me to go and see what the offers were and (reap) the financial benefits. But at the same time, it can hamper the process if it’s a quarterback and his timing with players or a guy, who needs to get reps crucial to the team. But it happens to everyone. It happens every year. … This is an interesting case, because it’s a quarterback and it’s been drawn out for all offseason.”
As leaders like Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis and Decker have openly professed their desire to get Fitzpatrick back, the organization’s brain trust is attempting to convince itself that Geno Smith will be good enough.
Could the mercurial Smith actually lead the Jets to the playoffs for the first time since 2010?
“I believe so. I do,” said Decker, who had 10 catches for a career-high 221 yards in Smith’s last start in the 2014 season finale in Miami. “Looking at the lineup across the board, we got depth in positions in need to have depth. And we got the talent to compete. I’m not going to say that we’re going to be perfect, but we got a team that’s very competitive and I think can win.”
It’s wishful thinking.
The Jets are fully aware that they need Fitzpatrick to make a realistic run at the playoffs this year. So, they’ve given him multiple offers.
But are any of them good enough?