Imagine if the New York Jets opened their training camp yesterday, anytime this week or in the immediate future with a statement from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick that had sampled a portion of Muhammad Wilkerson’s enamored words, written after securing a long-awaited deal, the way presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s wife extracted lines from a past Michelle Obama speech to supplement hers and read them to the world at last week’s Republican National Convention.
Even if Fitzpatrick used the entire “I’m thankful for everything that comes my way, and proud to say, ‘I’m back on the Green and White for a few more years’” Wilkerson tweet, there’d be giggles to go along with the assured sense of relief among Wilkerson teammates and Jets fans.
Camp is now open. NFL football is back upon us until February. The Jets begin their season this way.
Wilkerson, their defensive lineman who deserved a lucrative contract but remained uninterested in the Jets’ earlier offers, agreed to a five-year $86 million contract, $54 million of which is guaranteed over the first three years. It was agreed upon just before the 4 p.m. “franchise tag” deadline.
Fitzpatrick, who took the Jets to 10-6 last season, just barely missing the playoffs, has not. He remains stalemated—at a standoff with the Jets.
He deserves to be re-signed based on the stability that he’s provided at his position, his 31 touchdowns, the 3,905 career-high throwing yards he amassed last season and his understanding of the Jets’ offensive system, and because of the backing and support he’s earned from his talented star receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and those 10 wins.
The 10 could have easily been 11. One of the losses, Game 7 against the Oakland Raiders, a team that finished the season 7-9, might have been the one.
Fitzpatrick injured his left thumb while scrambling during the Jets’ first series of downs, sidelining him early in this road game. The defense also gave up 34 points. The Jets lost by 14.
There are valid points to back up Fitzpatrick’s contract request. The money that was spent on quarterbacks on the Houston Texans and the Philadelphia Eagles also justifies his request. The Jets’ offer is somewhat valid based on Fitzpatrick’s age, he turns 34 in November, and their salary cap.
The three interceptions that Fitzpatrick threw against Buffalo in January, their last game of the season may also be a factor, but their hesitation makes you question several things. Do the Jets believe that Fitzpatrick can have another productive season? Are the Jets really a playoff team? Have they arrived? Can they build on this team’s offense and last season’s ten wins?Their value of Fitzpatrick and expectations for this season’s team may not equal what’s perceived or anticipated. Their last contract offer is estimated to be what’s offered to a backup quarterback, not a starter.
Until this situation is solved, the Jets are preparing third-year veteran and former starter Geno Smith, sophomore Bryce Petty and rookie Christian Hackenberg.
“We’ve got three guys here we’re working with,” said head coach Todd Bowles several weeks ago, now in the second year of his contract. “We’re not just waiting for Fitzpatrick to come back. We have guys ready to play. We’ve got to get the other guys ready to play.”
Smith, on the third and final year of his rookie contract, is listed as their Number 1 for now, until they come to terms with Fitzpatrick, who is perceived as being able to give the Jets the best chance to win.
Tops on their list of things to do is find out what Smith can do. Is Smith a starter or not? Can he helm this team? It would be incredibly embarrassing if he leaves the Jets at the end of the season and is successful elsewhere.