6 teams that should target Ryan Fitzpatrick
Nathan Jahnke breaks down the potential destinations for free agent QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
6 teams that should target Ryan Fitzpatrick
With Sam Bradford (81.5) returning to Philadelphia, and Washington using the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins (75.6), Ryan Fitzpatrick (59.6) has become arguably the best free agent quarterback available. While Brock Osweiler (71.3) has more upside, Fitzpatrick has been a competent starting quarterback in recent seasons, and in all likelihood, will be a starting quarterback again in 2016. Here are the teams who could get into a bidding war for Fitzpatrick’s services.
New York Jets
The most likely scenario is a return to New York. On one hand, the move makes sense, because he is probably the Jets’ best option at quarterback. They wouldn’t be able to afford Osweiler, or potentially Peyton Manning (56.8) if he is released.
One in-house option is Geno Smith, who has a 40.1 career completion percentage when under pressure. The Jets’ offensive line went from allowing 156 pressure in 2014 to 201 in 2015, and the line likely won’t get much better this offseason, so Smith’s performance under pressure would be critical next season.
The other in-house option is Bryce Petty, who was picked in the fourth round of 2015. He had zero regular-season snaps, and in the preseason, he was the fourth-lowest graded quarterback. Even without pressure, he was only averaging 5.9 yards per completion.
In an ideal situation for New York, one of these young quarterbacks improves and can be the QB of the future, but if the Jets want to win in 2016, knowing what we know now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is their best option.
The downside to the Jets bringing back Fitzpatrick is that it could hurt the team long-term. Fitzpatrick is 33 years old, so he is hardly a long-term solution for New York. The Jets are one of the teams with the least amount of cap space, so signing Fitzpatrick would really hurt their chances of bringing back other free agents. Nose tackle Damon Harrison has been the best defensive tackle against the run in recent years; his run-stop percentage has led the position each of the last three seasons. Running back Chris Ivory is also a free agent. He had 644 yards after contact in 2015, which was fourth-most in the league.
If Fitzpatrick is brought back, that would make it very difficult to re-sign either of these players. Fitzpatrick’s days in the NFL are limited, while Harrison and Ivory could potentially help the Jets for years to come.
Before Fitzpatrick was with the Jets, he was a member of the Houston Texans. While the former Harvard standout had his highest yardage and touchdown totals in 2015, his per-play numbers were better in 2014 with Houston. His 8.0 yards per attempt was a full yard higher than any other year, and his 95.3 NFL passer rating was also his best.
One reason a reunion could bring a boost to the Texans’ offense is that no other quarterback has connected as well with DeAndre Hopkins as Fitzpatrick. During Fitzpatrick’s time with Hopkins, the duo recorded 995 yards and six touchdowns, more than any other quarterback has with the wide receiver. This is especially impressive considering Brian Hoyer (57.5) has thrown 116 passes to Hopkins, while Fitzpatrick has only thrown 80. Anything that is good for Hopkins is good for the Texans, and this might be Hopkins’ best option for 2016.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have arguably the biggest need at quarterback, after Nick Foles (54.3) had the second-lowest NFL passer rating in 2015, at 69.0. When Foles was not under pressure, he wasn’t making as many mistakes as he was while under pressure, but still only averaged 6.5 yards per attempt. At the moment, Case Keenum (69.4) is the better option. He was much better than Foles without pressure (NFL QB rating of 102.2), but was worse when he was under pressure, with a passer rating of 51.7. Fitzgerald at his best is better than Keenum at his best, and the Rams have plenty of cap space to over-spend at quarterback if they want to.
Currently the Broncos have two quarterbacks, but there is a chance Denver could be looking for a new signal-caller in the near future. After placing the franchise tag on Von Miller, Denver is in a terrible salary-cap situation. Releasing Peyton Manning—and potentially DeMarcus Ware and Ryan Clady—would help. The Broncos are in a similar situation to the Jets in that they could bring back their quarterback and potentially lose other players who are among the best at their position. Ryan Fitzpatrick might be a cheaper alternative to Brock Osweiler, and help keep the Broncos’ offense stay competitive in 2016.
Cleveland Browns/San Francisco 49ers
In our latest mock draft, both of these teams spend their first-round pick on quarterbacks. While our mock draft is what we would do if we were the team rather, than predicting what the team will do, it wouldn’t be surprising if these teams do draft Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Fitzpatrick might not even be an upgrade to the Browns’ Josh McCown (64.3) or 49ers’ Blaine Gabbert (66.5), but a little more competition couldn’t hurt, and both of these teams have plenty of money to spend—and neither needs to spend too much bringing their own free agents back.