Daily Focus: Jets’ poor alternatives give Fitzpatrick leverage

Neil Hornsby dives in on a handful of players hoping to get paid.

| 4 months ago
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Daily Focus: Jets’ poor alternatives give Fitzpatrick leverage


Editor’s note: Every weekday in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets still not meeting in the middle: It’s a game of chicken and, at the moment, no one is blinking.

The New York Jets are reportedly offering their 2015 signal caller, Ryan Fitzpatrick, a contract that would pay $12 million, but less the next two years. That would make him the 23rd-highest paid quarterback in the game for 2016. This is slightly better than our 2015 ranking for Fitzpatrick, when we had him 26th at the position position by PFF grade. So why is Fitzpatrick balking?

I’m guessing it’s because he believes he has leverage. He might have only been the 26th-ranked quarterback, but he knows (as does his agent) this is a borderline playoff team with Fitzpatrick, but a bottom quarter team without him. The three players the Jets would have to rely on without Fitzpatrick:

  • Geno Smith
    In 2013, he was our 40th-ranked QB; he was 33rd in 2014.
    fitz
    As you can see above, he also had a penchant for taking sacks, and the Jets’ line has regressed since the last time he took significant snaps. We rated them 26th this year, down from 13th in 2014.
  • Bryce Petty
    The Jets took Petty in the fourth round in 2014. It seemed a reach at the time, and it looked even more like one in the preseason, as he engineered a -6.9 passing grade against second- and third-string defenses. Many think his college production was more a function of the Baylor offensive scheme than any great skill on his part.
  • Christian Hackenberg
    If Petty was a reach, Hackenberg is a step up from that. His performances at Penn State, even in his freshman year, were extremely poor and he was effectively drafted on measurables and personal recommendations alone.

It’s against this backdrop that Fitzpatrick is taking his chances and daring the Jets to think they have a better option.

Patriots CB Malcolm Butler looking to get paid: While Fitzpatrick is potentially benefiting from a dearth of quarterback talent on his team, the same could be said of New England’s Malcolm Butler, who is also looking for a new contract. Without him, the Patriots depth at corner looks suspect. Of course, the real question here is: How good is Butler?

Last year, he had a passer rating against him of 97.5, which would only rank him 64th of 118 qualifiers, but his 11th-ranked PFF coverage rating is a far more accurate value of his worth. The truth is, Butler is a good corner being asked to play the role of an elite one and holding up pretty well. He’s often asked to cover the opponent’s major threat, which can lead to some less-than-stellar games, but also some very good ones. Here’s who he had to cover this year by week.

butler

 

A few points of interest from the above data:

  • Usually, the more dangerous the threat, the more he shadows them.
  • In Week 14 against Houston, Butler unexpectedly shadowed Nate Washington, who the Patriots picked up in free agency. They obviously like him more than most.
  • In both Denver games, the Patriots either saw Emmanuel Sanders as a bigger threat than Demaryius Thomas, or at least saw him as a better matchup for Butler.

The meaning of the Reshad Jones holdout: News came out that Miami Dolphins’ safety Reshad Jones is not attending OTAs because he wants his contract renegotiated. My first question in these types of situation is usually “Are they being fairly paid?” The rights and wrongs of holding out when you already have a contract aside, has a player clearly outperformed his initial deal?

Let’s look at Jones in the context off all other safeties using the PFF grades over the last three years:

reshad

So he’s our seventh-ranked safety over the period, and his salary is ranked eighth. Not much to discuss here? Well, it’s a matter of endpoints.

Over the last three years, Jones is our seventh-ranked safety. But over the last two years, he’s second. The issue here is, when he clearly underperformed the deal in 2013, the Dolphins didn’t ask for a pay cut, so why should he get a raise now?

Rob Ryan’s defends his defense: In an interview with Jenny Vrentas of MMQB last week, current Buffalo Bills assistant head coach Rob Ryan asserted his firing from his post as the New Orleans Saints’ defensive coordinator was due to the Saints’ new scheme, and he is a better coach than what he showed in New Orleans.

As usual, there is some truth to this; it’s hard not to be a better coach than the version of Ryan that guided a unit to the bottom two the last couple of years. That aside, it’s worth checking to see how good he really is, so let’s consider the detail:

robryan

That’s a lot of numbers so here are my key takeaways:

  • The last two years were poor, but excluding them only takes him from being a below-average defensive coordinator to an average one.
  • In general, his ability to generate pass rush is significantly better than his run defense and coverage.
  • Taking overall PFF grade as the measuring stick, in his three most recent tenures, he seems to start at his strongest in year one and get worse over time.

| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • McGeorge

    In 2013 Geno Smith was forced to start because Mark Sanchez was injured. The Jets that year had no wide receivers. In 2014 the Jets had one WR (Eric Decker). So Geno Smith was forced to play with a horrible offense and before he was ready.
    He was terrible.
    He has now had a year to sit behind a season vet, and learn a new system.

    The Jets have a much harder schedule this year (Seahawks, Cardinals, Steelers, Bengals) and if they couldn’t make the play offs last year, they will probably be hard pressed to go 8-8 with Fitzpatrick this year.

    By going with Geno instead of Fitzpatrick:
    1 – the Jets save 8-12MM, that can be applied to Sheldon Richardson or Mo Wilkerson
    2 – there is a small chance (15 – 20%) that Geno improves enough to be teh starter until the Jets find a franchise QB.
    3 – if Geno plays poorly, how much worse than Fitzpatrick will he be? Will he lose 1 extra game? 2? No more than that. So the Jets go 6-10 instead of 8-8? No big deal. There is no downside.
    4 – Fitzpatrick made a lot of terrible throws that Brandon Marshall hauled in. It’s not like he was making great throws like Aaron Rodgers, or fitting in a tight pass like Brady.

    I see only long term upside with going with Geno.

    • Pecker

      I whole heartedly agree on your comments about Geno. What’s the worst that could happen, right? Let’s not forget that in the final 4 games of 2014, he compiled a stat line of 71 for 109 (65%), 1,0001 yards, 6 TDs and only 2 INTs. Extrapolated over a season that’s 4,004 yards, 24 TDs and 8 INTs. Fitz through 6 INTs in our playoff clinching loss to the Bills in Week 17 alone last season. Furthermore, in a competition Fitz was heavily favored to win last spring, Geno beat him out for the job. If it wasn’t for a ridiculous punch from a LB that broke Geno’s job, he would have been leading the Jets last year. I don’t see why it’s so hard to fathom that Geno needed some time to grow and the Jets needed to compile some offensive weapons. Now let’s see what those two things can accomplish together. And, most importantly probably, let’s use that $12,000,000 we’re not paying Fitz to resign Mo Wilkerson!!!

      • McGeorge

        Hell yes.

        Macc – “Hey Mo, tell you what, we raise our offer to you by an extra 7.5MM (a 1.5MM/year roster bonus or something like that – or a signing bonus)”

        Mo – “Where do I sign?”

  • crosseyedlemon

    The Jets seem to love a muddled QB situation as much as the Eagles do. Maybe the two teams should merge or join the CFL where you can sign a new QB to start each week.

  • Flavio Barbosa

    Jets should trade for Sam Bradford.

    • crosseyedlemon

      That only works if your searching for someone you can always place on the injured reserve list.

  • cka2nd

    “Over the last three years, Jones is our seventh-ranked safety. But over
    the last two years, he’s second. The issue here is, when he clearly
    underperformed the deal in 2013, the Dolphins didn’t ask for a pay cut,
    so why should he get a raise now?”

    Yeah, but teams often demand restructured deals from veteran players after down seasons. And if they perform well after they take the cut, even extraordinarily well, good luck getting a raise the next year (Antoine Winfield anyone, the year after he led PFF’s overall CB rankings and was the top slot cover corner in the league). Everyone expects Harrison Smith, former first rounder and #1 in PFF’s rankings over the last two years, to get a big raise in his new contract. I don’t see why Jones, former fifth rounder and the only player besides Smith who scored over 30 over the last two years, shouldn’t also expect a fat new paycheck.

    • crosseyedlemon

      Good comment. What the pencil pushing team accountants never understand is that winning is as much about attitude as talent. Players are not going to push themselves to their limits for owners they feel are always looking for ways to reduce their earnings. A team is better off giving a player an undeserved raise than creating an atmosphere of resentment which can spread like a cancer.

      • cka2nd

        I’ve often wondered if Ron Yary’s mid-70’s decline resulted from a combination of two factors: being dominated by L.C. Greenwood of the Steelers in Super Bowl VIII leading to a loss of confidence, and having to deal with the penny-pinching and belittling GM Mike Lynn when negotiating a new contract in 1976. Lynn perfected the art of adding insult (literally) to injury (miserly salaries). Fellow Pro Bowler Ed White’s play for the Vikings was declining before he was traded to San Diego, where his career continued at a far higher level to Yary’s for another eight years.

  • NGChina

    Jones may have had a great year, but don’t forget, he was suspended for the first 4 games of his existing contract. He also was the highest paid safety when he signed his contract, just two years ago, and remains the highest paid strong safety.