Top 3 landing spots for Ryan Fitzpatrick
Analyst Nathan Jahnke looks at the most likely destinations for free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Top 3 landing spots for Ryan Fitzpatrick
We are roughly a week into free agency, and we have not seen much quarterback movement outside of Brock Osweiler going to Houston. With more and more free agents signing, Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to move up the list of available players. It’s been clear that Fitzpatrick has wanted more money than any team has been willing to pay him, with reports that both the Rams and Browns aren’t interested in Fitzpatrick, so his opportunities are now limited. Here are his likely remaining options, and the obstacles in his way.
1. New York Jets
The Jets remain the most likely landing spot for Fitzpatrick. Even if New York and Fitzpatrick could agree on how much the QB should be paid, the Jets still need to come up with the money to sign him. The Jets entered free agency with just a small amount of cap space and have used a fair amount in signing a trio of running backs, as well as Jarvis Jenkins. Currently, the Jets’ only have enough left to sign their upcoming draft picks.
There are two clear ways the Jets can free up cap space. One is finding a way to not pay Muhammad Wilkerson (89.2 overall grade in 2015) his $15.7 million franchise tag hit. Ideally for Jets fans, this would mean a long-term deal. His 35 combined sacks and hits were second-most for 3-4 defensive ends. The possibility of a trade still exists, but losing both Wilkerson and Damon Harrison would be a big hit to the defensive line. Either a long-term deal or a trade would free up enough cap space to potentially re-sign Fitzpatrick.
The Jets could also release long-time left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson (37.8); doing so would free up $9.1 million in cap space. He allowed 59 pressures in 2015, which was by far the most in his career, and the second-most among tackles this past season. Letting him go would be enough to free up cap room for Fitzpatrick, as well as adding a free-agent left tackle.
2. Denver Broncos
While the Broncos added Mark Sanchez (69.4), they would be better off having someone to compete with the former Eagle for the starting role. While they still have needs at guard and inside linebacker, those are unlikely to be filled via free agency. Denver has more cap space than the Jets, so they have the ability to bring in another quarterback.
One area where Fitzpatrick has an advantage over Sanchez, as well as another potential Broncos QB, Colin Kaepernick, is his play under pressure. Fitzpatrick has an accuracy percentage of 60.1 percent under pressure, compared to Kaepernick, who had the lowest accuracy under pressure last year, at 46.0 percent, and Sanchez in 2014, at 53.5 percent (fifth-worst in the league that year). The Broncos released their only starting offensive linemen with an above-average pass-blocking grade in 2015, Louis Vasquez, so the Denver quarterback’s play under pressure will be very important.
Fitzpatrick is the surest thing among the available quarterbacks, and the Broncos are the team best-suited to win now. Unless Denver can bring another quarterback back to their 2012 form, Fitzpatrick gives the Broncos the best chance to repeat.
3. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have been surprisingly quiet in free agency, with their only addition so far being quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. San Francisco has the most cap space in the league at the moment, so unlike the Jets and Broncos, the 49ers could give in to Fitzpatrick’s contract demands. However, the 49ers only seem interested in a veteran quarterback if they trade Kaepernick—and they are in no rush to make a trade.
Quarterbacks like Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III seem like better fits for Chip Kelly’s offense due to their running ability, but Ryan Fitzpatrick has performed well on quarterback scrambles over the years, including this past season. He had 250 rushing yards and 13 first downs, which were both sixth-most among quarterbacks in 2015. The 49ers may only want a veteran quarterback if they both trade Kaepenrick and don’t draft a quarterback, so Fitzpatrick may need to wait a lot longer before getting a new contract if he sticks with his demands.