As training camps opened up around the league this week, Jets fans were confident there would be a notable absence on the field from a year ago. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who posted career highs in passing touchdowns (31), passing yards (3,905), and wins (10) last season, seemed poised to continue his six month stalemate with the Jets’ front office. The two sides were not close to making a deal throughout much of the offseason and communication became almost nonexistent as training camp approached.
Where the Jets envisioned signing Fitzpatrick to a multi-year deal that would see him transition from starter to mentor as he groomed Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg to take over the starting role, Fitzpatrick wanted to be paid like a starter now and let his play decide future compensation. Simply put, Fitzpatrick felt undervalued, especially when comparing his offer to the deals several other quarterbacks signed this offseason elsewhere.
Wednesday night, just minutes before the 7pm deadline head coach Todd Bowles and co gave Fitzpatrick, all of the speculation and worry came to an end when Fitzpatrick and the Jets agreed to a one year, $12 million contract.
While the signing of Fitzpatrick will go a long way in uniting a locker room that rallied behind the grizzled veteran last season, Bowles and the rest of the coaching staff will be quick to point out that the real work has only just begun. It is hard to call a 10-6 season a disappointment but Jets players and fans alike would agree that last season was just that, a disappointment. With the playoffs within their reach at several points last season, they failed to make the postseason for the fifth consecutive season after a nightmarish week 17 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
With their quarterback locked up and a long-term deal made with Pro Bowl defensive end Mohammed Wilkerson just days before Fitzpatrick signed; expectations will be high for the Jets this season, regardless of their schedule. They enter camp with few question marks or marquee positional battles as they have in the past. Much of last season’s core is still in place, perhaps most importantly the two headed receiving monster that is Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker who combined for 26 touchdowns and 1,529 yards a year ago. Offseason additions of Matt Forte and Steve McLendon will go a long way in filling the gaps left by the departures of Chris Ivory and Damon Harrison.
General Manager Mike Maccagnan made it clear he would not sacrifice long-term success for a win now mentality but this is a win now team. The windows of opportunity in the NFL are too small to not be. While he did not mortgage the future in exchange for short-term results, the signing of Fitzpatrick makes it clear that this is a team expected to improve on last season. Another year out of the playoffs will be a tough pill to swallow for all of those involved with the organization, especially the fans.