Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) scrambles with the ball against the New York Giants during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets might have to envision life without quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick but make no mistake about it, any of these top five options to replace him should still be able to keep up the momentum for 2016.
The Jets have weathered the free agency storm superbly by filling almost every need on the roster. General manager Mike Maccagnan tagged Muhammad Wilkerson, replaced Chris Ivory with Matt Forte, Damon Harrison with Steve McLendon, and retained Bilal Powell as well as Erin Henderson. The one issue is the current void at quarterback due in part to Fitzpatrick‘s asking price. Unfortunately, this long stare-off seems as if it will not be coming to an end any time soon.
Huge contracts doled out to Sam Bradford and Brock Osweiler have showed Fitzpatrick that he can cash out as a quarterback on the market. Right now, New York does not have the cap space to hand out big money. Although even if they did, Maccagnan would be hesitant to pay him a fortune after just one season. The good thing for the Jets is that if he were to walk, he has almost no realistic suitors. The Los Angeles Rams came out and said they have no interest while the Cleveland Browns recently struck a two-year deal with Robert Griffin III.
This leaves the Denver Broncos as the only possible suitor for the veteran and if owner/GM John Elway refused to extend Osweiler, it’s hard to see him giving Fitzpatrick what he wants. However, if the two sides were unable to somehow reach an agreement, Gang Green would be hung out to dry.
Since he is the last of the good quarterbacks available, the Jets would have to turn to the 2016 NFL Draft or a trade to address the position. Here are New York’s top five options if Fitzpatrick does walk.
Next: 5. Paxton Lynch
Nov 14, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Memphis Tigers quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) prepares to throw the ball during the third quarter against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium. The Cougars won 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
5. Paxton Lynch
If the Jets were to address the quarterback position through the draft, Paxton Lynch would make the most sense at 20th overall. It’s difficult to see Jared Goff or Carson Wentz falling to New York as top-10 projected picks. In his most recent mock draft (4.0), Todd McShay of ESPN.com actually has Gang Green selecting Lynch.
The thing that will make GMs hesitant is the fact that he played in a system at Memphis much unlike NFL offenses. Thus making him more of a project than a guy a franchise can start immediately.
With all that said, he is option No. 5 for a reason. The team already has that type of quarterback in Bryce Petty, so a first-rounder on Lynch would be a bit of a head-scratcher.
There is a good chance he will be there at No. 20, but the Jets should only pull the trigger if they have no other choice. In other words, do not expect this to happen unless all else fails.
Next: 4. Bryce Petty
Aug 13, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty (9) throws the ball during the fourth quarter of a preseason NFL football game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. The Lions beat the Jets 23-3. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
4. Bryce Petty
In last year’s draft, the Jets traded up in the fourth round to grab Petty who quite frankly fell pretty far. He was projected to go in the second round and some experts even had him going in the first.
After one season of learning behind Fitzpatrick, Petty may be ready to take over the reigns as starter. The spread offense fit is absolutely phenomenal since he was in the same exact scheme at Baylor. The only question is if the skills he showcased in college can translate into the NFL.
While Petty may be ready to take over as the starter, the way the team is built is not ideal for a guy like him. An experienced quarterback under center can keep the Jets in contention for a Super Bowl with how talented the roster is.
Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey will guide him along and help him succeed in the system, although growing pains from Petty can really hold the team back. He should certainly take over in the near future, but not just yet.
Next: 3. Geno Smith
Nov 1, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) looks to throw a pass against the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
3. Geno Smith
It may be crazy to go back to Geno Smith after all that has happened, however he is all the Jets have at the moment. If Maccagnan brings in weak competition via trade or free agency and chooses not to draft anyone, Smith will remain the best quarterback on the roster.
The West Virginia product replaced Fitzpatrick in Week 8 against the Raiders and surprisingly impressed. Besides a few sacks allowed and a poor throw that was intercepted by Charles Woodson, he showed why he earned the starting job in training camp.
If New York were to go back to him, it may not be the end of the world. Marshall and Decker molded Fitzpatrick into a 4,000-yard passer, so who knows what Smith can do with weapons.
The one problem that still lingers is the IK Enemkpali incident. He lacks respect from a handful of teammates who probably do not want him under center again. Smith would have to show an incredible increase in maturity on and off the field.
Next: 2. Josh McCown
Oct 18, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown (13) warms up before the game against the Denver Broncos at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
2. Josh McCown
RG3‘s move to Cleveland without a doubt leaves Josh McCown as a potential trade candidate. The Browns are expected to go either Goff or Wentz with the second overall pick, therefore the veteran would be third on the depth chart heading into the summer.
The Rams, Broncos and Jets are right now the main potential landing spots for McCown, but New York would actually be the best fit based off of what they have in place.
McCown played with Forte and Brandon Marshall in Chicago from 2011-13 which can be huge from a chemistry standpoint. He would also be a one-year option, so money would not be a problem.
The one con that comes with McCown is the injury bug. He missed plenty of games in 2015 and the last thing the Jets need is their starting quarterback sidelined. It all depends on what the Browns ask for in return.
Next: 1. Brian Hoyer
Jan 9, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer (7) throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
1. Brian Hoyer
Maccagnan pulled off a trade with the Houston Texans last March for Fitzpatrick, so why not give it a shot with Brian Hoyer? If this were to happen, the best thing about it would have to be his contract situation.
Last off-season, Houston brought in the 30-year-old on a two-year deal worth $10.5 million. What is great is that this is a salary the Jets can afford and there is only one more year left on the deal. If he underperforms, New York can let him walk. If he excels, they can bring him back.
Despite the bargain it would be, Hoyer does come with some baggage. Much like McCown, injuries have battered him as of late. He tore his ACL in 2013 with the Browns and last year it became a carousel at times between him and Ryan Mallett.
If Fitzpatrick does happen to walk, the Jets would be hard pressed not to inquire about Hoyer. It’s cheap, low risk high reward and he has the experience to get Gang Green into the postseason.