The journeyman quarterback knitted together one of his finest campaigns for a New York club that came within a hair of the playoffs. The mutual success left Fitzpatrick as a sure-fire candidate to re-up with Gang Green, but the script has flipped two days away from the start of free agency.
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NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Fitzpatrick is expected to hit the open market, per sources. Rapoport was told the sides are still far apart on a potential deal.
It's a surprising wrinkle after Jets brass spoke about Fitzpatrick as a lock to return. General manager Mike Maccagnan is on record saying the franchise prioritized re-signing the veteran passer who played inspired football under play-caller Chan Gailey.
"Everybody in the organization feels very strongly about this," Maccagnan said in January, after coach Todd Bowles confirmed: "We want him back."
Bottom line: Free-agent success stories often boil down to fit. Fitzpatrick and Gailey know each other well from their days in Buffalo, a familiarity that helped New York get off to a quick start last season. Throwing Fitzpatrick into another situation could quickly turn him back into a ho-hum signal-caller.
We still expect the Jets to make a hard play for Fitzpatrick and get him under contract before all is said and done in Florham Park.