The contract is worth $12 million, but the QB has a chance to make $3 million more based on team performance NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported, according to a source. The news ends a stalemate that dragged on all offseason with countless stories and little drama about how it would end.
The Jets wanted Fitzpatrick back; they just wanted him back at the right price. Fitzpatrick wanted fair compensation after a career season in New York, but he never found another team willing to give him true leverage.
General manager Mike Maccagnan stood pat at the position in free agency, only adding Christian Hackenberg in the second round of the draft. The team talked up Geno Smith as a legitimate starting option and they backed up that talk by refusing to bend to Fitzpatrick's contract demands. Still, they always made it clear publicly they wanted Fitzpatrick to be their guy after the team's surprising 10-6 first season under Todd Bowles.
It wouldn't be a Jets camp contract story without a little drama, although the Roscoe Diner wasn't involved this time. NFL Media's Jeff Darlington reported that the Jets imposed a 7 pm ET deadline for Fitzpatrick to sign a deal or they were ready to move on. Fitzpatrick enjoyed his offseason as long as possible, showing up exactly at 7 p.m.
This was a deal that made too much sense for both sides not to happen. The Jets compromised by reducing their multi-year contract offer to one year. The final contract figures were proposed by Fitzpatrick's camp, essentially betting on himself. If Fitzpatrick racks up 31 touchdowns and throws for almost 4,000 yards again, he'll be in position to cash in with a better deal next year. The Jets, meanwhile, didn't want to commit to Fitzpatrick long-term as a true franchise quarterback.
Even under a one-year deal, it's not like the Jets broke the bank to keep Fitzpatrick. He will earn significantly less than the average salary of Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, and Colin Kaepernick. Twenty-one quarterbacks will make more than him in 2016, which is fair when you consider the journeyman trajectory of his career.
Literally no other quarterback in football has an average salary between $7.5-$16 million. Fitzpatrick is valued as the exact median between starter and backup. The team-friendly deal wraps up an excellent few weeks for Maccagnan, who also just signed standout defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to a long-term deal.
Now comes the hard part. Fitzpatrick has found the perfect situation under coordinator Chan Gailey with one of the best receiver tandems in football. But he was fortunate to be intercepted only 15 times last year and his ultra-aggressive style has brought some cold streaks during his career. If Fitzpatrick can't recapture his 2015 magic, we still wouldn't be surprised to see Geno Smith get some starts for the Jets this year. It just will come later than Geno Nation hoped.