Jets wait on Fitzpatrick, cut Kerley, Cumberland
NEW YORK (AP) It'll be Ryan Fitzpatrick or Plan B - whatever that might be - at quarterback for the New York Jets.
As the NFL's free agency period began Wednesday, Fitzpatrick hit the open market and left the Jets' situation under center unsettled. Both sides have said they would like a reunion, but it appears it will have to be at the right price.
After a season in which he set the Jets' franchise record with 31 touchdown passes, Fitzpatrick was expected to draw interest from a handful of teams. But the veteran quarterback could be waiting things out to see how other teams' situations play out.
With Peyton Manning retiring this week and Brock Osweiler surprisingly leaving Denver for Houston, the Broncos need a quarterback and could turn their focus toward Fitzpatrick.
The Jets still have former starter Geno Smith and Bryce Petty, a fourth-round draft pick last year, on the roster.
But Fitzpatrick had a terrific season after assuming the starting job when Smith had his jaw broken by a punch from then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali during training camp.
Fitzpatrick established solid chemistry with wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker while helping the Jets to a 10-6 season, missing out on the playoffs because of a loss to Buffalo in which he threw three interceptions.
If New York loses Fitzpatrick, it could turn back to Smith or open up a summer competition between him and Petty, and perhaps another veteran.
The Jets cut a few complementary players Wednesday in wide receiver Jeremy Kerley and tight end Jeff Cumberland, saving $3.2 million on the salary cap. New York also lost its starting running back when Chris Ivory signed with Jacksonville.
But the Jets turned their sights to Matt Forte, the former Chicago Bears running back who is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and ranks second in Bears history to Hall of Famer Walter Payton in yards rushing (8,602), receptions (487) and yards from scrimmage (12,718).
New York was in discussions to sign Forte to replace Ivory, but the team made no announcements as of Wednesday night. Marshall posted his approval on Instagram, however, with a picture of him and Forte on the turf during their Bears days along with the message: ''I Wuv You!!!!'' He also urged Jets fans to ''follow your new WorkHorse.''
The Jets tendered an offer worth $1.671 million to restricted free agent wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who had 17 catches for 165 yards in seven games last season. New York has the right of first refusal if another team offers Thompkins a deal that equals or is greater than $1.671 million. The Jets would also receive no compensation if he signed elsewhere.
New York lost a big part of its defense when nose tackle Damon Harrison signed with the Giants, agreeing to a five-year, $46.25 million contract, with $24 million guaranteed.
Harrison started every game the past three seasons, compiling 193 total tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, two passes defenses and a forced fumble. He had perhaps his best season last year, finishing with a career-high 72 total tackles and being a consistently disruptive presence up front as a run stuffer for the Jets.
Kerley, a fifth-round draft pick out of TCU in 2011, led the Jets in catches in 2012 and 2013 and established himself as a dependable slot receiver, particularly on third downs.
But offensive coordinator Chan Gailey used Decker in the slot on a regular basis last season, and second-year receiver Quincy Enunwa saw increased playing time - keeping Kerley off the field.
Kerley finished with 16 catches for 152 yards, both career lows, and two touchdowns. He signed a four-year, $16 million contract extension during the 2014 season, but that was under the Jets' previous regime of coach Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik.
After catching 23 or more passes in each of the previous three seasons, Cumberland was used sparingly in Gailey's offense last year as the Jets often used Enunwa in a tight end-like role. Cumberland finished with just five catches for 77 yards in 15 games.
The 28-year-old Cumberland, signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois in 2010, has 86 receptions for 1,119 yards and 10 touchdowns.
''Thanks for the 6 year opportunity with the Jets,'' Cumberland wrote on his Instagram page. ''Time to take my talents elsewhere.'' He then added: ''Been a long time coming.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP-NFL