Fitzpatrick's Jets contract voids, QB becomes free agent
NEW YORK (AP) Fitz Magic has officially disappeared for the New York Jets.
Ryan Fitzpatrick's contract was voided Friday, as expected, making the veteran quarterback a free agent.
Fitzpatrick re-signed with the Jets last July on a one-year, $12 million deal. Technically, the contract was for two years, but contained language in which the second year would be automatically voided five days after the Super Bowl - meaning, Friday - if Fitzpatrick remained on the roster.
Because his $10 million bonus was prorated over two years to help with the salary cap last year, Fitzpatrick will cost the Jets $5 million in ''dead money'' this year.
The 34-year-old Fitzpatrick will be free to sign with another team. While he could still re-sign with the Jets, it appears his up-and-down tenure in New York is done after two seasons.
Acquired from Houston in 2015 to be a backup, Fitzpatrick took over as the Jets' starter when Geno Smith was sidelined after having his jaw broken by a punch from then-teammate IK Enemkpali during training camp. Fitzpatrick became a galvanizing presence in the locker room and went on to set a franchise record with 31 touchdown passes, establishing quick chemistry with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker as the offense also set some team marks for production.
But with the Jets needing a win to make the playoffs, Fitzpatrick threw interceptions on each of New York's final three possessions in a 22-17 loss at Buffalo in Week 17.
Despite the poor performance in that game, Fitzpatrick was a priority for the Jets last offseason in free agency as both sides wanted a reunion. Several teammates, including Marshall and Decker, also publicly urged the team to bring back the quarterback. A contract stalemate dragged on for months, though, with it finally ending with Fitzpatrick agreeing to a deal the night before New York opened training camp.
Coach Todd Bowles made it clear throughout the offseason that Fitzpatrick would remain the starting quarterback if he returned, and that was the case to start the season. But Fitzpatrick slumped badly as the Jets got off to a 1-5 start. He was benched twice and finished with just 12 TD passes and 17 interceptions.
''With Ryan, when you look back on that one, I felt comfortable signing Ryan when we signed him coming off the 2015 season at that time,'' general manager Mike Maccagnan said a few days after the Jets' 5-11 season ended. ''Obviously, I think Ryan would say the same thing. I think he holds himself to a high standard. It was unfortunate, we weren't, as a team, able to recreate some of the success we had the previous season.
''But from that standpoint, when we made the deal, looking forward, I thought that was an important part of the team to bring back and keep in place.''
With Fitzpatrick a free agent and Smith scheduled to join him next month, the Jets' situation at quarterback is uncertain - again.
New York will also have a new offensive system after Chan Gailey retired in January after two seasons with the Jets. Former New Orleans Saints wide receivers coach John Morton was hired two weeks ago as the team's offensive coordinator.
Bryce Petty started four games in his second season, but ended up on injured reserve with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The fourth-rounder out of Baylor was inconsistent in his short stint as the starter, finishing with three touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
The only other quarterback on the roster is Christian Hackenberg, who never got into a game as a rookie while being regarded mostly as a project after being selected in the second round out of Penn State last year. It's unclear if Hackenberg will develop into a potential starter in the league.
''From where he was initially, he has made progress,'' Maccagnan said in January. ''He has improved. This will be a big offseason for him and we'll probably have a better feel for that when we go into training camp next year.''
That means the Jets will likely be in the market for a veteran quarterback via free agency or trade, with names such as Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Josh McCown already being bandied about. New York could also look to add another young signal caller through the draft, in which the Jets hold the No. 6 overall pick, with North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer and Clemson's Deshaun Watson considered possible first-rounders.
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