On Friday, reports began to surface that the Jets offered weeks ago to free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a three-year contract that would pay out $12 million in the first year. Curiously omitted from those reports were the rest of the details regarding the offer — details that would say plenty about its overall quality.
Let’s set aside for now the question whether Fitzpatrick deserves more than $12 million per year in light of: (1) the market for starting quarterbacks; (2) recent increases in the salary cap that haven’t sparked a similar spike in the starting quarterback market; and (3) the franchise-record 31 touchdown passes from Fitzpatrick’s first and only season with the franchise. The far more intriguing aspect of the latest Fitz-related developments is that some in the media have flat-out whiffed in their assessment of the information leaked by the team. (And of course it was leaked by the team.)
The biggest offender, from the perspective of the size and reach of the organization, has been the Associated Press. Consider this key portion of the AP article: “A person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press on Friday night that the Jets made a three-year offer to the quarterback in March that includes $12 million guaranteed in the first year. . . . The New York Post first reported the terms of the offer, which is higher than the previously reported amounts that were closer to $7 million per year. However, total guarantees and contract structure of the Jets’ standing offer are uncertain.”
That tail-on-the-donkey “however” doesn’t alter the characterization appearing immediately before it. Instead, it makes the overall message even more confounding.
Without knowing the structure of the full deal, it’s impossible to say that a $12 million payout in 2016 results in a three-year average that exceeds $7 million per year. If, for example, the offer pays out $9 million in 2017 and 2018, the three-year average is still $7 million.
For weeks, PFT has heard that the problem isn’t the Year One payout but the rest of the deal. Without specific information about the rest of the deal, it’s impossible to characterize it in comparison to prior reports that the deal is worth $7 million annually.
Whether inadvertent or deliberate (the fact that the article later claims that Fitzpatrick “apparently” wants $18 million per year suggests the latter), the AP has helped the Jets’ not-so-subtle effort to overstate the value of the offer that Fitzpatrick has yet to accept as part of a P.R. push aimed at persuading unsettled Jets fans that the team is being reasonable and/or that Fitzpatrick isn’t. The better approach continues to be trying to find a middle ground, but the Jets apparently aren’t willing to yield in their position.
The John Elway take-it-or-leave-it approach works best when there’s a freshly-minted Lombardi in the lobby. Four years ago, before the team went to a pair of Super Bowls, Elway didn’t lowball an aging and rickety Peyton Manning. With neither Peyton Manning in his prime nor any other franchise quarterbacks walking through the door for the Jets, the best play would be to find a fair middle ground between whatever the Jets want to pay and whatever Fitzpatrick wants.