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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Time for Jets, Ryan Fitzpatrick to meet in the middle on a new deal

Ryan Fitzpatrick of the New York Jets warms

Ryan Fitzpatrick of the New York Jets warms up before the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 3, 2016 in Orchard Park, N.Y. Credit: Getty Images/ Tom Szczerbowski

Ryan Fitzpatrick wants to be the Jets’ quarterback.

The Jets want Fitzpatrick to be their quarterback.

So why, after all this time since the end of last season, when both parties acknowledged their intention to remain together, is there all this uncertainty about whether that actually will happen?

The short answer is easy: money. The Jets are unwilling to meet Fitzpatrick’s demand of a contract worth what is believed to be in the range of $16 million to $18 million per year, and Fitzpatrick certainly is not willing to take what the Jets are offering — perhaps as little as $7 million a year, or even less.

Thus, the current standoff — one that shows no immediate sign of resolution.

There is a fair deal to be struck, and the hope here is that the Jets and Fitzpatrick can work out a suitable arrangement, because he clearly is the best alternative they have heading into next season.

Fitzpatrick did a highly commendable job last year under difficult circumstances brought about by his sudden elevation to the starter’s role after Geno Smith was sucker-punched by IK Enemkpali last August.

Fitzpatrick responded with the best statistical season of his career, leading the Jets to a 10-6 season and creating ideal circumstances for a hefty raise from his $3.25-million 2015 salary. But with teams throwing lucrative contract offers in a free-agency frenzy created by a hefty increase in the salary cap to $155.7 million, the Jets are unwilling to come close to the contract value Fitzpatrick is seeking.

And they shouldn’t be looking at paying him that kind of money, because he’s 33 years old, has only one winning season as a starter in his entire career and might not be capable of playing as well as or better than he did in 2015.

And even though Fitzpatrick produced terrific numbers with 31 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions, he still didn’t get the Jets to the playoffs — largely because of his own shortcomings. In a game in which the Jets needed Fitzpatrick to be at his best in a win-and-in situation at Buffalo, he was at his worst with a three-interception meltdown in a 22-17 loss to Rex Ryan’s Bills.

That said, he remains the Jets’ most viable alternative for next season. All that’s left is to agree on the right contract numbers.

And therein lies the rub. With no huge market for Fitzpatrick’s services, the Jets don’t want to bid against themselves and offer a contract they feel is too bloated — especially because of other pending contract moves that include a potential long-term extension for Mo Wilkerson and an eventual new deal for Sheldon Richardson.

You can’t look at contracts in a vacuum and simply say the Jets need to re-sign Fitzpatrick regardless of the cost. There are salary-cap ramifications for all deals, and the totality of the roster must be taken into consideration when deciding how much a given player is worth. Fitzpatrick certainly is worth more than what the Jets are offering, but he’s also not worth the money he’s asking.

The one wild card here may be the Broncos, who still are in quarterback limbo after the retirement of Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler’s decision to sign with the Texans. Broncos general manager John Elway obtained former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez on Friday in a trade with the Eagles, but he’s probably not done re-stocking the position. The prevailing sentiment around the league is that he’s interested in trading for Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers, which would leave Fitzpatrick without another team competing for his services.

Fitzpatrick still might be a consideration for Denver, but Elway might consider Sanchez in a similar light as Fitzpatrick. The Broncos also have their own budgetary concerns because of the eventual long-term contract for Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.

Robert Griffin III visited with the Jets on Friday and Saturday in a move that is considered “due diligence,” and there is continued speculation that the Jets have some interest in Kaepernick. But the Broncos and Browns seem more focused on Kaepernick, with the Jets believed to want to keep their draft choices. The Jets still have Geno Smith under contract, and Bryce Petty will enter his second NFL season. But the clear preference is to have Fitzpatrick remain the starter.

And the likelihood continues to be that Fitzpatrick will stay with the Jets, with whom he finally seemed to have found a home after bouncing around with five other teams. But there are no guarantees in this business, and all it takes is one team to swoop in and make an offer that Fitzpatrick can’t refuse.

And so the staredown continues, with neither side appearing ready to blink anytime soon.

The best advice for both parties: Find a contract number somewhere in the middle and get this deal done.

New York Sports