With less than a week to go before the NFL Draft begins, Ryan Fitzpatrick appears no closer to signing a new contract with the Jets, the team he threw 31 touchdown passes for and guided to a 10-6 record last season.
And yet Mike Maccagnan, a general manager with no starting quarterback, appears particularly calm.
“I don’t feel any pressure to have one by a specified time,” he said Friday while being peppered with questions about the ongoing stalemate with Fitzpatrick, the team’s quarterback- of-choice.
The Jets may be under new management now, but their biggest issue remains the same: They don’t have a face of the franchise.
After going through a period of three different GMs in less than five years, they have yet to find a solution to their ongoing quarterback quagmire. The Jets have had a host of signal-callers come through the doors at 1 Jets Drive — Mark Sanchez, Matt Simms, Geno Smith, Michael Vick, Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty and even David Garrard. And they’re still searching for “The One.”
They do have some options for 2016, starting with Fitzpatrick. “Our focus is Ryan, but again, he’s a free agent,” said Maccagnan, who currently has Smith and Petty as the only quarterbacks on his roster. “You never know what happens in free agency.”
The Jets have been doing plenty of due diligence in recent weeks. Aside from studying prospects, they also examined free-agent quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer, 30, visited the Jets this past week after being released by Houston.
“When he became available, it was an opportunity for us to look into Brian,” Maccagnan said. “We like him as a prospect. We always anticipated this would be more of a fluid free agency, but we’re just doing our due diligence, at the end of the day. We’ll see how it unfolds.”
One thing is certain: The Fitzpatrick contract impasse won’t stop them from eyeing the quarterback position during the three- day draft.
Maccagnan confirmed Friday that the Jets reached out to Tennessee about moving up from their current spot at 20 to No. 1 overall. Had the Jets been able to pull off the trade (as the Rams later were able to do), they would have been in prime position to select one of the two top quarterback prospects: Jared Goff (California) or Carson Wentz (North Dakota State). But that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to snag a quarterback of the future. A few mock drafts have them taking former Memphis QB Paxton Lynch.
“It’s interesting because I think even if they sign Fitzpatrick, I don’t know how long a term they’d be talking about,” NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said on a recent conference call. “He’s 34 years old. Is he the long-term answer for Maccagnan and Bowles? So I think they’ve got to be evaluating the heck out of Paxton Lynch, and I think Paxton Lynch makes a ton of sense there, especially if they had a veteran quarterback he could sit behind for one year. So I think Paxton Lynch has to be the first consideration.”
Lynch’s stock appears to be rising, so there’s a chance he might not be there if the Jets still are picking at 20.
Maccagnan, however, wouldn’t divulge how strongly the Jets like the 6-7 quarterback.
“I think, like a lot of the quarterbacks in this class, he has a degree of skill, which is intriguing,” he said. “He also has played in an offense that’s not a traditional NFL offense. We’re actually working with Bryce, so we have some familiarity with the transition.”
Among the options
We’re less than a week from the NFL Draft and the Jets still don’t have a starting quarterback. Will they find one in a sea of NFL hopefuls? Or will they make do with a bridge quarterback in hopes of a playoff push?
Here’s a case made for each option:
Age: 33 (turns 34 on Nov. 24)
Experience: Heading into 12th NFL season
Why he should start: Fitzpatrick had a career resurgence (31 touchdown passes) to help set the tone for a new Jets regime. Aside from his experience, he quickly earned the respect of the locker room and has proved to be a valuable mentor. The Jets have made it clear: This is Fitzpatrick’s team. They have made him an offer. All he has to do is sign on the dotted line.
Age: 25 (turns 26 on Oct. 10)
Experience: Heading into fourth NFL season
Why he should start: He’s in the last year of his rookie deal and is a much cheaper option than Fitzpatrick. Smith has been erratic as a starter but has a stronger arm than Fitzpatrick. Perhaps watching from the sideline last year (after getting punched in the face by a then-teammate and losing his starting job) helped Smith mature.
Age: 30 (Turns 31 on Oct. 13)
Experience: Heading into eighth NFL season
Why he should start: After his release from the Texans, Hoyer is looking for work, so he won’t be ask- ing for Fitzpatrick money. Though his play has been inconsistent during his career, here’s one thing he has over any of the Jets’ options: He actually has made the playoffs.
Age: 24 (Turns 25 on May 31)
Experience: 2015 fourth-round pick
Why he should start: The Jets like Petty a lot, plus he’s got good size (6-3, 230) and a strong arm. Like Fitzpatrick, Petty possesses intangibles that go be- yond the field. Spending the entire 2015 season under the veteran’s wing only helped Petty’s development.
Experience: Three-year starter at Memphis
Why he should start: If the Jets were willing to trade up for the No. 1 draft pick, clearly they’re desperate for a QB change. Lynch (6-7, 245) is viewed as the third-best QB in this year’s class behind Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Physically, he’s NFL-ready and potentially could have the highest upside of them all. Downside: Lynch didn’t play in a pro-style offense in college.