The Jets took their time getting to know Robert Griffin III.
His two-day visit with the Jets began with meetings on Friday, followed by dinner with members of the front office and an overnight stay. On Saturday, his visit resumed in Florham Park with more sit-downs with members of the staff.
As Newsday reported, the plan all along was for the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year to fly in for a two-day visit. And by Saturday afternoon, he was gone. He left the facility without a deal.
Griffin, 26, once was a phenom in Washington, but now there are questions about his mental makeup, his ability to read a defense and his leadership. The No. 2 overall pick in 2012, who had his career derailed by a knee injury, was benched twice in favor of Kirk Cousins and released by the Redskins on March 7.
The amount of time the Jets spent with Griffin quarterback appears promising, at least on the surface. But the organization also could see wining and dining him as a way to gain more leverage in their negotiations with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Once the 2015 season ended, general manager Mike Maccagnan made it clear that the Jets’ priority was to re-sign Fitzpatrick, 33. Coach Todd Bowles reiterated that sentiment at the NFL Scouting Combine the next month, adding that Fitzpatrick would be his starter if he were to re-sign.
Ideally, striking a team-friendly deal with Fitzpatrick remains the Jets’ goal. He helped guide them to a 10-6 record, just shy of their first playoff berth since 2010, and threw a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes in 2015. He also committed costly turnovers and struggled in critical games. Even so, with Fitzpatrick back, the Jets’ offense presumably can pick up where it left off with receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
The Jets already have made an offer to the journeyman-turned starter — reportedly about $7 million per season, well below the going rate for free-agent starting quarterbacks. But in the Jets’ eyes, a source said, the proverbial ball remains in Fitzpatrick’s court.
Reuniting seems like the best option for both sides. There aren’t many quarterback jobs available in the NFL, and the Jets need continuity to offset roster changes made in free agency.
Jets fans who believed in the power of “FitzMagic” surely will be crestfallen if a deal doesn’t get done. But it seems no one will be more disappointed than Marshall, a staunch Fitzpatrick fan.
During an interview on “The Rich Eisen Show” on Friday, the receiver raved about his former Bears teammate Matt Forte joining the Jets and also spoke about the importance of re-signing his veteran quarterback.
“The way we communicate, the way we practice together, the way we bring other guys together, I’ve never seen that anywhere else — and I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve had a lot of quarterbacks,” Marshall said, referring to the chemistry forged between him, Decker and Fitzpatrick.
“ . . . What we had and what we have is hard to create. It took us almost a year to do that, well, six months to do that. Most of the time, it takes guys a couple of years.”
Marshall, who caught a career-high 14 touchdown passes last season, called Griffin’s visit to the Jets “an interesting development.” It’s clear that his preference is to see Fitzpatrick return.
“We feel like we’re really close,” Marshall said. “We have a great defense. We have a consistent offense. We have great coaches. All we need to do now is continue to get more reps with the same guys.”