Jets fans were likely on the verge of a mini mutiny, as their backfield woes were on full display, today, considering the team is at an arm’s distance from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and they lost top running back Chris Ivory to free agency.
The Fitzpatrick saga will play itself out, rather slowly, since there doesn’t seem to be an insatiable market for the veteran journeyman who is looking for one last big pay day.
Following a career-year, the Jets want Fitzpatrick back. He responded great to his reunion with Chan Gailey, and it’s apparent both sides want to continue the relationship. It’ll come down to whether the team and player’s representatives can come to a compromise. The Jets would figure to want to act quickly, especially with a much-publicized vacancy at starting quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. New York only has Geno Smith and Bryce Petty under contract – and neither are making the masses jump for joy.
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The quarterback situation could be dicey. But the running back situation took just one day to be resolved by general manager Mike Maccagnan, as he filled the void by reaching an agreement with former Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.
Ivory had a career year with the Jets in 2015, and his loss didn’t appear to immediately bode well for the Jets’ prospective playoff chances in 2016. The bruising back got $10 million fully guaranteed on his five-year, $32 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars – including another $3 million in attainable incentives. That was far too rich for the Jets.
Forte, who will be 30 years old by the start of the season, is more accomplished and when healthy is an elite player. He’s had seven seasons with 1,400 yards from scrimmage since entering the league in 2008 and has 8,602 career rushing yards. There’s only been two Jets to amass the same amount from scrimmage in that span, former running back Thomas Jones and current wideout Brandon Marshall.
The former Bear may have had a down season, compared to his previous campaigns, but with 1,287 total yards (898 rushing, 389 receiving) and seven total touchdowns (four rushing, three receiving) in 13 games, it’s still a steal for the Jets. He and Bilal Powell will be a lethal 1-2 punch on the ground and in the air.
Wednesday wasn’t all roses for Gang Green, however, as they had one of its own stolen away, nose tackle Damon Harrison. The burly defensive lineman was signed to a four-year, $46.25 million deal – and like the Ivory deal, far too much for the Jets to entertain matching.
Harrison’s defection is a bit of a hit for the Jets, but with a defensive line rotation that includes the franchised-tagged Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and the team’s number one pick a year ago, Leonard Williams, they should be able to withstand the loss. Multiple reports state that a backup plan for Harrison’s loss could be Los Angeles Rams free agent defensive end Nick Fairley. Formerly a first-round pick of the Detroit Lions, Fairley would be a solid addition to the Jets’ defensive line rotation.
The landscape has indeed changed for a Jets team that was one Buffalo loss of making a playoff trip. And after tagging Wilkerson, the team has roughly $6 million in cap space available. But for Maccagnan, the reigning Pro Football Writers Association’s Executive of the Year, and head coach Todd Bowles in charge, Gang Green’s faithful should rest easy knowing their franchise is in good hands.
They just need to get that quarterback situation corrected.