Fitzpatrick earned $3.25 million last season, in the final year of a two-year deal picked up by the Jets when they traded for him from the Houston Texans. Brought in to compete with Geno Smith for the starting job, the 33-year-old Harvard product more than outplayed his contract, and he looked to cash in when he hit free agency this year.
However, even as relatively sketchy commodities such as Sam Bradford and Brock Osweiler signed huge-money deals this offseason, Fitzpatrick felt he was getting low-balled by the Jets, who accurately perceived that the market would prove soft for the quarterback’s services. Both sides appear to need each other, but for the time being, they are far apart on terms.
Apparently, that is not sitting well with Decker, who hauled in 80 catches for 1,027 and 12 touchdowns last season. Meanwhile, the other starter, Brandon Marshall, had a career-high 14 touchdown grabs and fell just short of personal bests with 109 catches for 1,502 yards. With Fitzpatrick’s help, the pair set an NFL record by each having a touchdown reception in eight games last season.
“I have a lot of respect for Ryan Fitzpatrick,” Decker said last week (via the New York Post). “I know he’s been with a lot of teams over his career, but we found the formula last year that worked for us. And we don’t have a lot of years left offensively. I think Brandon [Marshall] is older, I’m getting older, we’ve got [Matt] Forte now, he’s getting older. We have the pieces right now to win.”
“I just think we need to plug him in, we need to move forward,” Decker added. “Again, the organization has to make the best decision for them long-term, but as players, we know what’s going to give us success and that’s why we want him back.”
For his part, Fitzpatrick indicated Tuesday that he does want to return to the team. “I had a great time with the guys last year and I want to continue doing this. I’m still preparing for the season,” he told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “It’s been a process, and the good thing about it is the discussions have been behind closed doors.”
In addition to Decker, Marshall and center Nick Mangold have also skipped this week’s practices, although some reports indicated that their absences were not Fitzpatrick-related. In April, Mangold and Decker were spotted at a New York Rangers playoff game at Madison Square Garden with the quarterback (one at which the veteran center was asked to calm down).
Marshall has also been vocal about wanting Fitzpatrick back, telling NFL Network’s Rich Eisen last month (via NJ.com), “That’s the toughest thing for me, when I think about [Fitzpatrick] potentially putting on another jersey: 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. And most of the time it takes guys a couple years. So we feel like we’re really close. We have a great defense, we have a consistent offense, and we have great coaches. So all we need to do now is just continue to get more reps with the same guys.”
Many observers still expect a deal to get done between Fitzpatrick and the Jets before training camp. In the meantime, Smith has returned to the top of the quarterback depth chart, with recent draft picks Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg also on hand.