NFL Free Agency: Top Five Teams That Should Have Interest In Ryan Fitzpatrick
NFL Free Agency: Top Five Potential Suitors For Ryan Fitzpatrick
In a move that was widely expected with a new head coach in place, the Buffalo Bills released quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on Tuesday. He started every game for the Bills over the last two seasons, but he was due a $3 million roster bonus on Wednesday that the Bills now avoid having to pay.
Fitzpatrick signed a seven-year, $59 million contract with Buffalo in 2011, but inconsistency and a losing record as a starter prevented him from being worthy of that kind of salary going forward. The fact he was signed to that kind of contract speaks more to the ineptitude of the Bills’ general manager Buddy Nix more than anything, and the Bills will continue to search for a worthy successor to Jim Kelly, who retired after the 1996 season.
Fitzpatrick should appeal to any team looking to add an experienced backup quarterback, and few if any available signal callers have his starting experience (68 career NFL starts). He would surely like to compete for a starting job somewhere, which may serve to thin the number of teams that show legitimate interest in signing him. There is also the question of his asking price, but I think he is unlikely to look to break the bank in a long-term deal with a new team.
There are a few teams that obviously need to upgrade their quarterback situation, and adding Fitzpatrick serves as an improvement even with his shortcomings. Teams that are looking to add competition and push an incumbent starter may also have interest in bringing him in.
With that, here are the top five teams I feel should have some interest in Fitzpatrick.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have stated a desire to add competition for Josh Freeman this offseason, and since he is entering the final year of his contract they may turn to April’s draft for a possible replacement. But if they choose to also add a veteran to push Freeman to improve or take over for him if he struggles again in 2013, Fitzpatrick looks like an excellent fit.
4. Oakland Raiders
Oakland has Carson Palmer in place as their starting quarterback right now, but multiple reports indicate the team will ask him to take a pay cut from his scheduled $13 million salary in 2013. If Palmer is released at some point, Oakland would then be looking to add a veteran quarterback with only Terrelle Pryor left on the depth chart in that scenario. Fitzpatrick would at least come cheaper than Palmer, which would be a key factor for the salary cap-strapped Raiders.
3. Cleveland Browns
Brandon Weeden had an up-and-down rookie season in 2012, leading to some questions about Cleveland’s commitment to him long-term with a new regime in place from top to bottom. Fitzpatrick qualifies as the most accomplished free agent quarterback available right now, and he is only a year older than Weeden with much more experience. The Browns may not be looking to strictly replace Weeden right now, but adding Fitzpatrick to compete with him looks a fit for both sides.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
Blaine Gabbert has not looked like a NFL-caliber quarterback through his first two seasons, and a late season forearm injury in 2012 puts further doubt into the equation. New Jaguars’ general manager David Caldwell has suggested some level of commitment to Gabbert for 2013, but simply refusing to add competition for him seems unrealistic. Chad Henne is also in the mix if there is an open competition for the starting job, but Fitzpatrick can be considered an upgrade over both guys.
1. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals’ quarterback situation is clearly a mess, with Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer all starting games in 2012. A recent report from Pro Football Talk.com suggested they may be waiting for the Raiders to release Carson Palmer, but Fitzpatrick would come cheaper, is currently available and is an upgrade over last season's sorry group. Since he has an offseason home in Arizona, landing with the Cardinals may appeal to Fitzpatrick.