Can the New York Jets remain a contender with Geno Smith at quarterback?

It appears the New York Jets are continuing to low-ball veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, which could indicate that general manager Mike Maccagnan and the rest of the Gang Green regime are confident that Fitzpatrick either won’t get a blockbuster deal elsewhere (a decent bet considering free agency is two weeks old and Fitzpatrick is 33) or that Geno Smith cane take the reins.

If the latter happens, it’s fair to wonder if the Jets would take a hit under center. After all, Fitzpatrick started all 16 games last season and had them on track to make the playoffs before a Week 17 meltdown against the Bills. He had a 91.2 passer rating entering that final week and wound up with 31 touchdown passes.

But Fitzpatrick has played on four teams in as many seasons for a reason. He’s never been consistent, and he left a sour taste in Jets fans’ mouths with a three-interception fourth quarter in that ugly season-ending loss to Buffalo.

And let’s remember that Smith was supposed to enter 2015 as the starter after seeing his numbers improve across the board in 2014. The 2013 second-round pick posted a 105.3 passer rating during the final four weeks of his sophomore season, but then everything went to hell when his jaw was broken by a teammate in training camp.

Considering the way the last two seasons ended, it’s possible the Jets are just a little more confident in the 25-year-old than they are the 33-year-old.

The Denver Broncos had one quarterback retire and let another walk only six weeks after winning the Super Bowl. Why? Because they knew that they were successful in 2015 in spite of their quarterbacks. And frankly, the Jets might be capable of making the same argument. They had a top-10 running game and a top-five defense last season, and they look just as strong on both sides of the ball entering the 2016 offseason. So why give $16 million a year to an aging journeyman when you might be as good without him?

But Smith is no lock and it’s still tough to win in this league without great play at the quarterback position, which might explain why the Jets are at least making an effort to insure themselves by offering Fitzpatrick the type of money you’d usually give to a high-end backup.

Maybe that’s how they view him, which might actually be about right.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at, Deadspin,, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.