Biggest Potential Suitors for Ryan Fitzpatrick If He Hits the Open Market

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IMarch 8, 2016

Biggest Potential Suitors for Ryan Fitzpatrick If He Hits the Open Market

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is now expected to get to the open market without a new deal from the New York Jets. 

    According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Fitzpatrick and the Jets "are far apart on a potential deal," which opens the door for the 33-year-old quarterback to explore his value within a league flush with cap space and many teams hurting for help at the position. 

    Fitzpatrick landed in New York last season and threw for 31 touchdown passes for the 10-6 Jets. 

    We will highlight the biggest potential suitors for Fitzpatrick if he does hit the open market. We will determine the best landing spots through a combination of needs and team fits among the teams expected to spend on a quarterback in free agency.

Teams That Don't Make Sense

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    These teams in need of a starting quarterback don't make sense for Fitzpatrick.

    Cleveland Browns

    The Browns need a starting quarterback as badly as any franchise in the NFL, but with Josh McCown on the roster, Fitzpatrick would be redundant. Cleveland will almost certainly draft a quarterback it feels can be the future at the position, and McCown makes the most sense as the veteran placeholder. 

    Houston Texans

    The Texans will be in the market for a quarterback this offseason. But remember: Houston traded Fitzpatrick to the Jets just last March. It would be a tough (impossible?) sell for head coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith to bring back a quarterback they dealt away 12 months ago.

Denver Broncos

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    Peyton Manning has officially retired from the NFL, and the Broncos don't have a new deal done with Brock Osweiler, so Denver could be one of the teams most aggressive in acquiring a new quarterback.

    Why not Fitzpatrick? 

    The 33-year-old is far from a long-term fix, but he could give as much or more as what Manning provided during his rocky 2015 season. 

    Last season, Manning and Osweiler combined to complete 60.7 percent of their passes, with 4,216 yards, 19 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and a passer rating of 76.3. Fitzpatrick completed 59.6 percent of his passes, with 3,905 yards, 31 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a passer rating of 88.0. 

    If the Broncos fail to bring back Osweiler, Fitzpatrick might serve as a fine replacement while general manager John Elway attempts to find his future at the position. 

Los Angeles Rams

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    Brad Penner/Associated Press

    No quarterback is more Hollywood than Ryan Fitzpatrick. 

    All jokes aside, the Rams—now of Los Angeles—would be remiss if they didn't at least have a conversation with Fitzpatrick in free agency. 

    As it stands now, the Rams are going into the meat of the offseason with Case Keenum as the team's starting quarterback. Overall, few teams have a worse collection of players at the game's most important position. Rams quarterbacks combined to throw 11 touchdowns (fewest in the NFL) and 11 interceptions—with a passer rating of 74.1—last season. 

    Fitzpatrick would be a Band-Aid on a gaping wound, but something is better than nothing—especially for a team starting over in a new market. Starting Keenum isn't exactly the ideal beginning for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Head coach Chip Kelly's 49ers have Blaine Gabbert (first-round draft bust) and Colin Kaepernick (who may or may not want to be in San Francisco) at quarterback. In a perfect world, the combination would be a golden one for Kelly. 

    But we don't live in the perfect world. 

    The 49ers have an obvious need at quarterback, and if Kelly and the 49ers staff don't love the draft options available in 2016, a veteran free agent like Fitzpatrick could become the team's target.

    Of course, Gabbert is a far cheaper option, and Kaepernick has physical abilities that dwarf what Fitzpatrick can bring to the field. But San Francisco's quarterback situation is as unpredictable right now as any in the NFL. Maybe Fitzpatrick is Kelly's 2016 version of Sam Bradford.

New York Jets

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Teams previously listed here all make some level of sense for Fitzpatrick. But no landing spot is a better fit for the veteran quarterback than the one he found in 2015. 

    The Jets need Fitzpatrick, and Fitzpatrick needs the Jets. 

    During his first season under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, Fitzpatrick threw 31 touchdowns—including 14 to Brandon Marshall and 12 to Eric Decker—as the Jets won 10 games and narrowly missed the postseason. He set career marks for passing yards (3,905), touchdowns and touchdown percentage (5.5) while starting all 16 games. 

    It would be a huge risk for the Jets—who are built to compete for the postseason right now—to let Fitzpatrick go and start over at quarterback with either Geno Smith, Bryce Petty or some other player. And it would be equally risky for Fitzpatrick to chase the money and sever the connections he's built with Gailey, Marshall and Decker. 

    More than likely, Fitzpatrick saw the money provided to quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Sam Bradford and readjusted his negotiating number. He's trying to maximize his value, which is an easily understandable move after a career year and the clock ticking on his lifespan inside the NFL. 

    Fitzpatrick may get to the open market and find his true value from other teams. But the most likely scenario it still him coming back to the Jets for at least the 2016 season. Any other setup would be a risky one for both team and player.