The New York Jets are heading into their offseason assuming that Ryan Fitzpatrick will return as their starting quarterback. The journeyman veteran proved this year that he can still compete at a high level as he was a critical x-factor in the Jets remaining in playoff contention until the final game of the season. However, with his return, the futures of both Bryce Petty and Geno Smith remain very cloudy.
Heading into the 2015 season, Petty was drafted with the expectation that he would a project quarterback. Smith was supposed to be the starter. However, now heading into the 2016 season, Smith is left fighting for a roster spot as Petty is getting plenty of praise. Despite having not played in a game all season, general manager Mike Maccagnan likes what the rookie quarterback brings to the field and believes that he could be the No.2 option next year.
"We feel, ability-wise, he can definitely be a quality No. 2 (quarterback)," Maccagnan said, via ESPN.com. "The rest is kind of up to him. He has the physical ability to potentially be a starting-caliber quarterback, but he still has to do it on the field and in the preseason, so we can kind of see where he's at. We're excited to work with him."
Make no mistake, Petty has a lot of improving to do, but it is clear the former Baylor star is getting favored over Smith leaving many to wonder what will happen of the former second-round draft pick. According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, Maccagnan is not looking to rush a decision on Smith and first wants to see how he and Petty develop in the offseason when the pressure to be a starter is not there. The Jets are comfortable returning next year with all three quarterbacks back on the roster. However, a move could still be made with Smith. The Jets could try and trade him for a low draft pick or they can hope that Petty really is the true backup and eventual future of the franchise.
All of this hinges on whether or not the Jets re-sign Fitzpatrick. Both head coach Todd Bowles and Maccagnan are confident the veteran quarterback returns in 2016 as he prepares to get a nice pay raise in free agency. If Fitzpatrick were to bolt, the Jets would be in trouble. That is where Smith and Petty come back into play while the team potentially makes a move for someone in the draft or someone like Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick potentially. Maccagnan told the media that he would be comfortable starting Smith should Fitzpatrick not come back while he is non-committal on the idea of drafting a rookie for the role.
"Bryce has made a lot of progress and we're kind of excited to have another offseason with him," Maccagnan said, via ESPN.com. "I would say with Geno, he's under contract, we like the progress he's made and how he even handled the situation in the summer. Right now, I would say going forward we're going to see how Geno and Bryce progress with the offseason and go from there, and that's assuming we're able to re-sign Ryan."
Fitpatrick might stabalize the quarterback rotation, but his return does not end the drama of the group. With players like Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell needing new contracts and the defense needing new contracts with players like Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison, getting the quarterback group figured out is the first priority. Smith willl learn if he is a part of that.