The Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings have been big losers on the injury front over the last week, each losing their starting quarterbacks for extended periods of time.
But there has been another loser in this whole thing, a player who might be kicking himself out of hindsight in reaction to this week’s developments.
To recap quickly: Fitzpatrick is a 33-year-old journeyman coming off a career season, passing for more than 3,900 yards and 31 touchdowns for a 10-6 New York Jets team. Then he entered free agency and the Jets, a team with playoff aspirations, clutched their wallet with a death grip and lobbed nothing but low-ball offers to the man who was clearly their best option.
It all led to a contentious offseason standoff. Fitzpatrick knew he was the best option the Jets had if they really wanted to contend. And yet the Jets knew they were Fitzpatrick’s best – and perhaps only – option if he wanted to be an NFL starter.
Eventually the sides came to an agreement on a one-year deal for $12 million — $2 million in base salary with a $10 million signing bonus spread out over 2016-17. This is not to say that isn’t good money. By any rational standard it is, and if Fitzpatrick wants to order his Whoppers with extra cheese, he will be able to do so.
But the world of NFL quarterbacks doesn’t necessarily follow rational standards, and by those standards Fitzpatrick is underpaid.
Imagine if he had held out and was still sitting there unsigned. Not only would the Jets potentially be on the verge of panic while contemplating having Geno Smith run their offense, suddenly two other teams with their eyes on the postseason have job openings.
Fitzpatrick could throw left-handed and still be an upgrade over the Vikings’ Shaun Hill, and since there is no telling how long Teddy Bridgewater will be out with his disastrous knee injury, a multi-year contract wouldn’t have been out of the question.
The same thing goes for the Cowboys. With a broken back just the latest injury to befall Tony Romo, it’s now fair to ask how much he has left to give Dallas. And as good as Dak Prescott has been in the preseason, would a team as loaded as the Cowboys really hand over their team to a rookie if there was a veteran option like Fitzpatrick available?
This is not to say Fitzpatrick made the wrong move in taking that deal with the Jets. While he certainly would have a lot more leverage over the situation if he was currently a free agent, it’s impossible to predict these developments. And as much as the deal he signed undervalues his skills as a quarterback, he’s still $12 million richer than most of us.
Fitzpatrick could have gambled and waited for the injuries to roll in, as they have done. Maybe he would have struck it rich with the Vikings or Cowboys, or used those vacancies to force the Jets’ hand. In the end he opted to play it safe and that’s just fine.