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Free agent profile: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick

Is it time for a little Fitzmagic?

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets
Is it time for some Fitzmagic?
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

This may come as a shock, but the Broncos have questions at the quarterback position.

Whether you believe in Drew Lock, it’s hard to call his 2020 anything but a huge disappointment. There have already been reports that George Paton tried to acquire former Lion Matthew Stafford, and he said Thursday the Broncos will look to add to the quarterback room.

We’re always going to try and bring in competition to every position, the quarterback as well.

Perhaps Paton is ready for a little Fitzmagic?

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Miami Dolphins

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 228 lbs.

Age: 38

Experience: 17 NFL Seasons

The 250th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Fitzpatrick’s NFL career began with a competition with Jeff Smoker to become the St. Louis Rams’ third string quarterback. Due to injuries ahead of him, he found his way onto the field against the Houston Texans and helped the Rams win in overtime. He went on to start three games as a rookie, finishing with four touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Over the next few seasons, Fitzpatrick served as a backup with little meaningful action. He logged one more start for the Rams before he was traded to the Bengals for a 7th round pick. Things changed during his fourth season in the NFL when an elbow injury knocked Carson Palmer out of the lineup. Palmer’s bum luck gave Fitzpatrick an opportunity to start 12 games and he did enough to draw interest from the Buffalo Bills during his first foray into unrestricted free agency in 2009.

It took a Trent Edwards injury for Fitzpatrick to become the starter in western New York, but he did enough with the job to earn 53 starts across the next four seasons. He completed 59.8% of his passes for 11654 yards, 80 touchdowns, and 64 interceptions during his time with the Bills. Following consecutive 6-10 seasons, Buffalo opted to let Fitzpatrick leave in free agency.

Fitzpatrick spent the next two seasons playing in the AFC South. He signed with Mike Munchak’s Tennessee Titans to serve as the backup to Jake Locker before moving west to Houston in 2014. Bill O’Brien bounced back and forth between Fitzpatrick and Ryan Mallet before an injury to the latter gave the journeyman a chance to run with the starting job. In 12 starts he completed 63.1% of his passes for 2483 yards, 17 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. To that point it marked arguably the best season of his career, and the Texans capitalized on it by trading him to the New York Jets for a conditional draft pick.

Fitzpatrick’s first year in the Big Apple was almost a smashing success, as he helped steer them to a 10-5 record and the precipice of the playoffs before three interceptions in the season finale against Buffalo cost the Jets a chance at the playoffs. A free agent following the campaign, Fitzpatrick received interest from a handful of teams including John Elway’s Broncos before he returned to New York on a one-year, $12 million contract.

Fitzpatrick’s second season with the Jets did not go as hoped. He threw six interceptions against the Kansas City Chiefs in week three, got benched for Geno Smith after week six, and watched Bryce Petty receive starts over him before an injury pushed Fitzpatrick back into the lineup down the final stretch of the season.

Now 35-years-old, Fitzpatrick made a choice familiar to many greybeards: he moved to Florida. Thanks to Jameis Winston’s injuries and inconsistent play, Fitzpatrick played in 14 games across two seasons, many of them memorable for his never-say-die playstyle. So, Fitzmagic was born.

A free agent following the 2018 season, Fitzpatrick took his talents to South Beach where he spent the last two seasons serving as a stopgap and then bridge/parachute for Tua Tagovailoa. He helped the Miami Dolphins push for the playoffs early in 2020 before ceding time to the rookie. Coach Brian Flores thought enough of the veteran that he was quick to pull the hook on the 5th overall pick in the NFL Draft late in games because he thought Fitzpatrick gave him a better chance in a number of comeback attempts. It does appear Fitzpatrick’s time with the Dolphins came to an end when their season ended with a week 17 defeat to the Buffalo Bills.

Why it makes sense

Just about any way you slice up the stats, Drew Lock was among the worst quarterbacks in football last year. While he’s no spring chicken, Fitzpatrick would give the Broncos a 2021 option who could push their former second round pick to either improve or get out of the way.

Fitzpatrick is the aggressive passer who would give Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick chances to go up and make plays on 50-50 balls downfield, while also leading Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler out of breaks. After two years with the rebuilding Dolphins, Denver’s supporting cast would be a breath of fresh air for the veteran quarterback.

In addition to what Fitzpatrick could provide as a starting quarterback, his time in Miami hints that he could also serve as a valuable mentor and soundboard for Drew Lock or another rookie quarterback.

Mike Muchak is already familiar with Fitzpatrick thanks to their time together in Tennessee, and that relationship may give Denver a leg up in trying to secure his services.

Why it doesn’t make sense

How comfortable is Paton and the coaching staff with a true QB competition? I have little doubt Fitzpatrick would beat out Drew Lock if he does not make substantial improvements on what we saw last year, which means the 2021 starter would be a 38-year-old journeyman.

Fitzpatrick is the kind of gunslinger who will put the ball in harm’s way. When it works, he looks brilliant and it does help his team stay in games, as he knows when to take necessary gambles in “comeback mode” to capitalize on opportunities. It can also lead to big plays going the other way, something Fitzpatrick is notorious for in his career. His play style and age could also make him susceptible to injury.

The price tag has to be a consideration as well. If Dak Prescott remains in Dallas on an extension or franchise tag, the veteran is one of the best options in free agency. With a number of teams desperate for something resembling a viable option under center, Fitzpatrick is sure to have a number of suitors.

Final Thoughts

If George Paton isn’t going to trade for Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott isn’t an option, I hope the Broncos pursue Ryan Fitzpatrick. He would force Drew Lock to improve and give Pat Shurmur a viable starting quarterback if Lock doesn’t. While the greybeard isn’t a long-term solution, he would raise the floor on the position and provide Broncos Country and the coaching staff something that it was sorely lacking in 2020: competence under center.


Should the Broncos pursue Ryan Fitzpatrick?

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