FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Must be the ‘Fitz’ thing: Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract is structured in a way that helps the organization now and, possibly, well into the future. Essentially, it’s one year for $12 million, but a dummy voidable was tacked on to spread the signing bonus ($10 million) over two years for salary-cap purposes. A straight, one-year deal would’ve put them over the cap, requiring them to restructure contracts. That’s why I always felt it wouldn’t be a standard one-year contract.
Fitzpatrick’s salary for 2017 is $2 million, but that figure is an arbitrary placeholder. He will become a free agent after the season because the contract automatically voids five days after the Super Bowl. It disappears into thin air. Larry Fitzgerald has a similar contract with the Arizona Cardinals; his final two years (2017-2018) also void after this season. In fact, it’ll happen on the same day as Fitzpatrick.
For the Jets, the downside is a $5 million cap charge next year, which isn’t insignificant. According to ESPN data, they already have $163 million committed to the 2017 cap, which is expected to increase from the current $155 million
Despite the voidable, the Jets are eligible to receive a compensatory pick. If Fitzpatrick signs elsewhere next season and plays well for his new team, the Jets probably would receive a compensatory pick in the 2018 draft.
2. Disappearing cap room: The recent rash of signings (Fitzpatrick, Muhammad Wilkerson and Darron Lee) has left the Jets with only $1.5 million in cap space, according to NFLPA records. They’ll have to carve out more room before the regular season because they’ll need money for a practice squad and likely injury replacements. Also remember, only the top 51 count on the current cap; it jumps to 53 for the regular season.
3. The Geno question: There has been a lot of speculation about the future of Geno Smith, with some TV analysts saying they wouldn’t be surprised if he’s released. I don’t see that happening; it wouldn’t make much football sense.
For all his faults, Smith is an experienced quarterback, well-versed in Chan Gailey’s offense and doesn’t cost much — a modest $1.6 million cap charge. Neither Bryce Petty nor Christian Hackenberg is ready for the No. 2 job. Neither one has regular-season experience, and nothing they do in the preseason will change that. Nick Foles is a free agent and could fit the No. 2 job, but he’d have to learn the offense from scratch.
General manager Mike Maccagnan, asked if Smith will be on the opening-day roster, said: “I would assume so. Right now, we like Geno Smith. It’s going to be interesting to see how this camp unfolds, but he’s had a very good offseason. He’s actually doing some good things right now. I’m not guaranteeing anything because we have to play the whole preseason, but Geno is in our plans.”
Plans can change quickly in the NFL, but I’d be surprised if Smith isn’t with the team.
4. Three’s company, four’s a crowd: After listening to Maccagnan, I came away with the impression that four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster is a definite possibility. It’ll be cumbersome, but it probably makes sense in a weird kind of way, considering the state of the position.
5. Happy Valley surprise: The Jets fell in love with Hackenberg during a clandestine workout in State College, Pennsylvania, in early April. One of Hackenberg’s receivers that day was Kyle Williams, a well-traveled, oft-injured veteran looking for a team. He received a non-roster invite to a Jets minicamp, performed well enough to land a contract and has turned a few heads in training camp. It would be quite a story if he makes the team.
6. Hack update: It’s fascinating to watch Hackenberg in practice because you never know what you’re going to get. I’ve seen some frozen-rope throws that make you say, “Wow.” But there have been just as many wayward ducks. He gets only a handful of reps each day, so it’s hard for him to work on his mechanics and develop chemistry with the receivers.
7. The Worm 2.0: In an interview on ESPN New York WEPN-FM 98.7, coach Todd Bowles compared wide receiver Quincy Enunwa to former NBA great Dennis Rodman. Bowles said, “He’s a jack of all trades. He’s like the Dennis Rodman on our team. He gets the rebounds, he dives on the floor for loose balls, he does a bunch of things.”
The quote made its way to Rodman, who acknowledged Bowles on Twitter.
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) July 30, 2016
8. Kenbrell his famous cuz: Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins is the kind of player who drives coaches crazy — talented but inconsistent, lacking focus at times. Heck, he got dumped by the New England Patriots after a promising rookie season in 2013. Thompkins made a change in the offseason which he believes will pay dividends: He spent a lot of time with his cousin, Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown, known for his work ethic and professionalism.
“I wanted to get back to that,” Thompkins said. “This whole offseason we were together in Miami, training. We also went to L.A. for a couple of days. We were having fun and he was helping me out with my overall game. Antonio is a tremendous person — the way he takes care of his body, the food he puts in his body. He’s just a well-groomed person. To see that and be around that, it makes me wake up.”
So far, so good. Thompkins is off to a nice start.
9. Scouting the sleepers: Rookie Doug Middleton, an undrafted safety from Appalachian State, has jumped out over the first three days of camp. The Jets’ scouts liked him after the draft and gave him a $15,000 guarantee in his contract. That might not sound like much, but Middleton and defensive end Lawrence Thomas (Michigan State) were the only two undrafted free agents to get $15,000 from the Jets. Not only did Middleton make an interception Saturday, but he demonstrated press-coverage ability in drills against wide receivers. He’ll be worth monitoring as camp progresses.
10. Coachspeak: Bowles isn’t particularly quotable for a head coach, but he likes quoting famous people behind closed doors. Bowles, who admits some of his team meetings are “boring,” said he has quoted Einstein and Socrates while addressing the team. Did Einstein have a theory on the 3-4 versus 4-3 defensive fronts?