FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey: Ryan Fitzpatrick is still a free agent, the New York Jets still don’t have a starting quarterback and April is fading into May – which in the NFL calendar means that time is ticking.
The Jets are now shying away from talking about internal deadlines by which a deal must be completed with Fitzpatrick, but the NFL draft – which holds its first round Thursday night in Chicago – could be a significant step toward determining the team’s long-term future at quarterback.
And while saying Fitzpatrick remains the priority, general manager Mike Maccagnan said the Jets will keep an open mind come Thursday.
“I don’t necessarily think Ryan’s situation, per se, affects us in what we do in the draft,” Maccagnan said Friday in a predraft conference held in a board room inside the Jets facility.
He later added that the Jets “would consider drafting a quarterback at any point in the draft.”
Maccagnan said that the Jets “inquired” about trading for the No. 1 overall selection with the Titans, before Tennessee dealt the pick to the Los Angeles Rams last week.
Wednesday, the Eagles traded with the Cleveland Browns to acquire the No. 2 overall pick, which all but guarantees that Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz – widely considered the top two passers available – will be the first two players taken off the board Thursday.
The Jets hold the No. 20 overall selection, and Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, a 6-7, 244-pound passer with excellent physical gifts, has suddenly become a popular selection for the Jets in the first round of many mock drafts.
“I think, like a lot of the quarterbacks in this class, he has a degree of skill which is intriguing,” Maccagnan said. “He has also played in an offense that’s not a traditional NFL offense. We’re actually working with (backup quarterback) Bryce (Petty) and have some familiarity with the transition that you have to go from a different style of offense to an NFL style of offense.
“In terms of how much we like him or don’t like him, I don’t necessarily want to get into that, but we do think he’s a good prospect.”
Aside from Lynch, that could leave New York to choose from quarterbacks such as Michigan State’s Connor Cook, Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, who could be available in later rounds.
Maccagnan declined to get into specific updates on negotiations with Fitzpatrick, other than to reiterate that the franchise continues to view him as a priority. His stance Friday, however, was slightly different from that of head coach Todd Bowles, who said at the annual NFL owners meetings in March that the team had discussed an “internal” deadline.
Fitzpatrick was the team’s starter last season, when he posted career highs in passing yards (3,905) and touchdowns (31). He led the team to a 10-6 record, though his worst game came in the last of the season, a disappointing defeat against the Buffalo Bills that eliminated the Jets from playoff contention.
The Jets and Fitzpatrick remain millions of dollars apart on a new contract and the team recently hosted free-agent quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Brian Hoyer in the interim. Griffin has since signed with the Browns.
“Our focus is Ryan, but again, he’s a free agent,” Maccagnan said. “You never know what can happen in free agency. When Brian Hoyer became available, it was an opportunity for us to look into Brian, who we like as a prospect. Again, we like Ryan and he is our focus, but we have to be prepared for anything that may happen.”