The quarterback remained a free agent Monday, locked in a contract stalemate with the Jets as players reported for voluntary offseason workouts.
Fitzpatrick set a franchise record with 31 touchdown passes last year. He was on the minds of wide receivers Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall, who were at the team’s facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, watching tape of last season — when the Jets finished 10-6 and just barely missed the playoffs — and decided to touch base with Fitzpatrick.
“Brandon and I were joking around sending him a video, saying, `We’ll keep you informed,”‘ Decker said during a conference call. “Brandon and I were just kind of messing with him, sending him a video that we’re going to work on these things, intriguing him to come back, obviously, so we can again work together in the same building.”
Fitzpatrick wasn’t the only notable absence when the players got together for the first time this offseason. Pro Bowl defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson also was a no-show, but that was expected. He has yet to sign his franchise tag tender, worth $15.7 million, as he seeks a contract extension.
“Everybody out there knows who Mo is,” linebacker David Harris said. “Mo is one of the best D-ends in the league. We all know it’s a business and it’s part of the game. Hopefully, he’ll be here, but he has to do what’s best for him.”
There is a July 15 deadline for the Jets and Wilkerson to work out a long-term deal. Otherwise, Wilkerson would play this season on a one-year deal for the amount of the franchise tag.
Wilkerson is also rehabilitating after breaking his right leg in the season finale in Buffalo in January, but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. He has been the subject of trade rumors, with the Jets potentially using him as bait for a draft-day deal if they seek to move up from their current spot at 20th overall.
Players who are under contract aren’t required to be at the team facility until mandatory minicamp in mid-June.
The uncertain status of Fitzpatrick, however, leaves the Jets’ quarterback situation unsettled. Geno Smith and Bryce Petty are the only players at the position on the roster, and New York could seek a quarterback in the NFL draft later this month if Fitzpatrick remains unsigned.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Fitzpatrick and the Jets are not expected to get a deal done before the draft.
“Barring a significant breakthrough, Jets & Ryan Fitzpatrick are not expected to have a deal before the draft. Adds intrigue to their draft,” Rapoport tweeted.
The Jets have hosted top quarterback prospects Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch and Christian Hackenberg in the past few weeks. They also brought in Robert Griffin III before he signed with Cleveland last month.
“To be honest, I can’t say that I foresee one thing happening or another,” said Decker, who has been in touch with Fitzpatrick throughout the offseason. “I think he’s the right fit for what we do. He’s got the experience of (offensive coordinator) Chan Gailey in the past, and we had a successful season in some aspects of the offense last year, and hope to continue that. But again, it’s out of my control. It’s out of everyone’s control in this locker room.”
Fitzpatrick, acquired last offseason from Houston, stepped into the starting role when Smith’s jaw was broken by a punch from then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali during training camp. The veteran quarterback established chemistry with Decker and Marshall, in particular, and quickly earned the respect of teammates while playing through a torn thumb ligament on his nonthrowing hand that was surgically repaired during the season.
After being traded by Chicago last March, Marshall re-established himself as a playmaking receiver with a Jets-record 109 catches for 1,502 yards and 14 TDs. Decker also had big year with 80 catches and 12 touchdowns.
“I love Fitzpatrick, had a good, fun year from last year,” Decker said, “and would love to get to work with him if he’s going to be the quarterback of this team.”
NOTES: Decker was “excited” that the Jets traded for LT Ryan Clady, his former Denver teammate, after D’Brickashaw Ferguson retired on April 9. “When he was healthy, he was, I think, one of the best,” Decker said of Clady, a four-time Pro Bowl selection. “He’s a guy that works hard, is consistent when he’s healthy and could be a factor for us.” Clady has missed 30 games because of injuries the last three seasons. … Harris still thinks “here and there” about the loss to Buffalo in the regular-season finale that kept the Jets out of the playoffs, but wants to use it as “fuel and motivation.”
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