<
>

Jets GM hopes to strike deal with Ryan Fitzpatrick in 'near future'

The New York Jets are hopeful they can wrap up a deal with Ryan Fitzpatrick before he hits the open market in March.

The team expects to open negotiations with the quarterback's agent "in the very near future," general manager Mike Maccagnan said Friday morning in an interview on WFAN radio.

"We have time, obviously, before free agency," Maccagnan said. "We really would like to get Ryan back in the fold. Todd [Bowles] has said that. Obviously, myself, everybody in the organization feels very strongly about this. It's a good situation for all of us. We just have to go through this process and, hopefully, we can come to an agreement that's fair and everybody is happy with it, and go forward from there.

"That's our goal this offseason. ... Hopefully, we'll be able to get something done here in the near future."

The Jets have exclusive negotiating rights until March 9, when the league year begins and free agency commences. As usual, the list of prospective free-agent quarterbacks is thin, meaning Fitzpatrick, 33, could draw interest because of supply and demand. The Jets don't want to take any chances, so they will try to get him locked up before then.

Fitzpatrick helped the Jets to a 10-6 record, setting the franchise record with 31 touchdown passes, but he may have hurt his value with three interceptions in the final quarter of the season finale. Before that game, which cost the Jets a playoff spot, he figured to command at least $10 million to $12 million per year, according to industry insiders. The key, of course, is the amount of guaranteed money.

The Jets may see Fitzpatrick as a bridge quarterback, a two-year guy who can hold the job until an heir apparent is ready to take over. Problem is, they're not sure who that might be. They like Bryce Petty, but they haven't anointed him as the quarterback of the future. As for Geno Smith, his future is murky.

Maccagnan, reiterating his stance from last week, gave Smith a lukewarm endorsement.

"We'll see how things unfold this offseason," he said.