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Jets, Ryan Fitzpatrick engaged in high-stakes poker game

Ryan Fitzpatrick studied economics at Harvard. General manager Mike Maccagnan did the same at Trinity. They should be able to figure out a contract, right? Let's examine the Fitzpatrick-New York Jets impasse.

Clearly, the Jets have assigned a value to Fitzpatrick and, from all indications, it's in the range of $7 million to $8 million a year. Fitzpatrick is thought to be seeking twice that amount, which means he has to be pretty frustrated by the team's stance. He's shopping his services around the league, looking to create a market for himself. It's his right as a free agent.

The Jets are taking a chance because they could lose their starter at any moment, but they've studied the quarterback market and they're convinced he won't get a better deal elsewhere. So far, they're right. If there was a more lucrative offer out there, this matter would've been resolved by now.

"The market will always speak to you, and apparently it is," said one AFC personnel director. "He's just not liking what he's hearing or seeing because of these other quarterback deals."

Sam Bradford is getting $18 million a year from the Philadelphia Eagles. Brock Osweiler, who has won a grand total of five games in the league, is getting the same from the Houston Texans. How do you like them economics?

In the end, I think Fitzpatrick will end up back with the Jets, who I suspect will close the deal by offering a sweetener. If not, it would be a big mistake because the current offer is an insulting lowball.

The Denver Broncos could hold the key to the Jets' quarterback situation. With Peyton Manning's retirement and Osweiler's defection, the Super Bowl champs are looking for a starter. They're one of three teams interested in trading for Colin Kaepernick, sources said. The others are the Jets and Cleveland Browns. The Jets' interest smacks of a smokescreen, a negotiating ploy to rattle Fitzpatrick.

Now, Denver is the quarterback hot spot, probably the only place where Fitzpatrick has a chance of landing. If the Broncos trade for Kaepernick, it destroys Fitzpatrick's leverage with the Jets. If the Broncos sign Fitzpatrick, the Jets are in big trouble because they'd be scrambling with Plan B.

They could turn to Kaepernick, but it's hardly an ideal situation. They'd have to compensate the San Francisco 49ers (figure a second- or third-round pick), pay a lot of money (his current contract calls for $14.3 million this year) and try to recalibrate the once-dynamic player. Statistically, he hasn't been much better than Geno Smith during the past two seasons.

Or they could turn to Brian Hoyer, whom the Texans probably would trade for a late-round pick. The Jets showed interest in Hoyer last year before trading for Fitzpatrick, which turned out to be a really smart decision. Hoyer wasn't half-bad last season, but he imploded in the playoffs.

Or they could simply go with Smith and Bryce Petty, adding another arm along the way.

"Fitz needs to be careful," the personnel director said. "The Jets need a quarterback and they're not going to wait around for him to decide."

Fitzpatrick could cost himself millions if he's still standing when the music stops. He's taking a risk, but so are the Jets. This is high-stakes poker, folks.

Remember a few weeks ago, when everybody thought Fitzpatrick's return was a slam dunk? Things change quickly in free agency.