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Daily Focus: Jets' poor alternatives give Fitzpatrick leverage

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 18: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets looks to throw a pass to Brandon Marshall (not shown) which resulted in a touchdown during the third quarter against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on October 18, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: Every weekday in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets still not meeting in the middle: It’s a game of chicken and, at the moment, no one is blinking.

The New York Jets are reportedly offering their 2015 signal caller, Ryan Fitzpatrick, a contract that would pay $12 million, but less the next two years. That would make him the 23rd-highest paid quarterback in the game for 2016. This is slightly better than our 2015 ranking for Fitzpatrick, when we had him 26th at the position position by PFF grade. So why is Fitzpatrick balking?

I’m guessing it’s because he believes he has leverage. He might have only been the 26th-ranked quarterback, but he knows (as does his agent) this is a borderline playoff team with Fitzpatrick, but a bottom quarter team without him. The three players the Jets would have to rely on without Fitzpatrick:

  • Geno Smith
    In 2013, he was our 40th-ranked QB; he was 33rd in 2014.
    As you can see above, he also had a penchant for taking sacks, and the Jets’ line has regressed since the last time he took significant snaps. We rated them 26th this year, down from 13th in 2014.
  • Bryce Petty
    The Jets took Petty in the fourth round in 2014. It seemed a reach at the time, and it looked even more like one in the preseason, as he engineered a -6.9 passing grade against second- and third-string defenses. Many think his college production was more a function of the Baylor offensive scheme than any great skill on his part.
  • Christian Hackenberg
    If Petty was a reach, Hackenberg is a step up from that. His performances at Penn State, even in his freshman year, were extremely poor and he was effectively drafted on measurables and personal recommendations alone.

It’s against this backdrop that Fitzpatrick is taking his chances and daring the Jets to think they have a better option.

Patriots CB Malcolm Butler looking to get paid: While Fitzpatrick is potentially benefiting from a dearth of quarterback talent on his team, the same could be said of New England’s Malcolm Butler, who is also looking for a new contract. Without him, the Patriots depth at corner looks suspect. Of course, the real question here is: How good is Butler?

Last year, he had a passer rating against him of 97.5, which would only rank him 64th of 118 qualifiers, but his 11th-ranked PFF coverage rating is a far more accurate value of his worth. The truth is, Butler is a good corner being asked to play the role of an elite one and holding up pretty well. He’s often asked to cover the opponent’s major threat, which can lead to some less-than-stellar games, but also some very good ones. Here’s who he had to cover this year by week.



A few points of interest from the above data:

  • Usually, the more dangerous the threat, the more he shadows them.
  • In Week 14 against Houston, Butler unexpectedly shadowed Nate Washington, who the Patriots picked up in free agency. They obviously like him more than most.
  • In both Denver games, the Patriots either saw Emmanuel Sanders as a bigger threat than Demaryius Thomas, or at least saw him as a better matchup for Butler.

The meaning of the Reshad Jones holdout: News came out that Miami Dolphins’ safety Reshad Jones is not attending OTAs because he wants his contract renegotiated. My first question in these types of situation is usually “Are they being fairly paid?” The rights and wrongs of holding out when you already have a contract aside, has a player clearly outperformed his initial deal?

Let’s look at Jones in the context off all other safeties using the PFF grades over the last three years:


So he’s our seventh-ranked safety over the period, and his salary is ranked eighth. Not much to discuss here? Well, it's a matter of endpoints.

Over the last three years, Jones is our seventh-ranked safety. But over the last two years, he's second. The issue here is, when he clearly underperformed the deal in 2013, the Dolphins didn’t ask for a pay cut, so why should he get a raise now?

Rob Ryan’s defends his defense: In an interview with Jenny Vrentas of MMQB last week, current Buffalo Bills assistant head coach Rob Ryan asserted his firing from his post as the New Orleans Saints' defensive coordinator was due to the Saints’ new scheme, and he is a better coach than what he showed in New Orleans.

As usual, there is some truth to this; it’s hard not to be a better coach than the version of Ryan that guided a unit to the bottom two the last couple of years. That aside, it’s worth checking to see how good he really is, so let’s consider the detail:


That’s a lot of numbers so here are my key takeaways:

  • The last two years were poor, but excluding them only takes him from being a below-average defensive coordinator to an average one.
  • In general, his ability to generate pass rush is significantly better than his run defense and coverage.
  • Taking overall PFF grade as the measuring stick, in his three most recent tenures, he seems to start at his strongest in year one and get worse over time.

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