By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
With the recent contract developments at quarterback around the league, including Sam Bradford’s ridiculous 2-year $36 million deal, it is becoming more likely that the Jets will have to start looking closer at signal callers in the draft. Looking at the team’s salary cap situation, it is hard to fathom how they can fit a new contract for Ryan Fitzpatrick under it.
This is not to say that it is impossible that they can reach an agreement that works for both sides, if they both truly want to make it work, but it is certainly going to be difficult. And even if Fitzpatrick does return, the Jets still need to keep an eye on the future of the position.
If Fitzpatrick ends up on another team in 2016, Geno Smith may become the Jets’ starting quarterback by default as Bryce Petty is still in the developmental stages. The thought of that scenario is unsettling to say the least after the Jets went 10-6 in 2015 and appear to be a team on the rise.
Although it is possible that Geno finally gets it, we can only really go by what we have seen on the field, which has not been very inspiring. And it is not as if the free agent market is filled with franchise quarterbacks or even anyone that has shown to be much of an improvement over Smith.
Besides the fact that there does not appear to be an answer in free agency, we have all seen what the price tags are for mediocre quarterbacks on the market, and it is scary. At this point, the Jets would be much better off overpaying Fitzpatrick and finding a way to fit it under the cap. If not, they are definitely looking at the draft to at least bring someone in to compete for the job.
According to all of the draft experts, there are three quarterbacks that are expected to be worthy of first round grades. Two of them, Carson Wentz of North Dakota State and California’s Jared Goff, are projected to go within the top 10 or 15 picks, so for the sake of argument, let us take a look at the consensus third option, which is Paxton Lynch of Memphis.
At 6’7 244 pounds, Lynch is a physical specimen with the skillset and athleticism to excel on the NFL level. In his junior year alone, he passed for 3,778 yards with a 66.8% completion rate, adding 28 touchdowns and three interceptions, earning a 157.5 QB rating. For his outstanding effort, Paxton was named Team MVP and first team All-ACC as well as being a finalist for the Manning Award.
During his sophomore season in 2014, Lynch completed 62.7% of his passes for 3,031 yards with 22 TD’s and nine INT’s. He also ran the ball for 321 yards and 13 TD’s, although he only averaged 2.8 yards per rush. Due to his achievements that year, Paxton received second team All-AAC honors.
Over his three years as a starter, Lynch compiled 8,864 yards passing at a 62.9% completion rate with 59 TD’s, 23 INT’s and a 137.0 QBR. He also added on 17 rushing TD’s, almost all in goal line situations. The main thing is that he showed development each year of his college career, improving dramatically between his freshman and junior seasons.
Already at 6’7 244 pounds, Lynch still has room in his frame to bulk up a little more. He is extremely light on his feet for his height, with the ability to navigate his way around the pocket in order to buy time and find an open target. When he does find his man, Paxton possesses the arm strength, quick release and accuracy to fit the ball through tight windows.
Lynch is also a fluid passer who maintains his accuracy for the most part while on the move on bootlegs and when escaping the pass rush. Additionally, he has the field vision to scan the entire field for his receivers and the poise to withstand pressure when cycling through his reads.
Despite his incredible talent, Lynch does need improvement in several areas of his game, as is the case with any quarterback coming out of college. Being that all of his offensive play calls came from the sideline during his time at Memphis, he is going to have to learn how to change plays on the fly according to the defense he sees before him.
Although he has shown accuracy when throwing the ball on the run, Lynch does still need improvement in that area as well as his anticipation of routes. He will also need to get rid of the ball quicker against NFL defenses as he will not have the wealth of time he experienced in college. He may be able to absorb a hit, but he’ll want to avoid taking unnecessary shots whenever possible in the pros.
In addition, Paxton needs to be more consistent when planting his feet to make downfield throws as he will not get away with throwing off of his back foot as much on the next level. He can also use some refinement on the touch he puts on sideline throws and the speed in which he works through his progressions.
Despite all of the work that Paxton needs to do when making the jump to the NFL, he is certainly equipped with all of the tools with which to work. Although he would surely benefit from carrying the clipboard for a year, he could step in and compete for the starting job right away if need be.
If given the proper guidance, Lynch could become a top-10 quarterback in the league within a few years, and would definitely make a major improvement at the position for a quarterback-needy team. The sky is the limit for this kid, and the Jets could do much worse than to get him wearing the green and white on Sundays for the foreseeable future.