The Buccaneers decision to sign veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t measure up as their most exciting signing of the offseason but it may prove to be the most important.
If the Bucs were missing one thing on their roster, it was a backup quarterback whom they know has the ability to step in and keep the offensive moving should starter Jameis Winston go down.
Not only does Fitzpatrick fit that mold, he fits their offense. He’s a smart pocket passer and even better, his decision to sign only a one year deal with the Bucs suggests he’s willing to accept a backup role and for backup money.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Fitzpatrick’s deal with the Bucs is for one year with a salary of $3 million and Fitzpatrick’s willingness to accept that is important. For example, he held out all the way until the eve of last season to sign a one year $12 million deal to come back and start for the Jets.
After a poor showing in most the games as a starter in New York, including a horrendous six interception game in a loss at Kansas City, it was obvious Fitzpatrick would have to settle for much less money and likely, only a backup role.
And, the Bucs game-plan was always to wait until after the draft was over, see what veteran pocket passers were still available and pick off the right one for the right price.
With most of the leverage for guys like Fitzpatrick, Blaine Gabbert (who signed recently in Arizona) Case Keenum, Robert Griffin III, all but taken away, they got who they wanted, at a price they wanted.
The name, Colin Kaepernick, has been kicked around over the past few weeks, especially on social media that he’s somehow being “blacklisted” by NFL teams, because of kneeling for the National Anthem last year.
But, it’s more about his style of play and whether he’s content to accept that he is not competing as a starter. We had written on F.F.I. earlier this off season that Jacksonville would be an intriguing spot, as a backup that he might have a legitimate chance to play down the road if Blake Bortles faltered. However, that never materialized.
Now, Kaepernick has been in serious discussions with the Seahawks, too, but as, of Friday afternoon, they are yet to sign him. Clearly, he would only be the backup there to Russell Wilson.
Kaepernick also made $12 million in San Francisco last year and at 29 years old, obviously, still believes he has a lot of years left to start. And he may be waiting, like Fitzpatrick did last year, to get to camp and the preseason and see where there’s an injury and opportunity.
Back to what the Bucs accomplished Friday by signing a proven veteran of numerous years and teams. Unlike Ryan Griffin, who has been around the league longer than Winston but hasn’t played virtually at all, Fitzpatrick can help be something of a mentor to Winston.
Winston still needs that, as Bucs quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian said on Thursday during media availability. He still needs someone other than a coach whispering in his ear at times and the Bucs lost that when they lost Mike Glennon to the Bears in free-agency.
No, Glennon doesn’t have a lot of experience himself, but he had started over 20 games and been in the NFL two seasons earlier. And, what experience he did have, he willing shared with Winston, Bajakian said. So, the Bucs were anxious to get someone like that again.
The likelihood then is that Fitzpatrick will be the Bucs backup quarterback for the 2017 season, which may mean the end for Griffin.
It has already meant the end for Sean Renfree, who was cut Friday to make room for Fitzpatrick.
Nothing is guaranteed, though, which is why this sets up an interesting battle going forward that will make those training camp scrimmages and the back end of preseason games quite interesting.
And look, because Fitzpatrick did not have a very good 2016 season, the Bucs may soon learn that keeping Griffin, too, is indeed their best option.
But it was only two years ago that Fitzpatrick threw for 3,905 yards while tossing 31 touchdown passes against just 15 interceptions. He definitely brings that to the meeting room and practice field.
Exactly what the Buccaneers were looking for.