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Ryan Fitzpatrick: gettin’ paper?

Photo of Ryan Fitzpatrick from Buffalo Bills Facebook Page

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reported Thursday evening that unnamed sources tell him the Buffalo Bills are working to extend quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, slated to be an unrestricted free agent after the season.  The expectations are that Fitzy will be paid like a “second-tier QB”—which, in the world of NFL player salaries doesn’t always match up with “second-tier performance.” 

Fitzpatrick earns $3.195 million in 2011; he’s the 24th highest paid signal-caller in the NFL (in terms of base salary).  Inferior passers like Alex Smith, Charlie Whitehurst, Kerry Collins, Donovan McNabb, Kyle Orton and Carson Palmer make more—much more, in some cases

Mortenson writes, “It is expected [Fitzpatrick] will be paid at least in the range of Kansas City’s Matt Cassel, who signed a six-year, $63 million contract with the Chiefs.”  Cassel is the third-highest paid QB in the NFL this year—he’s making $12.25 million in 2011 before his pay drops precipitously to $5.25 million in 2012.  Since Fitzpatrick is already 29, we predict that his deal will be four years for $35 million with a possible team option for a fifth year.  More than likely, the deal will be front-loaded.

James Walker, author of ESPN’s AFC East blog, also encourages the Bills to extend “underpaid” stars Fred Jackson and Stevie Johnson.  Jackson, who will turn 31 shortly after the season and is an unrestricted free agent after next year, will be difficult to negotiate with—not because he’s combative, but because he’s an exceptionally-talented back at the tail end of a typical running back’s expected career length. 

Currently, Jackson is the league’s 20th highest paid runner—paid similarly to Detroit’s Maurice Morris, Cleveland’s Brandon Jackson and New York’s Ahmad Bradshaw.  As you can tell from the names surrounding Fitzpatrick and Jackson on the pay-scale, earnings rarely correlate with on-field performance, making negotiations especially difficult.  If one team overpays for an inferior player, the market can become disjointed quickly.  Just ask the New York Jets, whose frustrating QB Mark Sanchez makes a league-high $14.75 million in 2011.  Through six weeks, Jackson is the NFL’s second-leading rusher.

We think that Jackson will play out his contract here and won’t be extended, but he’s such a fan-favorite that the organization may feel pressured to act otherwise.  If he can maintain his current production—and he’s run with the same power and urgency for years—he deserves a salary in the $4 million range, closer to Frank Gore ($4.9 million) and much further from Thomas Jones ($1.95 million). 

Buddy Nix will more than likely pony-up for Stevie Johnson, a charismatic player whose on-field performance and brand value have skyrocketed in the past 18 months.  Johnson, the NFL’s 42nd highest paid receiver in the final year of his rookie contract, will probably demand #1 receiver money, comparable to Roddy White’s and Andre Johnson’s roughly $6 million per season.  Perhaps a little less. 

Which Bill will be extended first—Freddy or Stevie?

TAGGED: buffalo bills, espn, fred jackson, free agency, nfl money, ryan fitzpatrick, stevie johnson

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