After a quiet opening to free agency, the Washington Football Team addressed its biggest need late Monday — adding veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on a one-year, $10 million deal.
Fitzpatrick appears to fit neatly into what Washington was searching for at quarterback after a surprising 7-9 playoff season: The 38-year-old can elevate an offense with tantalizing arm talent and can take advantage of a promising defense. Last season with the Miami Dolphins, Fitzpatrick went 4-3 as a starter and completed 68.5% of his passes. He was benched after six games for first-rounder Tua Tagovailoa, though the swap wasn’t performance related.
Fitzpatrick’s contract, first reported by ESPN, carries incentives that can boost the total value to $12 million.
Beyond Miami, Fitzpatrick is an experienced NFL starter — also spending time with the St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Despite the pedigree, Fitzpatrick will likely have to compete to earn the starting job. Washington coach Ron Rivera has talked about the need for competition, and the team retained quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke earlier this offseason.
Fitzpatrick, too, has never made the postseason since being drafted in 2005. Nicknamed “Fitzmagic” for his tantalizing arm strength and fearless play, Fitzpatrick’s playing style also has its drawbacks. He’s thrown 169 interceptions — the fifth most in the league during that span.
But Fitzpatrick has a history of performing well in spots. In 2020, he posted a quarterback rating of 95.6 and threw 13 touchdowns to eight interceptions for the Dolphins. He had a career year in 2015 when he led the Jets to a surprising 10-6 season and finished with 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Washington, meanwhile, was aggressive in searching for a new quarterback this offseason. The team offered a first-round and a third-round pick for veteran Matthew Stafford — only to be rebuffed. The team was also linked to Las Vegas’ Marcus Mariota and the Jets’ Sam Darnold, though didn’t pull the trigger on a trade for either.
Rivera made it no secret the team wanted an upgrade for 2021 after using four quarterbacks last year. Last month, the team released Alex Smith, the league’s comeback player of the year who went 5-1 as a starter to help Washington reach the postseason, partly because of concerns about his durability. Smith suffered a lingering bone bruise on his surgically repaired leg that sidelined him late in the year.
By turning to Fitzpatrick, Washington is hoping the 17-year veteran can electrify a passing offense that finished dead last in offensive efficiency, according to Football Outsiders.
Rivera, though, sounded comfortable last week when discussing the possibility that the team might not land a “franchise quarterback” in the spring. The team holds the 19th selection in this year’s draft, likely putting them outside the range of the top quarterbacks available.
“Do you want to be able to say this is our franchise quarterback? Well, yeah, you would love to,” Rivera said. “But you don’t know that until the quarterback starts playing, or quarterbacks. Once that starts happening, then you’ll know. We’ve just got to continue to go through this, study the players and get the one that we feel can become that player.”
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