The veteran free agency market is expected to welcome a plethora of activity in June. Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick may be the most exciting signal-caller still available. The 39-year-old Fitzpatrick was expected to start for the Washington Commanders in 2021 but unfortunately suffered a season-ending hip injury in a Week 1 contest against the Los Angeles Chargers. Fitzpatrick is now healthy and searching for his next opportunity.
The Commanders added a pair of quarterbacks this offseason in Carson Wentz and Sam Howell, so Fitzpatrick will have to play elsewhere in 2022. Several franchises could make use of Fitzpatrick as either a high-upside insurance backup or bridge starting quarterback. The 17-year veteran has plenty of passion to continue playing the game at a high level. Fitzpatrick’s arm talent and gunslinging mentality remain in place.
We expect Fitzpatrick to sign a new contract shortly. We’ve identified three franchises that should have an interest in adding Fitzpatrick once June arrives.
Cleveland Browns General Manager Andrew Berry pushed his chips into the middle of the table this offseason by executing a shocking trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson. Cleveland signaled their aggressive intentions to land Watson by awarding him with a fully-guaranteed contract worth $230 million. Berry may still have to invest in a backup plan under center. Watson’s off-field legal issues continue to play out and the league is allegedly inching closer to handing down a ruling in regards to an investigation into Watson’s alleged behavior. A lengthy suspension remains a very real possibility.
Disgruntled Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is waiting for a trade to materialize and would likely have little interest in remaining in Cleveland regardless of the potential severity of Watson’s suspension. Berry did sign Jacoby Brissett earlier this offseason, but Fitzpatrick would represent a better option to keep Cleveland competitive in a tough AFC North division that features the reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Browns are serious about competing for a Super Bowl in 2022 but must be careful to avoid falling too far behind the field if Watson is sidelined for an extended period of time. Fitzpatrick could keep the Browns above water. Furthermore, current Browns passing game coordinator Chad O’Shea coached Fitzpatrick in Miami.
The Seattle Seahawks currently field the most concerning quarterback situation across the entire league. Seahawks General Manager John Schneider essentially hit the reset button by trading franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. The Seahawks received Drew Lock in that deal, who is currently expected to serve as their starting quarterback throughout the 2022 campaign. Veteran journeyman Geno Smith also remains in Seattle after re-signing with the franchise earlier this offseason and could contend for the starting job alongside Lock. It’s a less-than-desirable situation that could ultimately cap Seattle’s ceiling.
It’s extremely believable that the Seahawks are waiting for Jimmy Garoppolo to continue healing from offseason shoulder surgery before trading for him, assuming the San Francisco 49ers would entertain trading Garoppolo within the division. Schneider curiously decided against drafting a developmental quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft. It’s difficult to imagine Pete Carroll’s willingness to enter September with the current situation at quarterback. Fitzpatrick is well past his prime, but would still represent an upgrade on Smith, Lock, and Jacob Eason. Fitzpatrick still possesses the aggressive mentality necessary to target the likes of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett down the field.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Speaking of the 49ers, general manager John Lynch should prepare to upgrade his backup quarterback position once a Garoppolo trade finally reveals itself. The 49ers are all in on Trey Lance as their immediate and future starter after making an aggressive move to trade up and draft him with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Lance remains a raw and inexperienced quarterback that would benefit from having a quality backup to show him the ropes. The 49ers roster currently lacks that player with Nate Sudfeld and rookie seventh-round selection Brock Purdy as the only other quarterbacks in San Francisco.
Lance suffered a knee injury as a rookie that sidelined him despite receiving limited playing time. Lance’s mobile and athletic style of play mean the 49ers must be prepared to roster a backup with starting experience in case he misses time. Fitzpatrick would represent a clear-cut upgrade over Sudfeld and Purdy.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan knows his 49ers are capable of competing for the NFC West title in 2022. Their roster features very few question marks outside of quarterback.