Beasley notes that Rosen has shown improvement over the past week, while Fitzpatrick has stumbled a bit. On Saturday, Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions and nearly threw a third, and after the second pick, head coach Brian Flores sent in Rosen to work with the first-team offense, which has not happened often. Rosen responded by engineering a touchdown drive that included several excellent throws.
Flores, who was the one who declared Fitzpatrick the frontrunner on Tuesday, walked back his comments a bit on Saturday. He said, “I know I said [Fitzpatrick] was leading the way the other day, but let’s be clear there’s still a lot competition and a lot of time left. Today is a big day to showcase the improvement guys have made.”
When asked specifically about Rosen, Flores added, “[h]e’s made some improvement really across the board. It’s things a lot of people don’t see. Better footwork, better mechanics in the pocket, better decision-making.”
The Dolphins would probably like to see Rosen take the reins, as he was a first-round draft choice last year and has a legitimate chance of becoming the team’s QB of the future. Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, is in the twilight of his career and is almost certainly not going to be a part of the next competitive Miami team.
So as we head into the first week of preseason games, the race is suddenly too close to call.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is well on his way to starting for a third AFC East franchise. The 15th-year veteran continues to hold off Josh Rosen for the Dolphins‘ starting quarterback job. “It’s pretty clear to me that Ryan Fitzpatrick is leading the way,” Brian Flores said Tuesday (via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, on Twitter). Rosen was viewed as the clear underdog for the Week 1 role coming into camp. Fitzpatrick has not been a regular starter since his two-year Jets tenure concluded after the 2016 season, while Rosen started 13 games for an overmatched Cardinals team last year.
Here is the latest from the AFC East:
The Jets entered camp thin at cornerback, but their top offseason investment at this spot has not impressed coaches thus far. Former Falcons slot corner Brian Poole reported to Jets camp in less-than-ideal shape, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Adam Gase did not single the fifth-year player out as one of the veterans on which the Jets will rely, with the new HC only mentioning Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts in that regard. Gang Green does not have much depth behind its top three. The Jets signed Poole to a one-year, $3MM deal ($2MM guaranteed).
Now two former NFL starting wide receivers are giving Jets wideouts guidance. In addition to full-time receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, the Jets brought in Hines Ward as a coaching intern, per Cimini. Ward, who began working with the Jets on Monday, served in this role with the Steelers two summers ago and was part of the one-and-done Alliance of American Football. It appears Ward’s primary pupil will be Robby Anderson, Cimini adds.
Bills third-round pick Devin Singletary is stationed behind one of the most veteran-heavy backfield duos in NFL history, with the Bills adding Frank Gore to their LeSean McCoy-led group. But Singletary is receiving plenty of opportunities in camp. The former Florida Atlantic star has worked with Buffalo’s starters “a ton” during camp, Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). While Louis-Jacques adds that this is partially to conserve McCoy and Gore, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk adds more fuel to the speculation Singletary could induce a McCoy pay-cut request or push him off the roster. McCoy (career-low 3.2 yards per carry in 2018) being a departure candidate has been floated at multiple junctures this offseason. Singletary rushed for 66 touchdowns in three college seasons.
Dolphins first-round pick Christian Wilkins may have an interesting side job in his first NFL season. The 315-pound defensive tackle has worked on offense as well to start camp, Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post notes. This would presumably mean a role as a fullback, but OC Chad O’Shea did not specify.
The Dolphins are one of only a couple of teams that will be having open quarterback competitions in training camp. They signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a two-year, $11MM deal this offseason, but then traded a second-round pick for Josh Rosen in April.
Many have accused the Dolphins of tanking, and they’re definitely playing for the future, so it’s been assumed the team will want to get a look at Rosen sooner or later. Not so fast. Fitzpatrick has apparently been impressing during OTAs and minicamp, per Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Additionally, Jackson writes that Rosen is a “clear underdog to begin the season as the starter.”
One Dolphins player told Jackson that Fitzpatrick has “impressed everyone as a leader and that he was clearly the best quarterback in the offseason program.” Rosen started 13 games for the Cardinals as a rookie last year, and struggled mightily. He completed only 55 percent of his passes, and had more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (11). That being said the circumstances were far from ideal, as we was playing for an offensive coordinator who was fired just a handful of weeks into the season, and with one of the league’s worst offensive lines.
Fitzpatrick started the first few games of the 2018 season for the Buccaneers due to Jameis Winston‘s suspension, and played so well that he initially kept the job when Winston returned. He was subsequently benched, reinserted, and benched again before the end of the year. Fitzpatrick has always been more than capable of playing lights out in flashes, but has struggled for consistency.
New Dolphins coach Brian Flores has insisted that the team isn’t going to tank, so maybe he will go with Fitzpatrick each week if he thinks it gives him the best chance to win. Miami only gave up a late second-rounder for Rosen, so it’s not as if they’re too heavily invested in the UCLA product.
That being said, with Fitzpatrick’s relatively modest contract they aren’t too invested in him either. Miami will likely be picking early in next year’s draft and they’ll need to get a look at Rosen to see whether or not they need to draft a quarterback. Fitzpatrick will likely falter at some point and relinquish his grip on the starting job, but it doesn’t sound like it’ll be right away.
While this offseason did not bring quite the same level of quarterback movement 2018’s did, a handful of teams will deploy new starters. Draft choices, trade acquisitions and free agent signings will be given the keys to offenses that struggled last season.
The Broncos, Cardinals, Dolphins, Jaguars and Redskins made moves to fortify their quarterback jobs. Which team’s investment will work out best?
Denver will use a different starting quarterback for the third straight year. Joe Flacco is set to be the Broncos’ fourth starter since Peyton Manning‘s retirement. While his QBR figure (58.7) was better than any the former Ravens starter had posted since a quality 2014 season, Flacco still ranked 20th in that metric last season. Having never made a Pro Bowl and fresh off back-to-back years featuring injury trouble, with a back problem limiting him during the 2017 offseason and a hip injury beginning the Lamar Jackson era, the 34-year-old starter will try to revive his career in Denver. Flacco, though, is the most accomplished quarterback the Broncos have employed since Manning.
The other surefire veteran starter acquired this year, Foles will have his first chance to be a team’s unquestioned first-stringer since 2015. The 30-year-old flourished in his second Philadelphia stint, submitting an all-time postseason run in 2017 and helping the Eagles back to the playoffs last season. A 2013 Pro Bowler, Foles will take over a Jaguars team that does not possess the kind of aerial weaponry recent Eagles rosters did. Jacksonville is in line to have Marqise Lee back from a torn ACL, but the team’s wideouts and tight ends will place additional emphasis on Foles living up to his contract. With the Rams in 2015, Foles threw seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions before being benched.
Kyler Murray represents the other locked-in starter added this offseason. The electric one-year Oklahoma starter accomplished about as much as a college passer can in a single season, turning in Division I-FBS’ second-ever 4,000-1,000 season en route to Heisman Trophy honors. Working with Kliff Kingsbury, Larry Fitzgerald and a host of young wide receivers, Murray is the centerpiece of one of the most daring experiments an NFL team has attempted.
The Cardinals turned the keys over to a sub-.500 college coach and a 5-foot-10 signal-caller — the first sub-6-foot passer to be chosen in Round 1. Arizona trotted out the league’s worst scoring and total offense last season, however, and sported a skeleton-crew offensive line by year’s end. The Cards added new starters Marcus Gilbert and J.R. Sweezy up front. Due to the lack of precedent behind this move, it is hard to tell how Murray will fare. But the unique talent has opened as Las Vegas’ offensive rookie of the year favorite.
Washington and Miami have not committed to a starting quarterback yet, but it is fairly safe to project Dwayne Haskins and Josh Rosen will see extensive time. While Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick could log starts, with the latter possibly even on track to do so, the Redskins have liked what their first-round pick has done so far and the Dolphins will need to see Rosen in games to help determine if they will consider a first-round QB in 2020. On the heels of a 50-touchdown pass season, the Ohio State product sits second in offensive rookie of the year odds. Although only eight passers have won this award since 1957, seven such instances have occurred since 2004.
Both Daniel Jones and Drew Lock could factor into their respective teams’ mixes later in the season. Of the 13 first-round QBs taken over the past four years, only Patrick Mahomes and Paxton Lynch were not promoted to the starting role as rookies. (Though, Eli Manning is not your typical stopgap.) Lock was projected by most as a first-rounder, and Flacco ceded his role to the No. 32 overall pick last year. So the 12th-year veteran’s grip on Denver’s job should be considered tenuous.
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Ronald Darby, CB (Eagles): One year, $6.5MM. $4.5MM guaranteed. $3.5MM signing bonus. $2MM available via playtime, playoff, and Pro Bowl incentive. Contract contains four void years from 2020-2023 (link).
The Dolphins have signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com (Twitter link). It’s a two-year, $11MM deal that could reach $17-20MM via incentives, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.
Fitzpatrick was the best signal-caller still available on the open market, especially after the Dolphins reportedly tried — and failed — to land both Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater. Taylor opted to sign a two-year to backup Philip Rivers with the Chargers, while Bridgewater decided to return to New Orleans on a one-year, fully guaranteed $7.25MM contract.
Fitzpatrick excelled — at times — with the Buccaneers in 2018, but after what was an uneven overall campaign, Tampa Bay indicated it would deploy Jameis Winston as its full-time starter for the upcoming season. Ever mercurial, Fitzpatrick started the first three games of the year while Winston was on suspension, and tossed 11 touchdowns against four interceptions while completing more than 70% of his passes.
Things unraveled against a league-best Bears defense in Week 4, and Fitzpatrick lost his job to Winston. The 36-year-old Fitzpatrick relieved a struggling Winston in Week 7 versus the Bengals and threw four touchdowns the following week, but after five total interceptions in Weeks 9-10, Fitzpatrick was permanently demoted. All told, Fitzpatrick finished the year having completed 66.7% of his passes for 2,366 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 12 picks.
The addition of Fitzpatrick shouldn’t preclude the Dolphins from selecting a quarterback early in the 2019 draft, but it’s unclear if they plan to do so. Miami is embarking on a full-scale rebuild, so the club may attempt to bottom out this season in an effort to compile more long-term assets.
The Buccaneers are likely to have a new coaching staff in place soon, and none of their three quarterbacks are locked into 2019 roster spots. The oldest of those players, however, is not quite ready to retire.
This week, Fitzpatrick will be the Bucs’ No. 3 quarterback, behind Jameis Winston and Ryan Griffin, Auman adds. Although the Bucs’ highest point of the season came when Fitzmagic had them at 2-0, he was twice benched for Winston. The fourth-year Bucs starter has a guaranteed-for-injury $20MM salary for 2019, but it’s far from certain he will be back.
Fitzpatrick signed two one-year deals with the Bucs over the past two years, the most recent for $3.3MM. He will certainly attract interest from teams looking for a backup quarterback. Fitz has posted four 400-yard games this season, doing so in just seven starts, and still has a 9.6 yards-per-attempt figure to go along with a 66.7 percent completion rate.
Free agency is set to include younger passers like Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor and (probably) Nick Foles. They may receive more attention as bridge-starter-type options. Joe Flacco and Ryan Tannehill are also rumored to be available, complicating next year’s market. But Fitzpatrick could receive a look as well from teams looking for mentors/stopgaps for their to-be-determined rookie signal-callers. The Bucs shouldn’t be ruled out on this front, either, particularly if they do choose to move on from Winston.
The Buccaneers will turn the starting job back over to quarterback Jameis Winstonfor Sunday’s game against the 49ers, according to Scott Smith of the team website (on Twitter). The move was expected after Winston played well in relief of Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday.
After entering Sunday’s game against the Giants, Winston completed 12 of his 16 passes for 199 yards with two touchdowns and an interception on the final play of the game. Winston led the Bucs to touchdowns on four straight drives, leaving coaches with more confidence in him than in Fitzpatrick, who lobbed three interceptions.
The 3-7 Bucs are likely out of the playoff picture, but these final six games will be crucial to Winston’s future with Tampa Bay. Winston is under club control through the 2019 campaign via the fifth-year option, but the option is guaranteed for injury only and the Bucs can escape the hefty $20.9MM price tag if they want to. There’s a risk that Winston falters and suffers a serious injury down the stretch, but head coach Dirk Koetter is on the hot seat and aiming to win now.
Bruce Irvin clearing waivers and landing with theFalcons gives him a chance to earn nearly $10MM this season. His one-year (or, eight-game) Falcons deal is worth $1.5MM, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. Irvin was playing on an $8MM salary with the Raiders this season, and Florio notes he can recoup the balance of that salary ($3.76MM) by filing a termination pay claim. Vested veterans (at least four seasons’ experience) can do this one in their careers, and this may be the most money Irvin, 31, can claim through this measure. Total, the seventh-year veteran can collect $9.75MM this season. Considering he entered the year with no more guarantees remaining in his deal, that’s not a bad haul.
Here’s more from the Irvin front, along with the latest from the South divisions:
With Irvin rejoining a Dan Quinn defense, this one housing recent first-round defensive ends Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley, he won’t be the unquestioned top edge rusher like he was in Oakland. However, Quinn — who coached Irvin with the Seahawks — is planning a NASCAR package with the three ends and Grady Jarrett, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Quinn said the team will use the trio on the field together in practice this week in preparation to deploy the speed set a game at some point. The Falcons’ 17 sacks rank 27th in the league. Beasley has just one and is Pro Football Focus’ worst-graded full-time edge defender this season.
A six-plus-month stay in free agency ended for Dez Bryant earlier Wednesday, but the new Saints wide receiver is still looking to return to the market in 2019. Bryant wants to prove himself on a contending team and become a free agent again, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes. This has been Bryant’s plan all along, and he’ll likely join Tre’Quan Smith as a key complementary receiver for Drew Brees.
The Buccaneers won’t be pivoting back to Jameis Winston this week. Dirk Koetter confirmed (via ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine) Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starter in Week 10. Although Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions in a 42-28 loss to the Panthers, he led the Bucs back from 35-7 and made it a one-score game. Tampa Bay ranks first in pass offense (356.6 yards per game) by more than 30 yards.
The Titans‘ Malcolm Butler signing hasn’t worked out the way the team had hoped yet. Signed to a five-year, $61.25MM deal, Butler has struggled in coverage and rates as PFF’s No. 98 cornerback through eight games. Mike Vrabel, though, does not plan to bench Butler. The first-year coach attributes some of the defender’s woes to reading the wrong keys, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.
Tennessee may have to temporarily demote Jack Conklin, though. The right tackle starter is in concussion protocol after the Titans’ win over the Cowboys. Conklin already missed this season’s first four games because of the ACL tear he suffered in last year’s playoffs. Conklin has started five games this year and was on the field for all 32 Tennessee regular-season contests during his first two NFL seasons.
Winston began the year by serving a multi-game suspension and Fitzpatrick made the most of the opportunity. At least, he did for a little while. Fitzpatrick led the Bucs to upset wins over the Saints and Eagles in his first two weeks and nearly got the W over the Steelers in Week 3. Things fell apart for the veteran in Week 4 against the Bears’ top-notch defense, putting Winston back into the lineup.
Unfortunately, the FSU product hasn’t fared well in recent weeks. On Sunday, Winston lobbed four interceptions and the Bucs offense only regained life when Fitzpatrick was called upon to lead the charge. The Bucs scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late as the Bengals won 37-34.
The decision to bench Winston may have ramifications beyond the 2018 season. The former No. 1 overall pick is tied to the team through 2019 through his fifth-year option, but that option is guaranteed for injury only. If the Bucs keep Winston on the pine, they can move on from him this offseason without the specter of a $20MM+ obligation.