Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Oct 2011

Bills, Ryan Fitzpatrick Agree to Extension

The Bills have agreed to a new contract with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, worth $59 million over six seasons, with $24 million guaranteed and $33 million paid out over the all-important first three years. It sounds like a lot of money, but it is really just average for a starting NFL quarterback. I asked Brian McIntyre, who said that Fitzpatrick's contract will rank 16th for average value and 14th for average value over the first three years. Whether or not you think this is a reasonable deal really depends on how likely you think it is that Fitzpatrick can continue his high level of play from the first six games of this season, but it is hard to argue with the idea that Fitzpatrick has been at least an average NFL quarterback over the last year and a half. So it isn't that crazy to pay him like one. Average NFL quarterbacks just happen to make a lot of money.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 28 Oct 2011

51 comments, Last at 02 Nov 2011, 2:29am by tuluse


by chemical burn :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 2:10pm

Seems like a great deal for Buffalo - if Fitzpatrick ends up having played half as well for the rest of the season, this is right in line with his value. If he continues at this level of slightly below it, the deal is a steal.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 3:21pm

Seems like a dooming contract to Buffalo. If Fitzpatrick is average (and I'm not sure he's that good), its still not great for the team to have an average NFL QB. How many teams with average NFL QBs make the playoffs and how many win anything noteworthy?

Seems like it dooms a team to medicority. Either have a great QB, or try and develop one. Being stuck in the middle seems like no one wins.

by Drunkmonkey :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 3:28pm

Not saying this is a model for sustained success, and I don't think it will be what leads them to a championship, but look at the Panthers back in 2003. They made the Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme. Or look at the Ravens. They make the playoffs on a pretty regular basis, and yet Flacco isn't all that great, and he hasn't been around all that long. They won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer.

I don't think the Bills are trying to fool themselves into thinking that the quarterback position is filled for the next decade, but at the same time, if Fitzpatrick continues to be an average quarterback or something around there, then this will allow the Bills to focus on other areas of need around the team, instead of continuously burning high draft picks at the QB position.

Now, just to finally lock up Jackson so they don't keep burning picks at THAT position too... (he's not getting one anytime soon, is he?)

by Jimmy :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 3:51pm

I agree, Rex Grossman has started in a Superbowl. Does anything more need to be said?

by Jericho (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 4:19pm

Well The Ravens and Bears has pretty awesome everything else, so good luck to Buffalo to complete that puzzle.

by akn :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 7:01pm

However, the Bears never paid Grossman starting QB money. After his rookie contract was up, they only gave him a one year $3 million (base) extension, and by then he had regressed enough that he was (rightfully) let go.

Signing QBs who have yet to truly prove themselves to huge, long contracts is a risky proposition, especially when their performance has only recently improved. The Bills are finally good for half a season, but that doesn't mean you lock in everyone when the prospect of regression looms large.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/01/2011 - 4:24pm

This is a small contract for a starting QB. I think you're seeing the big numbers and thinking it's lot more than it really is relative to other NFL players.

by akn :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 2:02am

$33 over the first 3 years isn't chump change.

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 2:29am

In 2009, the 10th highest paid QB in the league had a 3 year earnings of 41.7 million. Since then, I know Matt Cassell, Kevin Kolb, Jay Cutler,and Sam Bradford have all signed good sized deals. This probably makes Fitzpatrick the 15th highest paid QB at best. Possibly closer to the 20th best paid. It is not very much money.


by Yaguar :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 4:23pm

The Bills don't need to look further than their own division to see that it's possible to go deep into the playoffs with an average quarterback. The Jets do it regularly with a well-below-average quarterback, and arguably, the Patriots went 9-0 in the playoffs from 2001-2004 with a then-average quarterback.

by DEW (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 5:47pm

Indeed; I'd argue that Fitzpatrick is the fifth best quarterback in the conference this season (Brady, Schaub, Rothlisberger, Rivers--and his actual performance on the field is arguably better than the latter two so far, though there's plenty of time to regress). My wife (Colts) and I (Dolphins) would be ecstatic to see Fitzpatrick-level QB play from our teams...

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 6:21pm

I was not a Fitzpatrick believer, but he proved me wrong this year. He is far better than I expected.

by Independent George :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 7:49pm

I think the question is, is he Derek Anderson, or is he Rich Gannon? Can he sustain his success now that he's found a coach & scheme that matches his talents, or is he a career backup who seems to have a breakout season before falling back to earth a year later.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 9:27pm

He's already had more sustained success than Anderson, who had only a single good season. Fitzpatrick was a decent starter last year and Top 10 this year. Anderson (hilariously) doesn't have a resume even that strong. Anyhoo, anyone who thinks this is a bad deal for the Bills is underestimating the value of simple competence at the QB position. Fitzpatrick has average interception and fumble rates his whole career, so he's at least not going to kill you with turnovers, even if he turns back into an average pumpkin. This deal is cheap in the scheme of things, especially considering the price tags that mediocre dudes like Delhomme, Anderson and Kevin Kolb have commanded...

by RickD :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 2:28pm

Indeed. The notion that the Bills have made a mistake here is mind-boggling. (I say this as a Pats' fan.)
Fitzpatrick brings, at a minimum, stability to the most important position on the team, and there's a good chance (IMHO) that he can develop further to be one of the leading QBs in the league.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 2:09pm

Brady was average, or even a little below in 2001, but he was terrific by the time mid-2003 rolled around, and clearly elite in 2004.

by chemical burn :: Sun, 10/30/2011 - 11:26am

No you're right - I only meant since he made the jump to CRAZY Peyton Manning/Dan Marino-esque elite where the entire team is built around a player. He was definitely a Top 5 QB in 2004...

by RichC (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 5:30pm

Giants seem to do fine with Eli, and hes making a whole lot more than Fitzpatrick.

That being said, Fitz's track record is awfully short.

by MJK :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 12:41pm

I think you're very-much underestimating the difficulty in getting a great QB. How many truly great QB's are there right now? I mean guys that are clearly better than Fitzpatrick and will be for the next couple of years?

Brady, Brees, P. Manning (if he comes back), Rivers, Rodgers, and Vick (if he survives).

And *maybe* Freeman, Newton, Roethlisberger, and Romo.

I think Fitzpatrick is on level with or superior to just about any other active QB you could name.

That's 6-10 out of 32 teams that have starters that are better than Fitzpatrick.

How many of those better QB's appeared in, say, the last five years? Two of the "maybe's"--Freeman and Newton, and maybe you can count Vick since he resurged in that time. How about the last 8 years? Add Rivers, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, and Romo.

In an 8 year span, that's just seven guys that have come out that would be clearly better than Fitzpatrick. That's a little less than one per year. And in any given year, probably at least 10 teams are looking for a QB, so your chance of getting the one guy that year (if there is one) is only about 10%. Then if you guess wrong, you're stuck with a bad QB for at least 3-4 more years.

In this league, if you have a servicable QB, you're lucky, and when you get one you should lock him up. At least now the Bills have the luxury of taking a flyer on a QB in the draft if a good one falls to them and not having to put all their eggs in that basket.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 9:27pm

I think you're being generous to Brady and extremely generous to Vick.

I'd also throw Schaub and Ryan into the very good, likely better than Fitzpatrick (*maybe*) list.

by Drunkmonkey :: Sun, 10/30/2011 - 11:42am

Is everybody here in agreement then that there is no way that Cam Newton could possibly become better then Fitzpatrick in the next couple of years? That's what we're going with? All on board?

by Nathan :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 4:27pm

Not a bad salary for a Harvard man.

by rageon :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 4:34pm

Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard? You don't say...

by Theo :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 7:03pm

but... that means we can talk about things that sound difficult!

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 5:03pm

Fitzpatrick is a decent game manager. He's never going to be great. He needs better talent around him. But given the right teammates, he could QB a team to the Super Bowl. I think it's a good contract for Buffalo. They probably aren't going to luck into anyone better (like the Pats with Brady or the Packers did with Starr) in the next few years. They don't have to risk high picks on a QB the next few years and maybe they can develop one with a lower pick.

by Anonymous(not that one) (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 6:45pm

I'm quite sure our recent Presidents prove that Haaarvard men aren't competent leaders.

by spenczar :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 10:43pm

Did you know that he went to Harvard?

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 11:21pm

I think the assumption that you build your team to win a super bowl is just completely wrong headed. You build your team to put butts in the seats and sell merch.

It is a business. ANd the most important part of that is being competitive, not taking 30:1 shots at a SB. On top of that honestly the best wqay to get to a Superbowl is probably just to spam as many playoff appearances as possible, rather than selling all out to build a truly dominant team. TOo much can go wrong with that strategy.

I think a team that goes 10-6 every year wins a lot more superbowls in the long run then one that goes 12-4 for half the time years and 8-8 for half the time.

This isn't the 80s where you can just spend and spend and spend your way to a title.

by Drunkmonkey :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 11:41pm

Shhhhhhhh!!!! Danny Snyder will hear you, and we'll all get in trouble for bad mouthing his ways!!!!

by Lebo :: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 11:51pm

Yeah, I agree with your spamming theory. Which is why I can't understand why anybody would ever talk about putting Andy Reid on the hot seat. Although, that may come back to your point about putting butts in seats...

by chemical burn :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 12:25am

Andy Reid is in as much danger of losing his job as Lurie is of making V.I. Wachowski 2.

But, on the other hand, the problem with the spamming theory is that if you don't ever win the big game, then you run the risk of having a miserable fanbase that loathes players that have contributed to multiple playoff appearances, wins, even Superbowl appearances and has no idea any longer of why they even watch the game or what it is that they are supposed to even enjoy about the sport.

by Mike B. In Va :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 7:36am

That's some spectacular bitterness right there.

by Boston Dan :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 11:38am

That's why I don't take sports too seriously anymore.
It's a business...

by towishimp (not verified) :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 12:50pm

I think that only happens in one particular city. For the rest of us, playoffs every year would be great.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 2:20pm

It happens in NE as well. Go 14-2 with one of the younger teams in the league and the season is a collasal faiure because you didn't win the superbowl. A 5-1 team currently on track for the #1 seed in the AFC is terrible because the defense isn't dominant.

by nat :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 2:37pm

That's not the sentiment I'm hearing around Boston. It's more a bemused "can this possibly be working?" than a "God, they suck!" response to the Patriots season. The defense is truly terrible. It would be strange, and actually kind of interesting to have that work in the playoffs. I'm not holding my breath, though.

by RickD :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 2:44pm

I think it's more of a holding your breath situation. Fans recognize that the offense is good enough for the Pats to be competitive with any team, but that the defense is so weak that there's a lot of pressure on the offense. And given the recent lack of post-season wins, there's some concern that the defense won't get into championship shape before Brady has to retire. After all, a QB's career can end as quickly as a Laurence Taylor sack. Can we be sure that Peyton Manning will ever return to his MVP form? And he's not much older than Brady.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 12:21pm

Does anyone else find it absolutely awesome that the Patriots have metamorphisized into, basically, the Colts?

by Jerry :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 5:16pm

Once a team establishes itself as a perennial playoff team, its fanbase usually wants to see it take the next step (or two). If it doesn't, the fanbase will often look for a coach-like scapegoat. (FireOmarTomlin would be an extreme case.)

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 11/01/2011 - 3:06pm

Or, in other words, fans are never happy. It's in the nature of being a fan.

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

by RickD :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 2:41pm

I would take this bet:

"I think a team that goes 10-6 every year wins a lot more superbowls in the long run then one that goes 12-4 for half the time years and 8-8 for half the time."

I'm putting 20 quatloos on the team that goes 12-4 half of the years and 8-8 half the time.

In 45 years of Super Bowl play, there have been exactly three 10-6 teams to win the Super Bowl. That two of them have been in the past four years skews your perception of the issue. Often, a 10-6 team will miss the playoffs altogether. The Patriots went 11-5 in 2008 and missed them.

by PatsFan :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 9:52pm

The Patriots went 11-5 in 2008 and missed them.

True, but it was also the first time in 21 years that an 11-5 team missed the playoffs.

by dbostedo :: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 6:25pm

"...the best wqay to get to a Superbowl is probably just to spam as many playoff appearances as possible, rather than selling all out to build a truly dominant team."

I don't think those two approaches can really be differentiated, since talent evaluation and coaching are such a crap shoot. You could try to do sell out for dominance and just wind up making the playoffs every year (or worse)... or you could try to make the playoffs every year, and wind up dominant occasionally (or worse).

You might have front offices behaving differently based on which one they think they're doing, but I don't think it's enough in their control to actually make a reliable difference.

by akn :: Sun, 10/30/2011 - 12:55pm

akn's master plan for SB success:

1) Continue to sell out each and every year to draft (not trade for) an elite level QB (with occasional OL and WRs), even at the cost of the defensive picks.

2) With an elite offense, you either go 12-4 (if your QB stays healthy), or 4-12 (if your QB gets injured). Either way, you're either in contention for the SB or for an early draft pick.

3) Even with an elite offense/QB continue to spend draft picks on QB prospects. Showcase these prospects during preseason and blowout games. Trade such prospects (e.g., Kevin Kolb) to QB-desperate teams (e.g., the Cardinals) for more draft picks and players.

4) Profit!

Given the passing/offensive trend in the NFL, I believe elite defenses will buy you a one way ticket to good-but-not-great-ville. Elite defenses will rarely end up with a 4-12 record, eliminating early draft picks (and early picks are now more valuable than ever given the rookie wage pool).

The NFL wants "exciting" 500-yard passing games with high scoring. QBs are the key to the NFL, more so now than ever. Why fight it?

by tuluse :: Sun, 10/30/2011 - 3:23pm

Sounds more like AKN's plan to get fired after 3 years when the fans stage a mutiny.

by akn :: Sun, 10/30/2011 - 3:50pm

Plenty of GM's suffer the same fate not following akn's master plan as well.

by James Dollinger (not verified) :: Sun, 10/30/2011 - 11:22pm

Full disclosure as a bills fan and a Harvard grad i'm probably biased but how can anyone legitimately say that fitz is sub average/only a game manager at this point? Guy is 8th in QB rating, 4th in completion %age and 5th in total tds. Also he's doing this w/out three of his top 4 WRs from last year. It seems to me that there is a lot of negative perception about him due to the fact that he played at Harvard. Guy makes plays and has been winning football games. With the exception of a handful of teams any fan that says they wouldn't want him as their QB is their ignorant or lying to themselves

by akn :: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 12:31am

"Guy makes plays and has been winning football games."

...this year, that is. Beware of regression (e.g., Freeman, Bradford). Has nothing to do with where he went to school--your Harvard persecution radar is a bit too sensitive. And as a Bears fan, I'd much rather have Cutler than Fitzgerald, regardless of this year's stats.

by Vague (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 4:41am

I for one welcome the new Cutler vs Fitzpatrick irrational discussion thread. While I am a Bears fan and a Cutler fan its hard to feel to good about arguing against the epic nickname "amish canon" (although im not sure if that refers to Fitzpatricks arm/beard or his disertation on amish literature).

Seriously, I have a ton more belief in Fitzpatrick than I do in the Helium Dirigible that is Mathew Stafford. I think Bills fans are in store for a fun season and can enjoy it with the outlook more may follow. Bills won their first home game in Canada and their fan base deserves it.

philum esoilia

by Dice :: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 4:53pm

I think Fitzpatrick played at a decent level last season, and has continued that success into this one. Towards the end of last season they were becoming competitive, after all. Are the Bills the real deal? Probably not, but I can't say its because Fitzpatrick is the major problem. I'm not sure they overpaid for him, because while he'll probably be the reason they do lose a few games, esp in winter, I do think he's more than a game manager.

Would I rather have Cutler? Sure. I think in every aspect of his game, Cutler is better. But if what I've got is Fitzpatrick and Gailey, who is willing to build around him, that's what I'll roll with. Its not the team I'd go out to build, but its not one I'd blow up, either(hey Josh McD, how ya doing?).

by Illuminatus (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 8:18pm

It might be an overpayment for Fitz, but frankly Buffalo has been so QB starved and so far under the cap for years that it was time to grab onto something good. I'm not particularly worried that the contract will be an albatross because Nix has shown himself plenty willing to dish people out of town (Lynch, Evans) if he thinks they are underperforming.