Is Ryan Fitzpatrick the Most Underrated Move in Free Agency So Far?

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Is Ryan Fitzpatrick the Most Underrated Move in Free Agency So Far?
Ryan Fitzpatrick #14, now with the Washington Football Team warms up prior to a game with Miami. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images/AFP

Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a $10 million dollar deal with the Washington Football Team in mid-March, but his signing isn’t exactly stealing the headlines or generating excitement. Overshadowed by big-name moves during free agency, star-studded signings such as Kevin Golladay going from the Lions to the Giants, Bud Dupree going from the Steelers to Titans… or even Dak Prescott, who finally got signed by the Dallas Cowboys to a mega-deal after years of hawing and humming from both parties.

Fitzpatrick’s move from Miami to Washington has barely registered on the Richter scale, causing little to no buzz amongst fans, pundits, or even NFL betting markets for that matter. And that fact possibly makes the veteran quarterback one of the most underrated signings of the NFL Free Agency thus far. Or is it merely a case of sentimentality? Or is it a case of both?

Fitzpatrick Coming Off Magical Season with the Miami Dolphins

Ryan Fitzpatrick, 38, is one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks in the league, having never received the credit he richly deserves. He’s been passed around the league, moving from team to team over the span of his 17-year career since graduating from Harvard. Throughout he’s been nothing but the consummate professional, stand-up teammate, and player that gave the game his all regardless if he was playing on a good or bad team.

In 2019 Fitzpatrick joined the rebuilding Miami Dolphins, and he was forced to compete for the starting job against Arizona Cardinals’ cast-off, Josh Rosen. Fitz won the starting job over Rosen eventually, taking a relatively talentless Dolphins team to five wins in 13 starts. Going into 2020, Fitzpatrick was considered to be nothing more than a glorified placeholder for the young and supposedly “up-and-coming” Tua Tagovailoa, who the Miami Dolphins took with the No.5 pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

Tua Tagovailoa and Ryan Fitzpatrick
Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins talks to Ryan Fitzpatrick #14. Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images/AFP

Although Fitzpatrick started in Week 1 of last season, many believed it would only be a matter of time before he played himself out of the job/ lost the job to Tua Tagovailoa. For many NFL pundits, it was an inevitability that would happen sooner rather than later in the season, and the NFL odds supported that notion by favoring Tagovailoa to start at some point in 2020.

Inasmuch as the prognostications proved ultimately to be correct, with Tua Tagovailoa finally being named the starter in Week 8, nobody could have predicted the circumstances surrounding that defining moment. The fact that Fitzpatrick was playing solid and inspired football, the Dolphins were a modest 3-3-0 SU on the season, and they’d just come off a 24-0 demolition of the New York Jets.

Knowing the Dolphins were his team only temporarily, Fitzpatrick nonetheless played with heart and grit over the time he was given as the starter. The Harvard grad delighted fans with bold plays, exuberant throws, and grins so large that they outdid his magnificent beard. When he lost the starting job, he was a pro about it throughout, when on the sidelines cheering Tua on and when he replaced an ineffective Tua on the field. He completed 68.5% of his passes for 2,091 yards with 13 touchdowns against eight interceptions.

Arguably, Fitzpatrick’s most memorable game in 2020 came when he replaced Tua in week 16 to lead the Dolphins in a come-from-behind win over the Raiders. The 26-25 win was pivotal for Miami, keeping hope alive in the final weeks of the regular season. Unfortunately, a bout with Covid-19 prevented Fitzpatrick from competing in the Dolphins’ final game of the season against the Buffalo Bills, leaving Miami’s fate in the hands of his younger counterpart. Alas, Tua came up spectacularly short in a sobering 56-26 defeat in Buffalo, thus ending any hope of postseason action.

Fitzpatrick Signs With Washington

Fitzpatrick may be playing for his ninth team in his 17th season in the NFL, but he feels he’s got a lot of “great football” ahead. He also expressed his excitement to be playing with coach Ron Rivera and a young Washington football team that holds so much promise as the defending NFC East champions. Indeed, with one of the best defenses in the league, they’re a team to spot for NFL picks in the eyes of many NFL experts and pundits.

“I just feel like I’ve got a lot of great football ahead of me –which sounds crazy,” said Fitzpatrick to the media after signing with the Washington Football Team. “Being 38 years old and figuring some things out about myself, I just love football. I love the competition, I love the camaraderie, I love working together as a team for a common goal. And those are just things that I don’t know where else I would find that.”

There might be little to no buzz surrounding Fitzpatrick’s signing right now, but amongst teams in the league, there was some interest and competition for his services. Although, Fitzpatrick was reluctant to share which teams had been interested in him during free agency.

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“It was interesting that in Year 17, this was the most sought-after I had been in my whole career with all this free agency stuff,” said Fitzpatrick. “I think part of it was just the way it went the last two years — the adversity that we fought through as a team, [what] we were able to do as a team to turn it around in Miami.”

With the Washington Football Team, Fitzpatrick has a unique opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time in his career. What Washington gets in return is a veteran quarterback that is a perfect stop-gap to build a better team around. He brings a refreshing, boisterous charm and happy-to-be-playing attitude that is contagious. He’s a smart guy – Harvard grad, after all – that can be a coach, mentor, and leader on and off the field. He’s also tough, resourceful, resilient, a baller that players love to champion and fans love to root for. He’s the kind of player that inspires others around him, and that quality is simply priceless.

Ron Rivera HC of Washington
Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team. Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images/AFP

2021 Early NFL Futures

The Washington Football team is priced at +5000 to win Super Bowl 56 with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review) – an outlier bet that emphasizes just how improbable such a feat would be in the coming season with all the more legitimate contenders to consider in the first place.

However, in the context of the NFC East Washington’s future is more favorable, more competitive so to speak. To put it simply, oddsmakers are giving the Washington Football team a reasonable shot to win a second straight NFC East title.

By any yardstick, the Dallas Cowboys are the team to beat in the division, but Washington is considered to be the second-best bet in the division according to the early NFL division odds.

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Dallas Cowboys (+120)
Washington Football Team (+250)
New York Giants (+400)
Philadelphia Eagles (+500)
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