ASHBURN, VA. — Washington Football Team quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick — at age 38 and after eight different teams — wanted to keep playing for one simple reason: He feels he’s playing better than ever.
He also experienced something unusual this offseason.
He was in demand.
It may not have been the sort of bidding that surrounded Tom Brady last offseason, but for Fitzpatrick having more than three teams vying for him was different. He officially signed his one-year deal with Washington on Thursday. The contract is worth $10 million, but he can earn another $2 million in incentives. He’ll be its starting quarterback after spending the last two years in Miami.
“I have a lot of great football ahead of me, which sounds crazy,” he said. “After last season I was sitting with my wife and saying, ‘I think I’m playing better than I ever have and I still love playing this game.’ She looked at me and said, ‘You’d be crazy to not keep playing.'”
Fitzpatrick will become Washington’s eighth starting quarterback since the beginning of the 2019 season. He declined to say which other teams pursued him, adding only that it was more than three.
“I was just talking to my dad about it the other day, it was interesting that in year 17, this was the most sought-after I have been in my whole career,” Fitzpatrick said.
All he wanted, he said, was a chance to start– which Washington provides. He also said it came down to the “general direction of the team.” Washington is coming off a 7-9 season in which it won the NFC East. With a top defensive line and young roster — plus the addition of free agent receiver Curtis Samuel — the organization believes it will build on 2020.
In the last three seasons, covering 32 games, Fitzpatrick has thrown a combined 50 touchdown passes to 33 interceptions. In Miami the past two seasons, covering 24 games and 20 starts, he threw 33 touchdowns and 21 picks. In the last two years combined, Fitzpatrick ranks seventh with a total QBR of 71.5.
But with the Dolphins having drafted Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall last spring, Fitzpatrick’s stint in Miami was yet another short one. His longest tenure with one team is four years (Buffalo). Washington represents his sixth team since 2013.
Considering he’ll turn 39 in November, his time in Washington probably won’t be long either. There’s still a good chance Washington will draft a quarterback later this spring, one source told ESPN, allowing Fitzpatrick to again be in the mentorship role.
In Washington, he’ll be reunited with quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, who coached him for two years in Cincinnati — in 2007 and ’08.
“Part of my story is skipping around to different teams and trying to instill belief and just show that passion,” he said. “In Miami, it was getting guys that maybe didn’t believe in themselves before to believe. Every time I go to a new place it’s a new opportunity, a new adventure, a new journey for me and I get to reinvent myself and I have to prove myself and earn the respect of guys.”
But Fitzpatrick is well aware of why others enjoy playing with him, especially receivers. It’s why he’s thrown 223 career touchdown passes — but also 169 interceptions.
“I’m going to give my guys chances,” he said. “I’m not a guy that will sit there and be afraid to throw the ball down the field. I’ll try to make the right plays but if I have a chance and I’ve got my guy one-on-one, I’ll give them a chance. Guys like playing with me because of that. Playing with that absence of fear goes a long way. That style of play at quarterback is going away a little bit.”
But Fitzpatrick hasn’t gone away. He said he takes pride in now being with his ninth organization and joked that “every game is a revenge game” for him. He said he and his wife sell it to their seven kids as a new adventure whenever they have to move again.
Fitzpatrick came to peace with his nomadic career after leaving Buffalo following the 2012 season.
“For the guys that have been in one place their whole career and the timing and the comfortability and things like that,” he said, “I take a lot of pride in being able to do what I do and being successful jumping around from team to team.”
However, there are drawbacks in always going to a new team, like feeling both nervous and excited pulling up to the entrance gate at a facility.
“Is the guard going to recognize me? Is he going to think I’m Conor McGregor? Is he going to think I’m one of the ‘Duck Dynasty’ guys?” he said. “Sometimes they let you in; sometimes they don’t. Then you have to call somebody else and say, ‘I’m at the front gate.’ Once they let you past the gates then you don’t know where you’re going and you go from there.”