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Patriots Face a Dilemma At QB in 2021, What to Do?

Steve Balestrieri
3 days ago at 6:30 am ET

Patriots Face a Dilemma At QB in 2021, What to Do?Winslow Townson - USA TODAY Sports

Yes, we’ve been spoiled in New England when it comes to quarterbacks. Unlike many of the teams in the league, from 1993 through 2019, the Patriots knew who was going to be their starting QB. First, it was Drew Bledsoe, who was the starter from the time he was drafted with the #1 pick in 1993, until he was injured early in the 2001 season

Then Tom Brady took over and for the next 19 years, the Patriots were operating in rarified air. Brady took the Patriots to nine Super Bowls, winning six of them in a totally unfathomable act of longevity, consistency, and drive.

But alas…2020, was a bear, and with all of the COVID-19 coronavirus stories everywhere, the Patriots’ clock struck midnight. And instead of taking the field with Brady, he walked, ending up with the  Tampa Bay Bucs. And for the first time since the previous century, the QB situation was quite uncertain. So, at the end of June, the Patriots signed Cam Newton and we all know how that turned out.  

Now, the team is back to square one it seems, do they re-sign Newton and use him as a bridge quarterback, sign another veteran as a bridge QB, while they draft a young gun to lead the team into the next decade? Or do they sign/trade for one of the several veteran quarterbacks that “may” be available this spring? 

The Patriots have (right now) about $60 million dollars in salary cap space, the third-most in the NFL, somewhat of a rarity in the league.  With several veterans’ contracts that could be cut or reduced, that number may grow.  However, signing a marquee type of QB would eat nearly 50 percent (or more) into that number. 

Among those names being tossed about in the latter scenario are Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott, and of course Jimmy Garoppolo. It would seem that neither Wentz nor Ryan will be available because of their teams’ salary cap woes. The Eagles are a whopping $70 million dollars over the cap and trading Wentz and his bloated salary would add an additional $25 million penalty. Ouch. Tough times are ahead for whoever takes over the head coaching job there. Just three years ago, the team built a statue of Wentz’s back-up QB and the coach they just fired The Philly Philly illegal formation TD)…double ouch.  

Atlanta isn’t in much better straits with Matt Ryan’s contract. The Falcons (also looking for a new head coach), are currently over the salary cap by a cool $24 million and trading Ryan right now would add an additional $9 million. By trading either after the June 1st timeline, would push the cap penalties to the 2022 season, but if you are Bill Belichick do you want to bring in another QB at that late juncture again and try to learn the Patriots offense just before training camp? Whatever camp you are in vis-a-vis Newton, few knowledgeable people doubt things would have been better had he been in place since March.  

Prescott would be the best choice of the group IF his ankle and leg injury checks out fine, but his price tag will be really steep. Last year, before his injury, he played under the franchise tag of more than $31 million. He’ll be earning even more than that this year if he’s healthy. 

Jimmy G.? While fans and even Bill Belichick would love to see him back, his inability to stay on the field is a big red flag for anyone trying to trade for him, as well as his current team. He’s not cheap either, earning $25 million this year and next, which is a lot of cash for a QB with durability issues. And of course, what would the Niners want for him?    

The best bet is to bring in a savvy veteran with a mid-range salary to mentor a young guy and be a good serviceable QB for a year, maybe two. Brian Hoyer isn’t that guy and if the Patriots had any hopes that Jarrett Stidham was the man, then he’d have played much more down the stretch. So who could that be? 

Marcus Mariota? Yes, he looked good for one game and still has some wheels, but unless Josh McDaniels is enamored with him, I don’t see that. Teddy Bridgewater is a possibility, and I’ve always thought that he’d do well with the right coach and system. But would FA wide receivers want to come to New England and play with him? That’s the big question. 

While we don’t sit in the meeting room with the coaches, we don’t know how they feel about a lot of other veteran QBs, but I’d not be interested in Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Jameis Winston, or trading for Gardner Minshew.

On our recent Patriots 4th and 2 podcast, I cast my vote for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s played on every team in the AFC East except the Patriots and perhaps it is time to close the circle and bring him in for a year or two to ease the way. With the exception of Week 1 against the Patriots, Fitzpatrick had a pretty impressive 2020, completing 68.5 percent of his passes for 2091 yards with 13 TDs and 8 INTs. In fact, take away the Week 1 performance and he’d have completed 68.7 percent of his passes, with 8.01 yards per attempt with a QB rating of 102.2.

And he was the closer for the Dolphins after Tua took over and had several rookie struggles late in the season. Look at the way the Dolphins players felt about his leadership on and off the field. 

Fitzpatrick knows that Belichick likes his veteran players so, as long as he’s producing on the field, he won’t have to worry about getting the rug pulled out from him mid-stream.  He’s not a franchise QB but he’d be a good bridge guy and would be a much better fit to this offense than Cam was in 2020.  So if your bridge QB is in place, who do they target in the draft?

Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Justin Fields will all be gone very, very quickly, so we’re not even going to bother talking scenarios with them because…frankly, the Patriots would have to mortgage the house to move up that far in the draft. And with a lot of holes to fill, they can’t do that…they won’t do that. 

Everyone in New England has talked themselves into the availability of North Dakota State’s Trey Lance at #15 but I think he’ll be gone by then so…how far would they be willing to move up considering how much it is going to cost them?

Lance has the size (6’4, 225), excellent arm strength, super athleticism and has all the intangibles that you’d look for in a franchise QB. But he decided to forego his final two years of eligibility at NDSU, (it is a lower-tier type of school from the FBS)  to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. But he in only played one year, they played only one game in 2020. However, what a year it was for the talented QB. 

In 2019 he had a 66.9 completion percentage, 2,786 yards with 28 TD, 0 INT …that wasn’t a typo, he had no, none, nada picks in 2019. He also rushed for 1100 yards and another 14 TDs in NDSU’s undefeated FCS championship season. 

There is no doubting his raw talent, but his lack of experience may set his timetable back quite a bit. But to set the record straight, there is no way he’s around at #15. I can’t see Lance getting by Detroit (7th), Carolina (8th), Denver (9th), Dallas (10th if they don’t resign Prescott), San Francisco (12th), Minnesota (14th). So, if the Patriots are interested, they are going to have to move up to #6 and sweeten the pie for Philadelphia. 

They could make a move for Mac Jones or Kyle Trask on Day 2, but that is a crapshoot if they’re still there when the Patriots pick again at #47. Jamie Newman from Georgia is a possibility, but there are some questions with his footwork, working through his progressions, and seeing the field. Kellen Mond? Too inconsistent. 

It is going to be an interesting decision. Of course, it all depends on how the Patriots coaches (read Bill Belichick) feels about the quarterbacks out there. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall in the team’s draft room?  

****************Update***************

Our friend Miguel, aka @patscap sent the following this morning:

  FYI – Because of the Anthony Castonzo retirement the Patriots are now fourth in cap space. The Colts leapfrogged them. Trading Matt Ryan before 6/2 increases his dead money by $3.5M. The total dead money from such a trade is $44.4375M. Cutting him is what increases his dead money by $9M. Trading Wentz before 6/2 increases his dead money by over 800K. The total would be $33.8M. Cutting Wentz is what increases his dead money to $59.2M                                                                                                                                                                                                      

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Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Offseason
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Cam Newton New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots QBs Tom Brady


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