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Monday Patriots Notebook 3/11: News and Notes

The Mac Jones era came to an end in New England with the Patriots on Sunday.

Ian Logue
Ian Logue on Twitter
March 11, 2024 at 11:20 am ET

Monday Patriots Notebook 3/11: News and Notes(PHOTO: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 6 minutes

Some Patriots news and notes for this Monday:

Patriots Close the Book on Mac Jones

Many believed that the Patriots would move on from Mac Jones this offseason, with a couple of reports last week saying that the club would explore potential suitors for their former first-round quarterback.

Apparently, it didn’t take long for the club to find a partner to consummate a deal.

The Patriots agreed on a trade that sent Jones to Jacksonville on Sunday, ending his time in New England.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported the Patriots had multiple teams interested in acquiring Jones, but it ended up being the Jacksonville Jaguars who were the ones who offered the most to bring him back to his hometown.

The Jaguars reportedly offered up a sixth-round selection for Jones, which is the first step this offseason as the club begins revamping its quarterback room.

Jones’ final year obviously didn’t turn out well, with new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien unable to salvage the former Alabama quarterback.  Having also worked at Alabama, O’Brien’s addition seemed to be a perfect match, with many believing that he might be able to get Jones back to the player he was during his rookie season when he led the club to a 10-7 finish and its first playoff appearance since 2019.

Instead, things didn’t pan out.  Jones finished the 2023 season 224-of-345 (64.9%) for 2,120 yards along with 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.  He was benched multiple times this season, with a rough showing in Germany, followed by one final opportunity against the Giants – where he threw two first-half interceptions – closing the door on his time as New England’s starter.

Meanwhile, Bailey Zappe made a move he’ll likely regret after “liking” the NFL’s post on Instagram announcing Jones’ trade to Jacksonville.

Bailey Zappe - Mac Jones Trade (Instagram)

(PHOTO: Bailey Zappe liked the NFL’s post announcing the trade of Patriots QB Mac Jones to Jacksonville.)

Zappe obviously took over the Job from Jones midseason and finished out the year, although while there was initially some improvement, he ultimately didn’t fare much better than Jones did.

The second-year quarterback finished the season completing 127-of-212 (59.9%) for 1,272 yards with 6 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.

The bad news is that Zappe likely isn’t in the clear.  New England is expected to both potentially address their QB situation via free agency, as well as in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft.  If they sign a veteran and draft someone next month, that would put four QBs on the roster.

Having already seen what Zappe did as a starter, it could instead see the Patriots turn their attention to trying to find out what Rourke can offer them over the former Western Kentucky quarterback.

Needless to say, should things play out that way, it could put Zappe’s future in New England potentially in jeopardy.

Trade Marks an Interesting Parallel

Sunday’s trade is an interesting situation because the Jaguars acquired Jones due to the fact they didn’t feel like they had a viable backup on their roster.  Current backup C.J. Beathard remains reportedly banged up coming off last season, and there appear to be questions regarding his health.  That left Jacksonville in need of trying to put a higher-quality player behind starter Trevor Lawrence, who missed time last season.

However, New England actually stole the Jaguars’ top quarterback prospect in December when Jacksonville waived former CFL QB Nathan Rourke in an attempt to put him on their practice squad.  The Patriots instead put in a claim for him, with Rourke working his way up the depth chart by the end of the season, ending up as the backup ahead of Jones in the final game of 2023.

Prior to the start of last season, Rourke had put together a pretty good resume ahead of his first year in the NFL.  He had a solid preseason, finishing 23-of-35 for 348-yards including a touchdown, with Rourke finishing as the only Jaguars QB without an interception in the preseason.

His lone touchdown pass was also certainly memorable, with Rourke breaking tackles and escaping from four defenders while still having one player having him wrapped up as he fired a strike downfield against Dallas for a 21-yard touchdown.   He also showed some speed, running another in from four yards out.

Rourke, who was among the top CFL quarterbacks and left last offseason to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL, spoke with British Columbia’s Donnie and Dhali in an interview back in January to talk about his journey and his first season in the league.

Nathan Rourke

(PHOTO: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)

He was asked if he gained some confidence in his first season, and Rourke said it was a learning experience and he’s looking forward to see where it takes him.

“I definitely think I did,” said Rourke.  “I mean there’s certainly some things, obviously there’s some limitations that you’re not getting in and playing as much as other guys.  But I certainly didn’t let that stop me.  I was trying to improve really everything I could during practice, after hours, trying to get better and I feel a lot better than I did at that the beginning of the year.”

“I’m looking forward to that opportunity.  I think one of these things I took away from this season is I definitely can play in this league.  I think I can have success in this league and that confidence just coming from the preseason but also just kind of what happened around the league.  I feel like that’s kind of building in me, and I’m looking forward to getting after it next season, whatever that looks like.”

Overall, he’s a player who is missed back in Canada and while they’re wishing him the best, he’s a player who was coming off of one of his best seasons.  He was 8-1 as a starter in 2022, including leading the league with 3,281 passing yards, as well as leading the CFL with 25 touchdowns.

He suffered a foot injury that season which required surgery, but Rourke eventually ended up coming back and won the regular season finale, although his club lost its playoff game that season.  Rourke ended up being named the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian, essentially the equivalent of the NFL’s MVP.

For now, he’s focused on “paying his dues,” with Rourke working hard to build off his first year in the league.  The Patriots also recently picked up his exclusive rights tender, which will allow him to continue his NFL journey here in New England – wherever it leads – in the coming months.

Oddly enough for both Jones and Rourke, a trip to Jacksonville is on New England’s schedule in 2024.

Kendrick Bourne

(PHOTO: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

Bourne Back in the Fold

There was some additional good news on Sunday, as the Patriots extended wide receiver Kendrick Bourne ahead of free agency.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Sunday night that the club had agreed to terms with Bourne on a new deal for 3-years and worth up to $33 million, which will keep him in the fold through 2026.

The veteran receiver had gotten off to a strong start last season before he suffered a torn ACL on the first play of the fourth quarter during the team’s Week 8 loss in Miami.  Bourne had been the team’s receiving leader to that point, with Bourne hauling in 37 passes for 406 yards and 4 touchdowns, significantly farther ahead of the next-closest player in Hunter Henry, who had 23 catches for 238-yards and 2 touchdowns at that point in the season.

Bourne said last week in an interview with NFL Network’s Patrick Clayborn on NFL Total Access that his rehab coming off his ACL is going well and that he expects to be ready to go in time for the start of the regular season next September.

“My plan is to play Game 1 and I believe I’m going to be ready,” said Bourne. “Where I’m at right now, on track, ahead of schedule and I feel good. So, building that confidence, building my strength in my legs so that I can be ready to go Game 1.”

Patriots Cold on Maye?

One interesting bit of leftover news coming off of last week is it sounds like the Patriots may be limited in terms of who they believe is worthy of their pick at #3 overall.

According to NFL writer Tony Pauline, teams in the NFL appear somewhat “hot and cold” when it comes to Drake Maye, who many have as a player who could be selected among the top-three signal-callers.

However, when it comes to the Patriots, it sounds like they also may not necessarily be sold on Maye, either.  Pauline said he was told at the combine that “the New England Patriots would trade back if Jayden Daniels did not drop to their slot.”

The news is certainly interesting, and it also makes what potentially happens this week – should the Patriots fail to land a veteran in free agency – that much more significant.

Odds and Ends:

One potential name that was a longshot to begin with was removed from the equation over the weekend after Tampa Bay agreed to terms with Baker Mayfield on a new 3-year deal worth a reported $100 million.  Multiple reports had him as an unlikely candidate barring whatever interest he received in free agency, but now he can definitely be crossed off the list. … Russell Wilson was another name who some thought might be a consideration, but the Steelers are set to spend 2024 seeing if he might be their solution after signing Wilson to a one-year deal. … Scott Zolak tweeted on Sunday that, “hearing Monday & Tuesday get ready for fireworks,” said Zolak referring to the upcoming legal tampering period and free agency.  “Lots of irons in the fire.” … Doug Kyed reported on Monday that the Patriots are expected to release special teamer Chris Board.  Board appeared in all 17 games for the Patriots in 2023.  MassLive’s Mark Daniels also pointed out that Board was scheduled to have a cap hit of $2.9 million in 2024 and his release will save the Patriots $1.96 million against the cap.

READ NEXT:
Are the Patriots Cold on Drake Maye?

About Ian Logue

Ian Logue is a Seacoast native and owner and senior writer for PatsFans.com, an independent media site covering the New England Patriots and has been running this site in one form or another since 1997.


Tags: Bailey Zappe Baker Mayfield Chris Board Drake Maye Jayden Daniels Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Nathan Rourke

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