New England Patriots

Patriots Still Unsettled at Most Important Position: Quarterback

Tom Brady isn't walking through that door. Is anyone else?

NBCUniversal, Inc.

There are plenty of more pressing issues across the globe at the moment, so don't feel bad if you're just finding out about the big moves the Patriots have made at quarterback this off-season.

It's still hard to fathom that New England released Cody Kessler. Oh, and Tom Brady signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With a little more than a week to go before the 2020 NFL Draft, the two quarterbacks currently on the roster are Jarrett Stidham, whose only career touchdown pass was to the other team, and Brian Hoyer, the lone passer to post a winning record for the Cleveland Browns since the turn of the century.

Tom E. Curran and Raul Martinez talk about former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's radio appearance and current Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham's future.

All this to say, it would be pretty stunning for the Patriots to not draft a quarterback at some point next week. Whether that's with their first-round pick (No. 23 overall), a mid- to late-round pick or a pick they haven't yet acquired is anyone's guess, but all signs point to the team drafting a quarterback for the third year in a row and fourth time in the last five seasons.

Unless, of course, the Patriots are tempted by a veteran signal-caller still available. Much has changed on the quarterback market since our last glance in January: Three of the 10 players listed as suitable Brady replacements (Phil Rivers, Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater) have either re-signed with their original team or signed elsewhere, but the status of every other passer listed remains in flux.

It's safe to rule out several lower-tier players from the original set, including a pair of passers still under contract in Miami: Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. Hoyer's return would make Fitzpatrick redundant, while taking on a project like Rosen in the age of social distancing would make little sense.

It's also become increasingly clear that the Lions are all-in for 2020, based on their moves early in free agency, meaning Matthew Stafford isn't going anywhere.

There were two unlisted passers, each of whom beat the Patriots in a Super Bowl. But if you were for some reason ever into Eli Manning, he's called it quits, while Nick Foles was dealt to the Bears to compete with Mitchell Trubisky.

That leaves us with four veteran quarterbacks still up for grabs: Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco.

A Massachusetts artist has been working on his time quarantine to work on a piece of art to say goodbye to former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Clearly, none are Brady. Are any of them a better option than Stidham, Hoyer or another rookie at this juncture? Let's weigh the pros and cons of a somewhat ignominious final four.

Cam Newton

There was some question in January as to whether the Panthers would move on from their franchise quarterback, a question that has since been answered: Carolina released its all-time leading passer on March 24 after signing Teddy Bridgewater in free agency. So Newton will no longer cost the Patriots any draft capital, just cold hard cash.

Newton, who missed the final 14 games of last season for the Panthers with a foot injury, has been posting videos of himself working out. Think the former Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 overall pick and league MVP has a chip on his shoulder after being unceremoniously discarded by the only franchise he's ever known?

This off-season is going to be strange amid the coronavirus pandemic, likely limiting the amount of time teams have to gather for OTAs, voluntary workouts, etc. -- if they're permitted to gather at all.

Though hardly apples to apples, it's not completely different from the 2011 off-season, when the owners locked the players out. The lack of contact didn't seem to negatively effect Newton, then yet to take an NFL snap, as he went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He's the most talented option available, and no one has worn No. 1 for the Patriots in an actual game since the '80s.

Jameis Winston

Wouldn't this be something: a de facto swap of Brady for Winston, who spent the first five seasons of his career with the Buccaneers.

Aside from the fact that both were once selected in the MLB Draft (Brady to the Expos, Winston to the Rangers), there are virtually no similarities between the two.

Winston won the Heisman Trophy and was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft; Brady split time in college and went 199th overall. Winston threw 30 interceptions last season alone; Brady has thrown 29 since the start of the 2016 season. Winston was suspended for three games for violating the league's personal conduct policy; Brady was somehow suspended for four games for possibly being generally aware of a scheme to deflate footballs.

One way to spin this: would you rather have Brady for two years, at age 43 and 44, at $25 million per season or more ... or would you rather have Winston, who just turned 26, at a fraction of the cost, on a prove-it deal? Winston did lead the league in passing yards in 2019, after all.

Stidham and Hoyer are much, much safer options than Winston. Ask yourself this, though: who has the greatest upside of the three?

Andy Dalton

Give Dalton credit: the fifth quarterback taken in the 2011 draft, he's appeared in more games than each of the first four -- a group that starts with Cam Newton and finishes with Jake Locker, Brady's new backup Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder.

That's about where the praise ends for Dalton, however, who is still under contract with the Bengals as they appear to zero in on Heisman-winning, championship-clinching quarterback Joe Burrow from LSU with the first pick.

In four career playoff games, Dalton has thrown one touchdown pass against six interceptions, completing just 55.7% of his passes while losing all the games. His career postseason passer rating is 57.8.

The highest single-game passer rating of Dalton's postseason career was 67.0 in 2013. For context, Brady has had 34 career playoff starts with a better mark than that.

Was it Dalton holding the Bengals back, or the other way around? He was horrible in 2019, posting a career-low in just about every metric, but it's not like he had any help around him. Even a diminished Patriots roster would be an upgrade from Dalton's last several outfits in Cincinnati.

Joe Flacco

Rounding out the retreads is Flacco, the lone quarterback of this group to win a Super Bowl. He's also the only one who's yet to be linked to the Patriots in any way at all.

Denver moved on from the Super Bowl XLVII MVP after just one injury-plagued season and has gained little traction on the free agent market, to the point he appears to be pitching himself to other teams as a backup.

In other words: nothing to see here.

Contact Us