When the Patriots sent Brandin Cooks to Los Angeles last month in return for the Rams' first-round pick, that immediately prompted speculation that New England could be looking to trade up and take a quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft.
It didn't happen -- they stayed put in Round 1 and filled more immediate needs with offensive guard Isaiah Wynn (23rd overall) and running back Sony Michel (31st overall). There were reports that the Pats were high on Lamar Jackson and considered taking him at No. 31, but much bigger plans were in the works if the Browns didn't take Baker Mayfield with the first-overall pick.
At least according to Mayfield's agent, Jack Mills.
"We knew the Jets at No. 3 was the bottom line," Mills said during an appearance on former NFL executive Andrew Brandt's podcast. "We had another team -- which is going to surprise you -- another team had said, 'You may get a big surprise on draft day at No. 2 if [Mayfield] is available.' It was the Patriots. They had (No.) 23 and they had (No.) 31, and they had two seconds, and I don't know. We thought, boy, that's going to be a heck of a move to get up that high from where they are. And of course, he wasn't available so we never knew if that was a reality or not."
The Patriots trading up to No. 2 for Mayfield would've been the biggest draft-day development in recent history. Certainly bigger than the Broncos taking Tim Tebow late in Round 1 or the Browns doing the same with Johnny Manziel.
If nothing else, it's more evidence that the Browns got the right guy. It also makes you wonder why, an offseason after the Patriots were reportedly asking for two first-rounders for Jimmy Garoppolo, they were willing to let him go for a second-round pick in October. (There are theories.) And after sitting for a few weeks, Garoppolo won five straight games with the 49ers, a team that had just one win before he took over.
Maybe the Patriots didn't want to pay two franchise quarterbacks (San Francisco gave Garoppolo a five-year, $137.5 million extension in February), especially when 41-year-old Tom Brady insists that he's playing into his mid-40s. But if that's the case, going all in to get Mayfield would certainly be as awkward as having Garoppolo on the roster looking over Brady's shoulder. And while it would be cheaper, that's not accounting for all the high-round picks it would have cost New England to move up.
But it didn't happen; the Browns drafted Mayfield, the Jets took Sam Darnold and the Patriots passed on Jackson at No. 31, a pick before the Ravens traded up to get him. And they'll head into next season the exact same way they have for the last 17 years: With Brady as the unquestioned starter.