The New England Patriots took a flyer on Cam Newton in their first season post-Tom Brady, and the results were troubling: Amid a weakened supporting cast, Newton and Co. struggled to a 7-9 finish, with the team missing the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Now, as the 2021 NFL offseason approaches its official kickoff, the Pats are literally exploring almost every avenue to fix their quarterback situation. According to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, that includes calling about every veteran QB said to be available.
"Bill Belichick and the Patriots, in pursuit of an upgrade at the position, have had conversations regarding every potential trade target in the league," Howe reports. "(If) a quarterback has been perceived to be available, the Patriots have picked up the phone."
New England has been "disciplined" in its approach, Howe adds, noting that the Patriots talked with both the Lions and Eagles about Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz, respectively, but never engaged in serious negotiations because of steep asking prices. The team is also not opposed to re-signing Newton, per Howe. But their focus right now, with free agency less than a month away, is turning over every stone to find a potential replacement, whether it be on the open market or via trade.
Flush with 2021 salary cap space, the Patriots can conceivably afford just about any QB available, so long as they're willing to pay up. Among top trade candidates they've discussed, according to Howe: The Texans' Deshaun Watson, the Jets' Sam Darnold, the Raiders' Marcus Mariota, and the 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo, who spent the first four seasons of his career in New England. As for free agents, Howe lists Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor and Mitchell Trubisky as names that could draw the Patriots' interest in the event the Pats take another free-agent gamble at the position.