The New England Patriots are on the hunt for a quarterback, but it may not be going as smoothly as they imagined and/or hoped it would. According to Michael Giardi of the NFL Network, the Patriots -- like many other clubs throughout the league -- are not enamored with the current class of free agent quarterbacks that are set to officially hit the market in a couple of weeks. The key term to Giardi's report is "current" as this collection of passers could get a jolt between now and the actual start of free agency if certain teams cut bait with quarterbacks on their roster due to cap reasons. As Giardi reports, that appears to be the hope of a number of quarterback-needy teams leading into the start of the new league year.
From a Patriots standpoint, the two dominoes that could possibly fall that would almost certainly pique the interest of New England are Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers and Marcus Mariota out in Las Vegas. They were No. 1 and No. 2 on my recent ranking of veteran quarterbacks that could be an option for the Patriots in 2021. While each is a viable option to possibly bring New England back to relevancy, both are under contract with their current clubs at the moment, making it a bit more difficult than just offering them a contract had they simply been on the open market.
Out of these two, the one that has the best chance of being cut loose by their team is Mariota. The Raiders had already put the former No. 2 overall pick on the trade block, but the incentives in his contract have reportedly dried his market up. Las Vegas could clear about $10.725 million off their cap if they just cut Mariota, who has no remaining dead money left on his contract. During an offseason where the salary cap is expected to decrease from last year, that added flexibility could be a valuable asset even if the Raiders are technically not getting anything in return for their valuable backup QB.
As for Garoppolo, his situation is a bit more complex. Despite their public declarations of loyalty to the quarterback, there has been plenty of smoke surrounding the 49ers possibly searching for an upgrade at that spot. While a reunion with Garoppolo would likely be Plan A for New England, San Francisco would only move off him in the event that they actually find someone better, which does leave things a bit uncertain for the Patriots.
Circling back to this free agent pool, Jacoby Brissett is a familiar name, who gained some starting experience with the Colts. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cam Newton, and Tyrod Taylor are a few other veteran options out there, but each may not come with a ceiling high enough for the Patriots' liking. That likely is why New England is not only hoping more talented pieces fall onto the open market, but are also reportedly scouring the top prospects at the NFL Draft to possibly find a quarterback through that vehicle.
If he does elect to wait until the draft to truly zero in on a quarterback -- either via trade or by selecting a prospect -- the timing behind it may not be as beneficial to Bill Belichick in his daunting task of improving other areas of the offense this offseason, which is something to take note of as they continue searching for QB1.