A month ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, three teams made headlines Friday with a couple of major first-round trades. Suddenly, the San Francisco 49ers are positioned to add one of this year's top quarterback prospects, while the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles are seemingly removed from the rookie QB market. Where does that leave the New England Patriots, one of several teams still after a long-term answer at the position? According to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, the Pats are still intent on either moving up for a QB or re-acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo for the 2021 season.
New England re-signed 2020 starter Cam Newton this offseason, inking the longtime Panthers QB to a one-year, $5.1 million deal worth up to more than $14 million. But Newton isn't necessarily guaranteed to retain the No. 1 job, in which he struggled for much of his debut Patriots season. Howe, meanwhile, reports the Patriots "already planned to remain aggressive on the quarterback front" entering the draft. They've been "all in" on the 2021 QB class, "heavily scouting" top prospects like Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones.
Now, after the 49ers' big move up to the No. 3 overall pick, the Pats remain "committed to exhausting their options ... either by drafting a top prospect or acquiring a veteran" like Garoppolo, per Howe. They'd likely need to trade all the way from No. 15 to the Falcons' No. 4 selection to guarantee a top QB pick -- a move that could cost even more than what the Niners paid (two future first-rounders and a 2021 third-rounder) to swap with Miami. But they could also target someone like Jones with a later top-10 pick.
If the draft doesn't shake in their favor, Garoppolo has already drawn the Patriots' interest. And "other teams don't believe" the 49ers' public and anonymous backings of Garoppolo as their 2021 starter, especially now that San Francisco has presumably moved up for a new QB. "Once the Niners stop bluffing," Howe reports, New England could be at the front of the line when it comes to trade talks for the former Super Bowl starter, who began his career as Tom Brady's backup with the Pats.
"If their ideal scenario involved Garoppolo," Howe writes, "that door might have cracked open a little wider."