The Patriots are a team without a quarterback at the moment, which is essentially the last place you want to be in the NFL. For the second offseason in a row, they are looking to replace Tom Brady, who seems to be enjoying himself quite a bit as he celebrates his Super Bowl LV title after inking a deal with the Buccaneers last March. For his old club in New England, it's back to the drawing board after a 2020 season that saw them under .500 for the first time since 2000 and on the outside looking in for the postseason.
What Bill Belichick has working in his favor this offseason is that his club is now armed with a ton of cap space and owns a number of draft picks -- including No. 15 overall -- that he can utilize to improve the collective talent of his club. However, finding the quarterback needs to be priority No. 1. We're going to highlight and rank a number of realistic options the Patriots could target to be their next quarterback heading into 2021.
This list will be reserved for signal-callers already in the league, leaving out the potential for New England to draft someone at No. 15. However, outside of possibly the top-two options on this list, adding a young prospect like Mac Jones, Justin Fields, Trey Lance or whoever falls to them in the first round would be an ideal complement to the veteran signee and give New England's QB room much higher upside going forward.
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Before we get to the list, let's quickly mention a few quarterbacks who are not on here. That would include some of the higher-profile players who are reportedly on the block like Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. Not only have these quarterbacks not identified New England as a place they'd want to land, but the Patriots don't have enough assets to outbid other QB-needy teams (Jets, Panthers, Dolphins, etc.) for their services. The other QB who isn't on here is Sam Darnold because New York would absolutely not trade him within the division.
Veteran QB options
Pretty obvious, right? Jimmy Garoppolo has been the most popular name talked about when discussing potential quarterbacks the Patriots could acquire this offseason. Belichick essentially drafted him for this post-Brady period and it seems only fitting that things come full circle and he fulfills his destiny in Foxborough. Despite publicly stating that they are sticking by Garoppolo heading into 2021, there is a ton of smoke around the 49ers, who are seemingly testing the waters in hopes of finding an upgrade. New England may have to wait until the draft to see if Garoppolo becomes available, but if the Niners swing a deal for Sam Darnold and pick a QB in the draft, it wouldn't be surprising to hear that Belichick was quick to call San Francisco about his former second-round pick.
Mariota opened a lot of eyes with his performance back in Week 15 when he came in under duress for an injured Derek Carr. The former No. 2 overall pick came out of the gate with some nice passes, completed around 60% of his throws for 226 yards, and kept the Raiders in contention, despite falling to the Chargers. He also rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown in that contest. That game now has teams intrigued about possibly acquiring Mariota to see if he can provide that play on a weekly basis. While it doesn't appear like clubs want to take on his current contract, Mariota could be released by the Raiders, who are looking to get some cap relief. If that's the case, he's a strong target for the Patriots.
He's still relatively young at 27 years old, has 61 starts under his belt dating back to his days in Tennessee, and has largely kept turnovers to a minimum. After finding success with Cam Newton's rushing ability in 2020, New England could also utilize Mariota's mobility in its offense as well.
Another member of the infamous Wolf Pack that the Patriots had under their roof not too long ago. Similar to Garoppolo, Brissett brings a familiarity of the Patriots offense with him that would make a transition a bit more seamless if New England were to re-acquire him in free agency. While the ceiling may not be tremendously high for the former third-rounder, if the right situation is built around him, he should be able to win games for Belichick. That said, Brissett did come out of the gate strong back in 2019 as a member of the Colts. Through the first six games, he completed 65% of his throws, averaged 231.3 passing yards per game, and had 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions. If the Patriots could get that from Brissett on a consistent basis, that'd be a massive addition.
He's played for every other team in the AFC East, so why not take the full tour? Fitzpatrick would be an ideal addition for the Patriots in the event that they also draft a quarterback at No. 15. Similar to how the veteran operated last season in Miami, he could begin the year as the starter and allow whichever rookie quarterback that comes in the necessary time to get acclimated to the NFL. As we've seen over the last few years, FitzMagic still has plenty of fuel in his arm and would give New England an aerial attack that they were lacking in 2020.
5. Cam Newton
While most fans have automatically ruled out a Cam Newton return in 2021, I'm not so bullish on that assumption. As I've noted in the past, there does seem to be a solid chance that Newton finds his way back to New England next season. Despite his struggles, Bill Belichick was extremely loyal to Newton throughout last year and it wouldn't be too surprising to see him remain loyal as he hits free agency, especially if the Patriots aren't able to land a top-tier option. There would also be motivation on Newton's end as New England likely gives him the best opportunity to start next year.
6. Tyrod Taylor
Tyrod Taylor has largely been a bridesmaid and never the bride throughout his pro career. After finding his footing as a starter in Buffalo, the Bills eventually let him go for Josh Allen. That trend continued during his next few stops in Cleveland (replaced for Baker Mayfield) and Los Angeles (replaced for Justin Herbert). When given the starting job, however, Taylor has been serviceable. Over the course of his three years as the Bills starter from 2015-2017, Taylor was efficient and kept his turnovers extremely low, which is an attractive trait to New England. The 31-year-old isn't a long-term option for the Patriots but could be a good stop-gap that gives them a nice blend of mobility and efficiency in the passing game, something they searched for desperately last year with Newton.
7. Andy Dalton
At one point last offseason, it felt like Dalton was destined to be the veteran that inks a deal with the Patriots, but he opted to be Dak Prescott's backup for his hometown Cowboys. After Prescott suffered that gruesome ankle injury, Dalton was able to start nine games for Dallas and went 4-5 over those games. From New England's point of view, the 33-year-old is another veteran that is likely best as a combination paired with a high draft pick. He's more traditional than some of the quarterbacks above him on this list and the playbook would probably be more similar to 2019 than 2020 if they were to bring him aboard.
If Bridgewater were a free agent, he'd probably be higher on this list. However, he's under contract with the Panthers and would only become available if Carolina pulls off a blockbuster trade that lands them a superstar QB. Because there is a more difficult path to Foxborough, it's knocked Bridgewater down a few pegs. While the Panthers went 4-11 with Bridgewater as the starter in 2020, the 28-year-old was pretty efficient. He completed nearly 70% of his passes and had a passer rating of 92.1 last season. That skill set is something Belichick values tremendously and Bridgewater has shown through his undefeated run with the Saints in 2019 that he can lead a capable roster to victories. Again, it really just comes down to whether or not he becomes available.
The Jaguars are about to usher in the Trevor Lawrence era, leaving Gardner Minshew no room to reclaim the starting job in Jacksonville. This could be an opportunity for the Patriots to acquire Minshew, who is extremely low-cost, and see if he can evolve into an even better starter than he was over the course of his rookie and sophomore seasons. Throughout his first two campaigns, Minshew has kept his interceptions relatively low and has been pretty accurate, completing 62.9% of his throws thus far. This could be a low-risk, high-reward option that won't cost New England much to acquire.
10. Nick Foles
It would be a bit odd to have the quarterback who snatched a Super Bowl LII title away from them now putting on their uniform as the starter, but after all the curveballs that the past year-plus has given us, we probably wouldn't even bat an eye. Similar to Bridgewater, Foles is still under contract and the Bears and would likely need Chicago to upgrade the QB position before they consider moving him. They also need to be willing to swallow a dead cap hit of around $10 million. If Chicago solidifies its quarterback situation, however, Foles is a pretty cheap option for New England the next two seasons. While he likely isn't going to reach that Super Bowl-winning ceiling again, he could be another steady veteran option that takes coaching well.