Andy Dalton, New England Patriots A Bad Fit

Free agency is still over two months away yet people cannot stop talking about the New England Patriots quarterback situation. Tom Brady is set to hit the open market for the first time in his career, and there is a possibility that the six-time Super Bowl champion wears a different uniform in the 2020 season. While the Patriots should obviously do everything in their power to keep Brady in Foxboro, some cannot help but look at possible alternatives for 2020. One of the most popular fits is Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, but a pairing between Dalton and the Patriots just makes no sense.

New England Patriots Should Steer Clear of Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton Not Worth the Price

For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that Tom Brady won’t play in Foxboro next year. Everyone universally agrees that Brady is the best quarterback for the 2020 Patriots, and it makes sense for him and the team to come to a new agreement. However, if the Patriots have to replace Brady, Dalton just doesn’t make sense.

Dalton is still under contract for one more season, and the Patriots would have to give up draft capital in order to get the quarterback on the roster. New England needs all the draft picks they can get, as the offense could use an influx of youth across the board. Dalton wouldn’t cost a first-round pick, as he’s a slightly below-average quarterback in the final year of his deal. However, he’s still a starting-caliber passer, and that means New England would have to give up at least a third-round pick for his services.

If the Patriots acquired Dalton, they’d also acquire his $17.7 million cap hit. New England can afford that contract in a vacuum, but it will limit their ability to be active in the open market. Even if you assume Brady is gone (which you shouldn’t), the Patriots also have to think about retaining key players like Joe Thuney, Devin McCourty, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins. Pro Football Focus research shows franchise quarterbacks are worth these high cap hits, but Dalton isn’t a franchise quarterback.

So Who Should They Get?

If Brady leaves, New England’s best option is figuring out what they have in Jarrett Stidham. Stidham, a 2018 fourth-round pick, beat out Brian Hoyer for the backup job and impressed during his time in the preseason. Whether he can be a franchise cornerstone is anyone’s guess, but the Patriots owe it to themselves to see what they have in the second-year passer.

It’s essentially impossible to win in today’s NFL without a high-powered passing attack. The goal of every team in the league is to win the Super Bowl, and the best way to do that is by finding a franchise quarterback. At this point, everyone knows that Andy Dalton is a fine bridge quarterback but isn’t capable of elevating the pieces around him. Nobody knows whether or not Stidham can do it, but Bill Belichick wouldn’t have let Stidham be the lone backup last year if he didn’t think Stidham had the skills to eventually become “the guy”. If Stidham starts and succeeds in 2020, then the Patriots have their quarterback of the present and future. If he fails, then the Patriots should have the draft capital necessary to get their quarterback of the future in the 2021 NFL Draft.

No matter how good he looked in the preseason, entrusting an entire season to Stidham is remarkably risky. The Patriots should add another quarterback if Brady leaves, but they should wait until the NFL Draft to do so. The Patriots have one pick in the first round and three in the third. If they so choose, New England should be able to select a quarterback to compete with Stidham. No matter who they end up taking, the best move for New England’s future is to go with the young blood rather than shoot for mediocrity with Andy Dalton.

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