The New England Patriots have made a flurry of moves during the free agency period this off-season. So far they have spent $159.6 million in guaranteed money on free agents since the new league year started on March 17. This off-season the Patriots have agreed to deals with various players, including Justin Bethel, Jonnu Smith, Matt Judon, Jalen Mills, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, Kyle Van Noy, Nick Folk, David Andrews, and James White. They also agreed to a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders for offensive tackle Trent Brown and re-signed Cam Newton to a one-year contract this off-season. The team has made some really good additions, but the New England Patriots quarterback situation must be further addressed.
New England Patriots Quarterback Situation Must Still Be Addressed
Currently, the Patriots have Jarrett Stidham, Jake Dolegala and Newton as the quarterbacks listed on their roster. None of those signal callers are capable of helping the Patriots make a deep run in the playoffs this season. Even if the Patriots are able to be somewhat successful with solid defensive play and a good running game, subpar quarterback play will keep them from truly being contenders this season. And none of the quarterbacks currently on the Patriots roster is the long-term solution. For 20 seasons the Patriots had Tom Brady under center so this isn’t something they are used to having to address. But with Brady no longer in New England after joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last off-season, the Patriots find themselves having to address the quarterback position.
Cam Newton Breakdown
Last season Newton threw for 2,657 yards and eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns. For his career, Newton has completed 60.1 percent of his passes and thrown 190 touchdowns and 118 picks. He has also rushed for 5,398 yards and 70 touchdowns. Newton has fumbled the ball 55 times (25 on passing plays and 30 on rush attempts).
Newton has always been an incredible athlete who is an OK quarterback. He had one tremendous stretch of games in 2015 while with the Carolina Panthers and was the league’s MVP that season. But outside of that season Newton has proven himself to be an average quarterback. And now Newton, as he has gotten older and suffered various injuries, isn’t the athlete he once was. So he has lost the one advantage he has had during his career.
Options for the Patriots
The two options everyone will point to for the Patriots are a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to bring Jimmy Garoppolo back to New England or them drafting Mac Jones in this year’s draft, especially if he is still available when they pick at 15.
If they are able to draft Jones at 15 that would mean not having to give up draft capital to acquire him. That would be the ideal situation. Last season Jones put up really impressive numbers with the Alabama Crimson Tide. In 2020 Jones completed 77.4 percent of his passes and threw for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns with only four interceptions and helped Alabama win a national championship.
Jones doesn’t have the mobility and raw athleticism of some of the other quarterbacks in this year’s draft, but he is really accurate and good at manipulating the pocket. He was also a good leader and locker room presence while at Alabama. If the Patriots draft Jones he could learn their system and get acclimated to the NFL while Cam Newton is under center in 2021. And if Newton does really struggle and Jones thrives in the Patriots system, Jones could take over quarterback duties this season.
The Patriots drafted Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. They then traded him to the 49ers in 2017. The 49ers recently completed a trade with the Miami Dolphins where San Francisco moved up to the third overall pick in this year’s draft. Many believe this move means the 49ers will select one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft. That could mean Garoppolo would be available in a trade, unless the 49ers want whichever quarterback they draft to sit behind Garoppolo for a season.
The 49ers, as currently constructed, can win now and they might not want to allow a rookie to learn on the job in their first year, especially if this year’s off-season is once again affected by COVID. That could mean Garoppolo isn’t actually available or the 49ers asking price would be too steep. It would not be wise for the Patriots to overpay for Garoppolo.
The Patriots most likely will not be capable of a deep playoff run with Newton under center in 2021. Their margin for error would simply be too small in that scenario. Garoppolo has done some nice things in San Francisco under Kyle Shanahan, but he probably isn’t the long-term solution for New England. The Patriots should target Mac Jones, even if it means having to give up draft picks in order to move up to do so. Doing so could mean the Patriots possibly being a contender in 2021 and being able to build around a talented quarterback on a rookie contract.