Tom Brady’s career as a Patriot might be over, but that doesn’t mean Bill Belichick is done hunting Super Bowl rings. Rest assured that the greatest coach in NFL history – arguably in sports history – has been building his Brady-contingency plans for a long, long time.
Currently, it seems the franchise is in no rush to name Brady’s successor. This might be for a number of reasons; maybe they’re waiting for a free-agent option to present itself; or maybe there’s a trade package being prepared behind the scenes; or maybe even they’ll give current backup Jarrett Stidham the chance to shine in training camp.
Whatever the case maybe, rest assured that the sport’s most dominant franchise won’t be resting on its laurels and hoping for luck to bring it yet another Super Bowl appearance. With most other players in the market for starting QB’s already committed – the Chargers to Tyrod Taylor, the Dolphins to Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Panthers to Teddy Bridgewater, the Bears to Nick Foles and the Raiders to Marcus Mariota – there’s apparently no need to make any rash decisions this far out from the start of the season.
With that in mind, here are the seven quarterbacks the SportsTips.com’s staff think are likeliest to start the 2020-21 season under center for the Patriots.
1. Jarrett Stidham
There’s perhaps a very good (and obvious) reason why Belichick seems in no rush to make any drastic moves in free agency; Stidham might actually be good.
The fourth round pick in last year’s draft took a stack of reps in training camp and the 2019 regular season thanks to a series of family commitments and injuries which held Brady out of his usual load of first-team reps. According to all reports he made the most of them, with a series of Patriots’ beat writers comparing Stidham’s rookie showings favorably to Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.
The 23-year-old out of Baylor did enough in the preseason to displace veteran Brian Hoyer as the No. 2 option on the depth chart and, while the Patriots re-signed Hoyer yesterday to a one-year deal, there’s nothing to suggest that the result of a second QB battle between the two will play out any differently to the first.
Stidham has some obvious deficiencies – highlighted by a bad pick six thrown in Week 3 when replacing Brady late – but Belichick’s actions often speak louder than his words. Signing Hoyer – already beaten out by Stidham once – would seem to indicate the franchise is prepared to make Stidham, whose 2019 preseason stats were phenomenal, the starter in to the foreseeable future.
With so many capable, veteran QB’s still on the market – and likely to remain there for the foreseeable future – showing faith in Stidham would be an enormous call, but all signs are pointing to it happening.
2. Andy Dalton
The Red Rifle is no doubt the most reliable veteran looking for a home, and would have to be Belichick’s first option should he choose to go down that path.
Dalton’s abilities as a game manager are renowned, and he’s proven more than capable of leading a quality team to a playoff berth. Beyond that, though, he’s limited.
2019 was a disaster for Dalton’s stocks, as he struggled mightily with an abysmal supporting cast around him. However, his cap hit is just $17 million, and his services are likely available from Cincinnati for a late-round pick, the cost is low, but so is the ceiling.
Really, this all depends on Belichick’s assessment of his team as it stands. If he believes they’re good enough to contend with a game manager at the helm, Dalton is the perfect fit.
3. Cam Newton
In terms of reliability Newton is at the opposite end of the spectrum to Dalton, which is a blessing and a curse.
The injury-prone former MVP remains one of the most electric players in football when healthy, but that’s a big caveat. There’s no guarantee he’ll ever be healthy again, and at this stage – with the Panthers signing Bridgewater – there’s every chance he finds himself released in the near future.
The real problem for Newton is that his 2020-21 cap hit is at a monumental $21 million, which is a massive risk for any team looking to sign him. That said, just imagine what Josh McDaniels could devise with Newton under centre. The Patriots reportedly loved Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield out of college, and it’s not difficult at all to imagine Belichick getting whacky with some spread offensive schemes influenced by the college system.
It’s just… This feels too risky for a franchise which has built itself on making the smart decisions. Newton’s 6-5, 245-pound frame has taken a hammering over the years and it’s hard to see him ever operating at full fitness again.
4. Jamies Winston
Speaking of unreliability…
Winston is coming off a season in Tampa in which he hit career highs in passing yards (5,109) and touchdown passes (33) but also interceptions (30). Individually, his stats are eye-popping across the board (on several levels), but it’s alarming that the fifth-year pro is yet to make a single playoff appearance despite having one of the most talented receiving corps in the league.
Playing in Winston’s favor is that he’s a free agent, which means he could be enticing on a team-friendly deal. He’s a good height, has a huge arm and is solid athletically, but his decision-making is atrocious.
This could be an attractive option for Belichick, if he trusts the Patriots’ system to impose some discipline on one of the more wayward gunslingers we’ve seen in recent times.
5. Jacoby Brissett
Once a Patriot, always a Patriot?
Brissett was ultimately underwhelming last season when thrown the reigns in Indianapolis after Andrew Luck’s shock retirement, and consequently the Colts made an offer to Phillip Rivers in free agency, who quickly accepted.
That will likely spell the end of the Brissett era in Indy, but it might just be the start of his career as a starting NFL QB. The 27-year-old out of NC State knows the Patriot system well after spending the start of his career in New England, and the flashes he showed last season (which, admittedly, was cruelled by injury) might be enough to convince Belichick to bring him back.
Brissett is probably the safest option on this list.
6. Josh Rosen
Rosen is exactly the kind of discarded, undervalued option which Belichick has become famous for finding.
A first-rounder in 2018, Rosen will come cheap after failing to live up to expectations in Arizona or Miami – his cap hit for next season is just $2 million. The Patriots apparently liked Rosen out of UCLA and perhaps all he needs to find his range is the kind of stable environment New England offers.
At the very least, Rosen would give Stidham a decent battle in training camp.
Written and produced by SportsTips.com
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