The New England Patriots and Bill Belichick are looking for a franchise quarterback for the first time in two decades, and there are no sure-fire options out there. It’s slim pickings for the quarterback-needy this cycle.
Belichick could look to chuck this season away and dive head-first into the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes in 2021. Or, he could use his Jedi powers to mind-trick Andrew Luck into a return to football.
Neither seems likely. So Belichick and the Patriots will have to plunge into free agent pool, look at potential trade targets, or focus solely on this year’s crop of draft prospects – though, barring a trade, the Patriots sit outside the projected draft slots of this cycles top targets: Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert.
Why he’s a good fit Brissett is the Patriots former backup. He already knows the team’s offense and is currently playing under a cost-controlled contract in Indianapolis.
Brissett played well as the Colts emergency starter at the start of last season after Luck announced his shock retirement. Then he sustained an injury, his play dipped, and the Colts offense, essentially, collapsed. Still: Brissett finished ahead of Brady in down-to-down efficiency in 2019, and a fraction below him in total value.
Belichick and Brady couldn’t agree on a figure for his services in 2020 and beyond because Belichick wanted to pay him for his output, similar to Brissett’s $15m per year. Brady wanted to be paid like Tom bleeping Brady.
Brissett is a free agent at the end of this season, so could be a potential trade target. The Patriots know his strengths and weaknesses. He knows the offense. It would be the smoothest fit.
The Colts could recoup some value, which is what the modern NFL is all about. There is, however, a case to be made to hold onto Brissett, if only to knock the Patriots out of contention – though it’s tough to keep his cap hit ($22m) and Phillip Rivers’ ($25m) on the books together.
Why he’s a good fit Rosen has had a torturous two years. First, as a rookie with the Cardinals, he played in the least sophisticated offense in the league behind the worst offensive line. Then the Cardinals added Kyler Murray, brought in Kliff Kingsbury as coach, and shipped Rosen to the tanktastic Dolphins.
Rosen was awful at the start of his Miami run. How much of that was down to his own issues and how much was due to an average-to-worse supporting cast? Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins’ savvy veteran signal-caller, helped provide some of the answers.
It’s impossible at this point not to apportion some of the blame for Rosen’s early struggles down to the player himself. He’s been in some lousy situations, but he also hasn’t elevated those around him.
Growth isn’t always linear, though. The Dolphins got better as the season went along under Fitzpatrick in part because their young roster started to coalesce and the Dolphins first-year coaching staff start to better understand the job in front of them. Rosen was dumped from the team before he could experience some of that goodness. Miami will move on this offseason, dipping their toe into the draft pool to find their future starter.
But you best believe Bill Belichick is scanning for depreciated assets. A former first-round pick, once considered one of the most gifted players in the college game, plonked into two crappy situations in his first two years, available, most likely, for a mid-round draft pick? Sign him up.
The only follow-up questions: Would Miami be willing to deal within the division? And would they deal with Belichick?
Why he’s a good fit A Dalton is the dictionary definition of league average. He’s a rhythm thrower, someone who would fit in the Patriots carefully calibrated system. But he doesn’t add much oomph to an offense, either through mind-bending athleticism or brilliant decision-making. He’s fine, but nothing more.
As a stop-gap, he might make some sense, though. Dalton has consistently proven to be a net-neutral. He’s rarely the reason you lose, but he’s not the reason you win, either. If Belichick is looking for someone to muddle along with for a season, Dalton could be the guy. But he will offer little beyond that.
Why he’s a good fit Stidham is the Patriots current backup. He was, once, a highly regarded college football recruit. He put up ridiculous numbers at Baylor in a high-octane offense, showing an understanding of the nuances of the game that other numbers-churners in that offense had yet to show. He eventually moved on to Auburn and the SEC, college football’s top conference, where he was up-and-down. The move hit his draft stock, which led to Belichick nabbing him in the fourth round.
Belichick clearly sees the talent. Stidham has a rocket for an arm. His decision-making with the ball, however, is iffy. There’s nothing in the world pro football coaches prioritize like ball security.
Stidham would present a new frontier for the Patriots. He’s part of the new generation of quarterbacks swamping the league. He excelled in a pair of systems in college built around run-pass option designs, and he can really run. If Belichick wants to embrace all the pace-and-space fun that’s spread throughout the league, Stidham is not the worst starting point.
Why he’s a good fit Newton is a known commodity: A former league MVP, who’s mobile, with a big arm, a checkered injury record, inconsistent accuracy, and, at his best, one of the league’s most singularly unstoppable game-wreckers.
That’s the good news. The bad: Newton is former league MVP, who’s mobile, with a big arm, a checkered injury record, inconsistent accuracy, and, at his best, one of the league’s most singularly unstoppable game-wreckers.
The fear for any team looking to pick up the readily available Newton now is that you’re getting him at the back end of his career. Newton has to prove that he can evolve from someone who needs his mobility to win (the threat of it, at least) to someone who can consistently win from the pocket, using his legs as a supplement.
We saw that during his MVP season. He shredded defenses from inside the pocket, using his legs to break and run rather than moving to throw. But that’s vanished since, with his career descending into a battle of leaks and counter-leaks, typically about the severity of his injuries.
Here’s hoping Newton gets one last ride with a good team, injury-free. But he’s unlikely to be a gamble Belichick will take. The schematic and financial fit is too dicey for his taste.
Why he’s a good fit Fromm is a quarterback prospect in the upcoming draft with limited athletic ability – a weak arm, decent if unspectacular feet – but exceptional mental attributes. He’s one of the few college quarterbacks who orchestrated an entire offense: flipping plays, a full audible system, checking from bad plays into good ones, hot routes, the works. Despite his limitations, NFL teams are intrigued.
Belichick has worked with a quarterback who was considered an average prospect, who played with brains more so than brawn. It seemed to work out OK.