The Only Two Options the Patriots Have at Quarterback for 2021

New England needs to do something to show they’re not punting on the quarterback position

As quarterback dominoes continue to fall around the NFL, it’s time for the Patriots to figure out their plan at signal caller.

They’ve had a great offseason so far after a disappointing 2020 campaign. With a lot of cap space to work with, Bill Belichick and the front office went on a free agent frenzy last month. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the team shelled out an NFL record $159.6 million in guaranteed money for the players they’re bringing in.

They boosted their front seven with the signings of Matt Judon, Davon Godchaux, and Henry Anderson. They improved their weapons on offense by bringing in the top two tight ends on the market in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, and two productive wide receivers in Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. They were also able to retain center David Andrews, running back James White, and bring back linebacker Kyle Van Noy. All the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place.

Except for the quarterback position.

The Patriots can’t go into 2021 with a quarterback room of just Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham. After Monday’s Sam Darnold to Carolina trade, another team that isn’t the Patriots was able to find their guy. Below are the two options New England should consider to help improve their quarterback room for 2021.

Option A: Trade Up in April’s Draft for a Quarterback

The Patriots should throw the kitchen sink at the Atlanta Falcons for the fourth pick in the draft. After San Francisco’s trade up to the third pick, the first three selections are likely to all be quarterbacks. Chris Simms, who is close with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, said on PFF Live that he’d be “shocked” if they didn’t take Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. ESPN’s NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay said he is “hearing a lot of noise” that Jones is their preference at pick number 3.


This would leave the Patriots with their choice of either North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Ohio State’s Justin Fields at pick number 4.

As far as who to pick, that’s up to Bill Belichick. My understanding is that Lance may have a higher NFL IQ than Fields due to the pro-style offense he played in at North Dakota State. Fields is a better athlete than Lance, but mostly played in a one-read spread system in Columbus. In Todd McShay’s most recent mock draft he has Fields sliding to pick 11 with the Patriots trading up to draft him.

Neither Lance or Fields are considered plug-and-play guys like Trever Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones. They’re seen as developmental prospects and may not be ready to start week one.
 
That’s where Cam Newton comes in. Newton knows his role on this team. He wouldn’t have signed for a short money incentive-laden contract if he didn’t. He knows he isn’t the future in New England, and he’s embraced the Patriot Way. I believe there’s an understanding between Cam and the Patriots that he’s here to be a PIECE of the quarterback room, not the whole thing. In this scenario Cam would be a bridge quarterback to the younger signal-caller until they’re ready to play.

Option B: Trade for Jimmy Garoppolo

Now that San Francisco has the third pick and is set to take a quarterback, it’s time for them to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo knows the Patriots system, and Belichick loves Jimmy G. Jimmy would probably still be here if Bill wasn’t forced to make a decision between him and Tom Brady back in 2017.

Yes, Garoppolo costs a lot of money and yes, he has an injury history. Taking on Jimmy’s contract may be complicated, but the Patriots still have a good chunk of cap space and can justify the high price due to how little they pay Newton and Stidham. Garoppolo also has a no-trade clause baked into his contract, and there’s a chance he’d take a pay cut since he can choose where he wants to go.

As far as the injury history goes, the Patriots have arguably the best offensive line in football. Garoppolo would be better protected here than he ever was in San Francisco. On top of this, the system they would build around him will be suitable to his strengths: getting the ball out quickly to athletes in space. He is familiar with Kendrick Bourne already, and has had success with high level tight ends like George Kittle in the past. At the end of the day, it’s worth the risk to bring Jimmy back.

Again – I believe Cam knows his role here and I don’t think he’d hesitate to hand the reigns over to Garoppolo. The Patriots didn’t pay Cam Newton with any confidence, and I still think he’d play a part here. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels loves to get tricky with his play calling when he can (i.e. Tim Tebow in his Denver days). I could see them using Newton like the Saints have used Taysom Hill for short yardage and trick play situations. Let’s call a spade a spade here, Newton is an incredible athlete who led all quarterbacks with 12 rushing touchdowns last season. He can still play a role in New England.

If the Patriots don’t do either of these things, it says a lot about what their plans are for 2021. The definition of insanity is to do something over and over again and expect a different result. We saw the Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham show last season, and it didn’t work. It’s time for Belichick to let go of the pipe dream of paying cheap for a marginal signal caller. You need to pay for quarterbacks in the NFL. The sooner they figure that out, the better off they’ll be.

Photo: Sportingnews.com

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