With Tom Brady‘s fate confirmed and goodbyes said, speculation can now shift to the next important question for the New England Patriots this offseason: Who will become their next starting quarterback?
Maybe they will pursue one of the few free-agent quarterbacks still remaining on the market or attempt to cut a deal for an established veteran such as Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton or Jacksonville’s Nick Foles. Or maybe — just maybe — they won’t need to pursue anyone at all.
That’s at least what Patriots insider Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston seems to think.
Per Perry, the “Next Guy” for the Patriots could be backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who has attempted just four passes in his young NFL career but is a sensible successor to Brady for a number of reasons, including both cost and talent.
It wouldn’t be fair to judge Stidham, a fourth-round draft pick last year for the Patriots, based on garbage-time reps last season. Instead, Perry points to what scouts told him about the former Auburn standout ahead of last year’s draft, including former Patriots scout Jim Nagy calling Stidham “the most mechanically sound quarterback in the draft.”
“Stidham is one of the true wild cards because he spins it as well or better than anybody in the entire draft class,” former NFL scout and NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said at the time, via Perry. “In shorts, he’d be a top-five pick. Unfortunately, it hasn’t clicked on the field like you’d want to see at Auburn. Some of that is the lack of protection. Some of it is an offensive system that’s not great for him. But just throwing the football, he’s a great athlete.”
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Belichick Offered Positive Feedback on Stidham in 2019
Some eyes, especially those of local beat writers, were on Stidham during his 2019 training camp debut with the Patriots even with a near-guarantee he wouldn’t see meaningful reps for as long as Brady was still healthy and with the team. The impressions were mixed, as Perry reminded, with plenty of good and bad and an evident amount of promise in his game.
As the Patriots went about business as usual during what proved to be the final year in the Brady era, there was rarely a window for fans to see how Stidham was developing while many of them were still holding onto hope Brady would return in 2020 and finish his career in New England. One glowing review Stidham received, though, comes from the main man himself: coach Bill Belichick.
“Jarrett is a smart kid,” Belichick said at the midway point to the 2019 season, via Perry. “He picks things up very quickly. He has a good grasp of the offense given where he is in his career. He’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him. In practice, he does a good job. He gets a lot of passes on our defense and when he has the opportunity to get the offensive snaps, he’s prepared and does a good job on those.”
Stidham comes with a cap hit of less than $1 million in 2020, so they still have spending potential to work out a deal for another quarterback if they want a veteran to challenge Stidham or give him more time to develop. The choices are narrowing down, though, with Philip Rivers, and Marcus Mariota the latest to be taken off the board as of Tuesday afternoon.
The Patriots could also still potentially take one of several talented quarterbacks in the upcoming draft next month. A few of them figure to still be on the board when the Patriots pick at No. 23 overall in the first round, but a deal can always be cut to move up spots if one in specific catches their eye.
It would be safe to assume all possibilities are on the table for the future of the franchise, but few offer the same upside Stidham does in terms of talent, cost and convenience.