The New England Patriots will officially have a new quarterback under center next season. This comes after Tom Brady posted two heartfelt messages on social media thanking the Patriots and their fanbase.
With Brady’s announcement, it means the Patriots are in for a major change in the 2020 season and beyond. Jarrett Stidham, who New England drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft is likely an option to replace Brady, but there are a number of players who could be in the mix.
Here are the most likely quarterbacks to replace Brady next season in New England.
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One quarterback who has been extremely frustrating at times from the 2015 draft class is Jameis Winston. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers signal-caller has generated passing numbers well beyond anything fellow draft mate Marcus Mariota has done thus far in his NFL career. He was the NFL’s passing leader after throwing for more than 5,000 passing yards and a career-high 33 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he also threw a career-worst 31 interceptions to severely limit the impact of his production. The Bucs might still decide to retain their former No. 1 overall pick, but it has been reported he is “likely” to be allowed to walk in free agency, which would leave the door open for the Patriots to swoop in.
Belichick would be challenged to limit Winston’s interceptions, obviously, but his raw passing output could be transformed into something truly special under the Super Bowl-winning coach’s tutelage. The pressure on Winston would only intensify with a move to New England, but his abilities have been scrutinized ever since before he even got to the NFL and he is still out there trying to prove himself as a great quarterback. A little Belichick magic might do the trick.
Bridgewater put himself back on the map last season with the Saints and could represent the biggest upside for the Patriots if they pursue a new starter in free agency, but his sampling size is pretty low. He made five starts for New Orleans last year while Drew Brees was recovering for an injury, throwing for 1,205 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions, but Bridgewater hasn’t been a full-time starter since he suffered a nasty knee injury that wiped out nearly two full seasons.
Belichick would have to be confident Bridgewater is capable of returning to the full-time spotlight, but the former first-round draft pick has the talent and youth to once again make waves as an NFL starting quarterback. He was accurate during his reps for the Saints in 2019, completing nearly 70 percent of his 165 pass attempts, and has also spent two straight years learning behind one of the best in the league. With the Patriots, Bridgewater could finally ascend to the role he was once promised — as long as his health hold up.
A trade for the veteran Cincinnati Bengals quarterback was another Brady backup plan the Patriots were exploring at the Combine, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Sure, Dalton isn’t a great quarterback and sometimes struggles to even qualify as good. He also carries on him the stench of the Bengals’ poor record in recent seasons, but there are a number of reasons why the 32-year-old passer could benefit the Patriots heading into the 2020 season.
Cost is the first benefit. Unlike the free-agent quarterback darlings on the market, even the less-than-spectacular ones, Dalton is playing in the final year of his current deal and is due just $17.5 million in salary in 2020. Less of a financial commitment to the quarterback position would also make it easier for the Patriots to surround him with weapons in the offense. There is also the added value of sitting a younger quarterback — maybe one of the prospects in the 2020 class? — behind Dalton and developing him as a permanent fixture for the long-term future.
While not flashy, Stidham actually makes sense for the immediate future as the current backup quarterback. The Patriots selected him in the fourth round last year but never had much of a reason to put him in the driver’s seat of the offense with Brady being … well, Brady. He completed two of his four attempted passes for 14 yards with one first down and one pick-six, but such a small and meaningless sample size would be ridiculous to use as a projection for what Stidham could become.
Stidham showcased all the right tools to become an NFL starter at points during his Auburn career. His performance against Alabama during their 2017 rivalry game put him on the radar of draft scouts with good mobility, sharp decision-making and the confidence to deliver massive plays. While he didn’t take the step forward many hoped to see his junior year, he was still called the “heir apparent” to Brady when the Patriots picked him last offseason. Belichick has only spoken positively of his development since he arrived, so maybe his time to shine is closer than we think.
Tua Tagovailoa or Another 2020 Prospect
The Patriots were already planning on drafting a young quarterback in 2020 regardless of what transpired with their franchise quarterback, according to Bleacher Report. That Brady is now officially departing only increases the chances of New England making a big play for one of this year’s top quarterback prospects. Tagovailoa is a popular target for the Patriots with his injury history making it possible he slides down the draft board, but the former Alabama passer isn’t the end-all, be-all choice even with presumed No. 1 Joe Burrow likely out of reach.
During the Combine, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels met with Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, who spoke highly of their conversation and said he “loved” the New England offense. Though, same as Tagovailoa, Herbert figures to be among the top three quarterbacks taken off the board in 2020, which means the Patriots would likely need to move up from No. 23 to land one of them. It wouldn’t come cheap — probably at least their 2020 and 2021 first-round picks — but it could prove worthwhile if they draft their next franchise quarterback.