Patriots Projected to Make Eye-Popping QB Decision in 2021

Getty Patriots QB Cam Newton

The New England Patriots aren’t expected to stick with Cam Newton as their starting quarterback in 2021, per Pro Football Focus.

According to the advanced football analytics firm, the new starting quarterback won’t be Jarrett Stidham or even one of the draft’s top rookies.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick Predicted as Patriots’ Next Starting QB

Yes, you read that correctly. The current Miami Dolphins quarterback and former Buffalo Bills and New York Jets signal-caller is projected to sign a one-year, $10 million deal this offseason to play for the Patriots, the only AFC East team yet to employ Fitzpatrick during his 16-year career.

Here’s what PFF had to say about Fitzpatrick, and why he’ll be on New England’s radar in 2021:

The Fitzmagic rolls on for another season, as the journeyman QB seems to age like a rich Bordeaux. Miami made it clear this past offseason that retaining Ryan Fitzpatrick was a priority, even with clear plans to draft Tua Tagovailoa. The 38-year-old had an $8 million base salary for 2020 with no other compensation left on his deal, and teams were reportedly sending trade offers. Miami’s decision to keep one of the great “bridge” quarterbacks around has been a win-win for both parties, and there will be several suitors for Fitzpatrick’s services again in 2021.

At 38 years old, Fitzpatrick has proved he can still play at an adequate level this season. In 7 starts, he owns a 4-3 record to go along with 12 touchdown passes and 8 interceptions, while completing 68.5% of his passes for 1,909 yards.

He’s obviously not a long-term solution, hence the projected one-year deal, but as PFF noted, Fitzpatrick is one of the prototypical “bridge” quarterbacks expected to hit the free agent market.

If This Happens, What Happens in the Draft?

The Patriots still stand to benefit from drafting a quarterback next April. However, if they sign a player like Fitzpatrick, it’s a good bet they won’t be using their first-round selection on the position.

New England knows as well as any franchise that you can find a top-notch quarterback outside of the first round. At one point, it appeared they might have found that guy in Stidham. The team used a fourth-round pick on the Auburn product in 2019, but have since seemed to fall out of favor with the mild-mannered 24-year-old.

If the Patriots had more confidence in Stidham, they wouldn’t be linked to Fitzpatrick and perhaps wouldn’t have signed Newton to a bargain one-year, $1.75 million deal just before the start of the 2020 season.

Cam Newton Still Has Something to Say About This

Don’t totally count Newton out though. The All-Pro playmaker has performed well in several spots this season and owns a 5-5 record in 10 starts. He has had some ups and downs since returning from the reserve/COVID list in Week 6, but there is reason to believe that with a full season and training camp in the Patriots’ system, Newton could be better in 2021.

To get to that point, Newton may need to shine in the final five regular season games. It all starts on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. If Newton can play well and lead the Patriots back to .500, a lot of the quarterback-switching talk could subside, and we’ll be back thinking and talking about an extension for the former NFL MVP.

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