Patriots’ QB Named ‘Likely’ Trade Candidate After Joe Milton III Pick: Report

Joe Milton

Getty A veteran New England Patriots' QB was named a "likely" trade candidate after the team took Joe Milton in Round 6 of the 2024 NFL draft.

Not content with selecting Drake Maye third overall, the New England Patriots doubled down at quarterback by taking Joe Milton III in the sixth round of the 2024 NFL draft, a decision that could have trade implications for veteran passer Bailey Zappe.

That’s according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. He believes “With five QBs on the roster, it’s a crowded room for one of last year’s starters Bailey Zappe. Safe to say, he’s likely available in a trade if it makes sense.”

Zappe is the most likely member of the trio of incumbent signal-callers to be dealt. He’s a holdover from the Bill Belichick era, a player who’s on-again, off-again competition with former starter Mac Jones summed up the decline of the Patriots in 2023.

It’s a new era now with head coach Jerod Mayo and Director of Scouting Eliot Wolf leading the charge. Their rebuild will hinge on Maye’s success, but players like free-agent acquisition Jacoby Brissett and ex-Tennessee star Milton will provide insurance as key names on the depth chart.

Bailey Zappe at Career Crossroads

Zappe already faced a tough enough struggle to stay on the roster after Brissett arrived in free agency and Maye heard his name called early on Draft day. Taking a late-round flier on Milton puts one more obstacle in Zappe’s path to earning a roster spot.

The presence of former CFL star Nathan Rourke, acquired off waivers back in December, only adds to the congestion at football’s most important position. Zappe might have been counting on his experience as a starter to make the difference in any competition, but he earned many of his first-team reps under a largely different staff.

Mayo replacing Belichick and hiring Alex Van Pelt as offensive coordinator makes it a new day for Patriots quarterbacks. It’s also not as if Zappe made the most of his playing time in recent years.

The 25-year-old went 4-4 as a starter across the 2022 and ’23 campaigns. Zappe threw just 11 touchdowns compared with 12 interceptions during that span, per Pro Football Reference.

He never unseated Jones, despite being given ample opportunities to make the job his own. Plays like this ill-fated pick thrown against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10 ultimately doomed Zappe’s stock.

A rough 2023 season must cast doubt on what exactly the Patriots could get for Zappe in trade. A poor return would be easier to justify if Milton turned heads this offseason.

Joe Milton Ready to Compete

Milton immediately announced his willingness to compete with Maye, per Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald: “No matter who you are, no matter where you go, you have to compete. So, that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

While Milton’s chances of beating Maye to the top job are remote, nobody knows better than the Patriots it could happen. Everybody connected to the franchise will remember a certain Tom Brady, a lowly sixth-round pick in 2000, taking down 1993 first-overall draft choice Drew Bledsoe.

Ultimately, the Pats didn’t draft Milton with the expectation he’ll take the job ticketed for Maye. Yet, there was no harm in using a Day 3 pick on a 6-foot-5, 244-pounder who threw 20 touchdowns and rushed for seven more during his final season with the Volunteers.

Milton has the kind of arm strength even pro teams rarely see. His ability to launch the ball unfathomable distances was highlighted by “Bootleg Football Podcast” co-host Brett Kollmann at the Scouting Combine.

It’s certainly worth the Patriots finding out what the ceiling is for a true physical specimen at the position. Trading Zappe would give Milton room to grow.

A deal would also sever some of the few remaining ties to the disappointing last few years of Belichick tenure. A period defined more by poor quarterback play than anything else.

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