Patriots Sign Record-Setting QB During NFL Combine

Patriots quarterback Nathan Rourke (left) while he was with the Jaguars.

Getty Patriots quarterback Nathan Rourke (left) while he was with the Jaguars.

There are few bigger questions around the New England football faithful than what will happen at the Patriots quarterback spot. On Friday, the Pats actually did make a quarterback signing, but don’t get your hopes up—this is a deep bench move, at least for now. The team, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Media, has re-signed third-stringer Nathan Rourke.

Not a blockbuster move, of course, and one easy to overlook during the combine,  on a day when some chatter about the possibility of the Patriots pursuing free-agent Baker Mayfield was floated. Still, it’s an encouraging move on a third-stringer after the Patriots spent much of last year cycling through (and losing) options behind Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe.

There was the short-lived Matt Corral tenure, which ended when he abruptly left the team. Then there was the frustrating Malik Cunningham tenure—why not play him more?—which ended when Baltimore signed him off the practice squad. There was the Will Grier tenure (Chargers), followed by Rourke’s time in the role. The Patriots signed Rourke on December 18 off waivers from Jacksonville.

There is still much to be figured out for the Patriots at quarterback, but at least they’ll have some guys on the roster who have familiarity with the team.

Nathan Rourke Set CFL Records

Rourke has a fascinating history for a player who is still only 25 years old and has never thrown an NFL pass. He is a native of Canada and played collegiately at Ohio, twice winning the Jon Cornish trophy for the top Canadian player in the NCAA. He was a top dual-threat quarterback, and scored 109 touchdowns in three years, 60 by air and 49 as a runner.

Rourke was not drafted by an NFL team but was a second-round pick by the BC Lions of the CFL. He wound up starting for the Lions in 2022 and set a CFL record with a 78.7% completion rate. Despite missing much of the season with a Lisfranc injury that required surgery on his foot, Rourke was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player.

That has not quite transferred to NFL success, of course, but Rourke is obviously a commodity that has gotten some attention around the league. He is a top-shelf athlete and, before starting his career in the CFL, he worked out for the New York Giants—as a receiver.

Rourke signed with the Jaguars in January and played in three games in the 2023 preseason, going 23-for-35 passing with 348 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown, though he did commit two fumbles.

Potential Patriots Quarterback Speaks

As for other potential Patriots quarterbacks, the team is still holding onto the No. 3 spot in the draft, and if they don’t go out and sign Baker Mayfield—or Russell Wilson, or trade for Justin Fields, etc.—they’re likely to use that pick on a quarterback.

The quarterbacks at this week’s NFL combine spoke on Friday, and all were complementary of the Patriots. Conceivably, the Patriots could land any of the Top 3—Caleb Williams, Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels, though Daniels is the most likely candidate.

“It would be dope,” Daniels said Friday when asked about playing for the Patriots. “Obviously growing up and seeing what Tom Brady did there, six Super Bowls. That’s tough to live up to. It would be dope to come in there, seeing the success they had, and help them get back on track.”

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