Patriots reportedly have shown interest in Marcus Mariota

The New England Patriots have reportedly expressed interest in free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota, the backup for the Tennessee Titans in 2019.

Get ready, New England Patriots fans. Your starting quarterback in 2020 … could be Marcus Mariota.

According to ProFootballNetwork’s Tony Pauline, the former No. 2 overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft has already been linked to the Pats this offseason. Pauline claims that the Patriots “are showing interest in soon-to-be free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota.”

What does “interest” mean exactly? It’s a bit hard to qualify this early on. After all, there are still 19 days left before free agency officially begins with the start of the new league year. So much can happen between now and then.

Most Patriots fans are probably hoping that this story goes away well before March 18 rolls around. The hope around the majority of New England is that the team finds a way to keep Tom Brady under center for at least another year or two. The 42-year-old has spent his entire 20-year career as a Patriot, and he’s led the team to six Super Bowl titles in nine Super Bowl appearances during that historic run.

If Brady decides to sign with another team, though, the Pats will be forced to find a contingency plan. That could mean inserting Jarrett Stidham into the starting lineup, but that option feels unlikely given Stidham’s lack of experience and relative lack of draft pedigree.

A more likely outcome is the team ends up either trading for a veteran quarterback who can be a stopgap until they draft their QB of the future or develop Stidham to be that guy — or they sign someone in free agency.

Obviously, some free agent QBs are different than others this spring — and would signify something different, too.

If New England goes after someone like Philip Rivers or Josh McCown, that would seemingly indicate the Patriots plan on using a vet for one year to tutor either Stidham or another rookie signal-caller, with the hope that the young gun could probably take over in 2021.

If, however, the Patriots go after a younger QB like Mariota, fellow 2015 draftmate Jameis Winston, or Teddy Bridgewater, you’d have to think Bill Belichick and New England ownership would be doing so with the hopes that that quarterback could be their Brady replacement for longer than just a season.

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Mariota was impressive in college running Chip Kelly and then Mark Helfrich’s offensive attacks, but he has so far failed to live up to his draft position through five seasons in the NFL. The nadir of his career came just last season, when Titans head coach Mike Vrabel elected to bench Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill as his starting QB — and Tannehill went on to lead the team all the way to the AFC Championship Game.

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