Tom Brady is actually leaving the New England Patriots in free agency. Who will replace the greatest quarterback of all time?
On St. Patrick’s Day 2020, Tom Brady made the decision to finish off his career with another team. This leaves the New England Patriots with a question they haven’t asked themselves since 2008: who’s our QB now?
The last time the Patriots didn’t have a committed starting quarterback during the offseason, they picked up Drew Bledsoe in the 1993 NFL Draft. 27 years and six Super Bowl rings have passed since then, and it seems very unclear as to what head coach/GM Bill Belichick and the Patriots will do heading into 2020.
Almost a dozen different quarterbacks are technically in the mix, from rookies to veterans. Only one of these quarterbacks is on New England’s roster, and we’ll take a look at him first.
The Patriots drafted Jarrett Stidham out of Auburn University in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and it got the talking heads of sports media buzzing about whether he’d be able to fill Tom Brady’s shoes if the veteran did decide to leave.
That time has come, and we still don’t know. Stidham’s only thrown two passes, and his last one was a pick-six. That gives him something in common with Tom Brady, actually, since Brady’s last pass for the Pats was a pick-six against Tennessee in the playoffs.
An optimist could equate this situation with the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs, who let a solid quarterback in Alex Smith go, and replaced him with the untested second-year player Patrick Mahomes. On the outside, it seemed very risky, but the Chiefs obviously knew more than everyone else.
Is it possible that Belichick had an easy time letting Brady walk because he’s convinced Stidham will be a great heir? It’s … possible. I doubt it, and there are a lot more options out there.
Let’s move to some more untested players coming out of college, like in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. As disheartening as it was, New England’s loss against the Titans actually secured them their best pick in years at No. 23.
Draft experts like Mel Kiper Jr. project up to five quarterbacks being picked in the first round. Excellent players like Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, however, certainly won’t drop down past 20 teams to the Patriots.
It’s also a hot take to envision the Pats trading up in the draft to one of the first five picks, but given the value of those spots, it would take a king’s ransom to make the move. Don’t expect it.
Quarterbacks that may be on the table at No. 23 include Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Washington’s Jacob Eason, and Utah State’s Jordan Love.
Herbert is usually projected to leave the board before the Pats would have a chance at him, so some mock drafts have New England taking Eason, a 6’6 22-year-old with 3,100 yards passing last year. Jordan Love is a really interesting prospect that’s comparable to a tall Russell Wilson, but with 17 interceptions in his 2019 campaign, he’s boom-or-bust.
Now let’s turn to the rest of the NFL to see if there’s anywhere Belichick can pull a great trade.
After yesterday’s mind-numbingly poor decision for the Texans to ship DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals, many NFL fans are joking that Texans GM/head coach Bill O’Brien will commit to an unexpected tank and send Deshaun Watson somewhere else.
There’s almost no way he does that … right? Granted, if the Hopkins trade is possible, I guess anything can happen.
More likely, unfortunately, is that the Patriots will have to commit to a QB that other teams don’t want.
Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, a redheaded rocket still coasting on fading respect from a great season in 2015, has been the most discussed among them. I’m not an NFL scout, but I don’t think Dalton has enough potential left to lead New England to success next year. Considering he threw for a 59% completion rate and 14 picks in a 2019 season where he was benched, there’s only so much you can fix at age 32.
Everyone’s favorite QB prospect to talk about in regards to New England had one of the most fascinating seasons ever in 2019. This passer threw 5,100 yards for 33 touchdowns … but he also tossed away 30 interceptions. That’s right, the enigmatic Jameis Winston is likely up for grabs, especially if Tom Brady happens to head down to Tampa Bay.
Thirty interceptions will sink any team, but a quarterback who fills the season with deep bombs and over 5K yards is still really exciting.
Could Winston simply fix his interception problem? Well, his eyes are fixed; he got Lasik eye surgery after the season ended. Even if he wouldn’t lead the Pats to a Super Bowl, Winston on the Pats might be the excitement we desperately need in 2020.
Other quarterbacks that could be available include the Bears’ Mitch Trubisky, the Colts’ Jacoby Brissett (who already played a bit for New England), and perhaps even the Panthers’ Cam Newton.
The fact of the matter is, it’s very unlikely that the Patriots’ next quarterback can lead the team to a Super Bowl. With a shallow pool available and the loss of LB Kyle Van Noy, a player like Andy Dalton or Jameis Winston probably won’t take New England very far, especially considering they’ve lost five of their last nine with Tom Brady.
Pats Nation, we might have to brace ourselves for something we haven’t experienced this century: a season with low expectations. After over 15 years of Super Bowl pressure, this is the year where we sit back and let the rest of the league fight.