Jerod Mayo's mixed signals on draft plans is worrisome for Patriots fans

Jan 17, 2024; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (R) speaks to head coach
Jan 17, 2024; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (R) speaks to head coach / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Once it was clear the Patriots were set to have a top 5 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the focus of which quarterback they would take became the hottest debate in New England. It continues to be the most discussed topic of the offseason, especially with the quarterback rankings constantly changing.

The overwhelming assumption has been that Jerod Mayo and his staff will take that route, even more so after they traded Mac Jones to the Jaguars early in free agency. When they brought in Jacoby Brissett, it seemed to confirm their plans further, but apparently, that's not set in stone just yet.

Most of the speculation about their plans has come from reporters citing sources and not directly from anyone inside Gillette Stadium. Although that is standard, it doesn't necessarily confirm or deny anything, as they are just rumors.

But that changed on Sunday when Mayo spoke to NFL Network's Steve Wyche at the Annual League Meeting and, of course, he was questioned about the Patriots' next quarterback.

Jerod Mayo doesn't transparently reveal plans for No. 3 pick

From the beginning of his tenure as the next head coach in New England, Mayo made it clear they were prioritizing improving the offense and even hinted they would be drafting a quarterback with the third overall pick.

Mayo confirmed that when speaking to Wyche but also opened the door for potentially trading down, as the rumors have suggested in recent weeks, particularly when discussing the Vikings' desire to trade into the top-3 picks.

"It's the priority right now. But with that being said, you have to really be in love with the guy to take him at No. 3. So really all the options are still open for us."

Although that's not exactly shocking, it's not the most desirable outcome among fans who feel the team should prioritize their high draft positioning and take a quarterback no matter what.

That is certainly a fair argument, but Mayo isn't wrong when he says you really have to like whatever quarterback falls to you, and they are rumored not to be in love with both their likeliest options.

Selecting one player just because he's available at three and you need a quarterback wouldn't automatically be the recipe for success. Some would argue that's the problem the Patriots ran into when taking Mac Jones in 2021, and nobody wants a repeat of how that went over the last three years.

Yet at the same time, the expectation for any team always is not to be in the top-10 picks of any draft because if you are, it means your team played poorly the season before. So the Patriots hopefully solving their quarterback issue when they have the chance seems like the best idea.

The problem is that Mayo isn't definitively in that mindset. The head coach told Wyche that they are open to keeping Brissett as the starter in 2024, implying the possibility of passing on a high-ranking quarterback from this year's class.

"A guy like Jacoby, he's a great leader. Everyone loves him. To get him back in the building is definitely helpful for us. And honestly, look, he could absolutely be our starter this year. We'll have to see. Like I said, we're not dead set at taking a quarterback at No. 3, but we do feel good having a guy like Jacoby ready to go."

It's a bit concerning to hear this from the coach's mouth since it was presumed Brissett's signing was meant to be in a bridge quarterback capacity and not much more.

That may still be true, and Mayo is sending out mixed signals on purpose because they are at the top of the draft and hold most of the cards. It's clear the Bears will not trade out of the first overall pick, and the Commanders have also sent conflicting messages regarding their willingness.

So the Patriots might be the team left to call for trade-up inquiries, which Mayo seems to hint at.

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