For the first time since 1992, the New England Patriots have a question mark at quarterback. The franchise drafted Drew Bledsoe with the No. 1 pick in 1993. Then, due to injury, Bledsoe gave way to Tom Brady in the second game of the 2001 season.
Brady has been the starter for the last 20 seasons, but it’s now time to move on as he announced his intention to play elsewhere in 2020. So where does that leave the Patriots? Here’s a look at their potential options.
The Lone Man on the Roster
New England drafted Stidham in the fourth round a year ago — a solid place to pick an underperforming college player with NFL tools. Stidham showed well during the preseason a year ago, but he’s still a developmental prospect and it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready to start this season. Still, there’s a chance he develops into the long-term option given his talent and early success within the Patriots’ system.
The Free Agents
If Bill Belichick wants to proceed with a quarterback similar to Brady, Bridgewater could be the perfect candidate. He takes care of the football and throws accurately at the short and intermediate level, two qualities that fit well within the New England scheme. Bridgewater finished with a solid 74.0 overall grade last season to go with the seventh-lowest percentage of turnover-worthy plays (2.1%), but also just the 28th-highest percentage of big-time throws (2.9%) in the league. Bridgewater could play game manager on a defensive-minded Patriots team.
Speaking of high-end play, Winston is very Newton-like, minus the rushing ability. Both players generally rank among the top quarterbacks in both positively and negatively graded plays, a style that led to Winston’s infamous “30-30” season of 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. That volatile style is the exact opposite of what Belichick and the Patriots are used to, but if there’s one thing that has been consistent during Belichick’s career, it’s his ability to adjust with the times. Even with the emotional roller coaster that Winston brings to town, he could be worth a look, as his volatile play is set up for one or two high-end seasons.
The Trade Options
Dalton has been the epitome of a mid-tier quarterback throughout his career, and like most quarterbacks in that range he can produce with the right supporting cast of playmakers. The Patriots don’t have that group now, so rolling with Dalton could lead to some ugly play as we saw a year ago when Dalton posted his lowest grade since 2012. Still, he’s a capable starter and likely moving into the “bridge quarterback” stage of his career.
With Newton reportedly on the trading block, this could be a viable option for the Patriots if they’re looking for immediate upside. There’s plenty of risk with this move as well — Newton is coming off injury, and updates on his physical condition will be difficult due to travel restrictions around the country. Still, Newton is 2-0 against Belichick and the Patriots in his career, a stat that means little given the small sample size but also could play to Belichick’s thought process as he has a penchant for players who have performed well in his presence. Newton won the MVP in 2015, one of the biggest outlier seasons of the decade, but his high-end of play is as good as it gets among available signal callers.
If the Indianapolis Colts are all-in on Philip Rivers, Brissett would be relegated to backup duty and a reunion with the Patriots could be in the cards. Brissett had one solid start for New England in 2016, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels showed his versatility with several designed quarterback runs and easy passes that played to Brissett’s skills. Belichick’s familiarity with Brissett could win out, though he projects like some of the other “bridge” quarterbacks on the list. His two full seasons as a starter have netted PFF grades of only 62.4 in 2017 and 59.2 last season.