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5 future QB options for the New England Patriots, including Drake Maye, Caleb Williams and a familiar face

New England Patriots

Ever since Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay after the 2019 season, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been searching for a worthy replacement at quarterback.

From Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham to Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe, the future Hall of Fame coach has watched the level of quarterback play diminish significantly, and his team’s record drop right along with it.

The New England Patriots (2-10), who are 27-35 in the post-Brady era, have reached their nadir this season. Thanks largely to their 28th ranked offense, and the quarterbacks they’ve had running it, the Patriots will miss the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.

Entering the Thursday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots have scored fewer than 10 points the past three weeks, and they went scoreless Sunday – losing 6-0 to the Los Angeles Chargers – for the second time this season.

Related: Bailey Zappe unable to improve New England Patriots’ anemic offense in shutout loss

The New England Patriots drafted Jones in the first round in 2021 to be their franchise quarterback, but he has regressed since having a solid rookie season that even earned him a Pro Bowl berth. And now, he and Bailey Zappe, a fourth-round pick in 2022, continue to prove each week they should no longer be viewed as long-term solutions.

Although Belichick benched Jones two weeks ago for ineffective play, Zappe has done even worse. Jones ranks 36th (77.0) and Zappe 46th (50.2) in QB rating among the 46 quarterbacks who’ve attempted at least 50 passes in 2023.

After watching Brady guide them to six Super Bowl titles, the New England Patriots have descended rapidly from the penthouse to the outhouse at the game’s most important position.

New England Patriots
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New England Patriots desperately need a QB change in 2024

Addressing their glaring need for a quality quarterback will be the New England Patriots’ No. 1 offseason priority, although it might not be with Belichick as the head coach. There’s rampant speculation that the Patriots will move on from Belichick, or vice versa, after the season.

Regardless of who might be in charge, the Patriots will have the resources to go after the player they believe can satisfy their need. Not only are they in line to get the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, which will feature a deep quarterback class, but they can also target free agent QBs because they are expected to have more than $90 million in salary cap space in 2024.

Here are five quarterback options they could pursue and the reasons for each one.

New England Patriots
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1. Drake Maye

The Chicago Bears own the first overall pick in the upcoming draft, and there’s plenty of debate over which quarterback will go first – Maye or USC’s Caleb Williams. Most NFL mock drafts tend to favor Williams as the No. 1 pick, meaning the most likely scenario has Maye falling to the New England Patriots at No. 2.

And by many accounts, the North Carolina product would be the better option anyway. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder comes with ample playing experience as a two-year starter for the Tar Heels and has the requisite arm strength, accuracy and mobility that NFL teams covet in a quarterback.

Unless you prefer Williams, Maye looks like the closest thing to a franchise quarterback among all available options. And if he’s the second QB drafted, that’s not always a bad thing, considering C.J. Stroud – who’s having a record-breaking rookie season – was the most recent No. 2 pick.

New England Patriots
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2. Caleb Williams

Again, not everyone agrees that Williams will be the No. 1 draft pick. In fact, some mock drafts have him falling as far as fifth. But if Maye was taken first, don’t be surprised to see the New England Patriots take about a nanosecond to get their card to commissioner Roger Goodell and select Williams at No. 2.

The 6-foot-1 Williams, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, lacks Maye’s size, but he makes up for it with dynamic quarterbacking skills. He has an explosive arm, an elite feel for the pocket, the feet to extend plays, and the vision to expose openings in the defense.

It’s been a down season at USC, one that hasn’t allowed Williams to compete for another Heisman. But that has done little to affect his draft status in the eyes of evaluators. He won’t play in the Holiday Bowl to reduce the risk of injury before the draft. His next game might come in a New England Patriots uniform.

New England Patriots
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3. Kirk Cousins

This is where we take a slight detour from the draft and look out onto the current NFL landscape. It’s possible the Patriots won’t want to spend time developing a young quarterback after all the growing pains they’ve endured watching Jones and Zappe underperform this season.

Instead, they could make a run at an experienced free agent quarterback, and Cousins is due to join the free agent market this offseason, even though the Minnesota Vikings are reportedly interested in bringing him back for one more year.

Cousins, who will be 36 in August, was having a quality season before he suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 8. But he should recover in time to be a marketable player going into next season, given his credentials.

Cousins, a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback, would bring stability to the New England quarterback room. His presence would buy time for either Jones and Zappe to develop under him or for the Patriots to draft another quarterback to serve as Cousins’ backup for at least one season.

New England Patriots
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4. Jayden Daniels

It’s time to go back to the draft and the player many draft experts view as the third-best quarterback behind Williams and Maye. While there are other solid draft-eligible players in the conversation — like Oregon’s Bo Nix, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy — most prefer Daniels.

The LSU QB, who’s the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, is playing his fifth season of college football, so there’s no questioning his experience. Along with that, he’s also excelled in the areas that NFL teams like to see from a dual-threat quarterback. He’s the first FBS quarterback ever to throw for 350 yards and run for 200 in the same game.

Mock drafts have Daniels being picked anywhere from ninth to 25th, and the Patriots sit in a highly coveted spot at No. 2. If they value Daniels more than the others — and that’s a possibility — the Patriots could decide to trade down, acquire more draft capital, and still select Daniels, but at a lower spot. That way they get their quarterback and add more parts around him.

New England Patriots
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5. Jimmy Garoppolo

There’s no doubt that Garoppolo has been a bust as a free-agent signee in Las Vegas. He’s often injured, and when he’s been healthy, he’s played so poorly that Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce opted to start rookie Aidan O’Connell over him.

So, why would Jimmy G be a worthy option for the Patriots? Sometimes, players need to return to the place where they’ve had success, and Belichick – if he’s still around – has fond memories of Garoppolo filling in for Brady, even though that happened before he was traded to San Francisco during the 2017 season.

While no one would mistake Garoppolo for a franchise quarterback anymore, the New England Patriots could probably get Garoppolo as a low-cost option and have him serve as a one-year bridge for a younger quarterback, whether that’s still Jones or Zappe or someone they take in the 2024 draft.

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