Tom Brady’s announcement Tuesday morning came as a major shock. The six-time Super Bowl champion is leaving the New England Patriots after two decades.
It’s the new normal for head coach Bill Belichick and Co. This announcement is also going to have a major trickle-down effect. How will the Patriots move forward at quarterback? Are we looking at a rebuild or is the team going to retool on the fly?
Bottom line: At 67 years old, it seems highly unlikely that Belichick is going to want to start anew with a rebuild. This lends credence to the idea that New England will hit the veteran market for a Brady replacement. If that does indeed happen, there’s some solid options for the Patriots.
Derek Carr: The current Las Vegas Raiders quarterback makes sense in that he’d be a longer-term option and likely come cheaper than Rivers.
- Las Vegas is signing former No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota. While he could compete with Carr for a starting job, the likelier scenario is that the Raiders trade their current starter.
- Carr, 28, is averaging north of 3,800 passing yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions throughout his six-year NFL career.
- Carr is also set to count just $21 million against the cap in 2020. That’s less than what it would cost to bring in Rivers.
Jameis Winston: I can just imagine Belichick having to deal with Winston and his turnover-prone ways. Despite this, there seems to be a fit in New England.
- Is Winston talented? Yes. Has he failed to progress since being the No. 1 overall pick back in 2015? Yes. Both can be true.
- Still only 26 years old, Winston became the first quarterback to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season. He also led the NFL in passing yards last year.
- The talent is here. He’s a long-term option. He would likely come in a lot cheaper than Rivers or even Carr. It’s certainly something to think about.
Andy Dalton: This would obviously be a dramatic downgrade from Brady for the Patriots. Though, Dalton is one of only a handful of viable remaining options following Tuesday’s flurry of moves.
- What Dalton would give New England is a ton of experience as a starter and someone who can run Josh McDaniels’ offense at a decent level.
- The 32-year-old Dalton did put up 89 touchdown passes and 38 interceptions in the four seasons before struggling big time under rookie head coach Zac Taylor in 2019.
- Dalton’s cap hit for the 2020 season comes in at a pretty decent $17.7 million. That would be lower than the options mentioned above.
- While Cincinnati is said to be demanding a second-round pick for Dalton, that seems unrealistic. New England could probably land him for one of their third-round selections.
Nick Mullens: A young player that is flying under the radar heading into free agency, Mullens would make a ton of sense for New England in many different ways.
- San Francisco just tendered the exclusive-rights free agent last week. At 24 years old, he’s a potential long-term option on the cheap.
- Mullens played well in Jimmy Garoppolo’s stead back in 2018, averaging almost 285 passing yards while completing 64.2% of his attempts. He has a shot to be a starter in this league.
- By virtue of the Garoppolo trade, we already know that the Patriots and 49ers have a good relationship. New England could get him on the cheap in terms of both salary and compensation heading to San Francisco in a trade.
Jarrett Stidham: A fourth-round pick of the Patriots last year, this former Auburn quarterback has impressed the team’s brass.
- He’s the unknown right now. Stidham did not have a great college career with the Tigers. But he’s your prototypical 6-foot-3 quarterback with the tools.
- New England’s brass came away impressed by Stidham as a rookie. He took a lot of first-team reps in practice with Brady dealing with multiple minor injuries throughout the 2019 season.
- This would be a way for New England to see what it has in a young quarterback while paying next-to-nothing for this position. In turn, the team would rely on a dominant defense to stay competitive.
In the end
I firmly believe New England is going to be targeting a veteran quarterback to replace Brady. It seems foolish to believe that Belichick will be looking to start anew with a rebuild.
If that is indeed the case, the options listed above make the most sense. New England still has a chance to compete with one of the NFL’s top defenses. Why throw that away simply because an aging quarterback decided to move on?
Look for this to come to fruition here soon.