The New England Patriots appear to have an obvious need at the quarterback position after Tom Brady left to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and many have wondered if they will jump in the market for a veteran starter like Cam Newton. As of now, that is not Bill Belichick’s plan.
The Patriots have not expressed any interest in signing Newton or trading for Andy Dalton, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic. Even if they wanted to, they don’t have the money at the moment. New England had around $1 million in salary cap space as of Wednesday and is carrying a $13.5 million dead cap hit for Brady in 2020.
Second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham is the favorite to win the starting job for the Patriots this offseason. The team signed veteran Brian Hoyer last month, and he should be able to push Stidham a bit as someone who has been with the Patriots in the past and is familiar with the offense. However, Belichick would obviously prefer that last year’s fourth-round pick does enough to distance himself from the 34-year-old journeyman.
There are many ways to manipulate the salary cap, so the Patriots could free up the necessary space to make a run at a veteran like Newton or Dalton at some point in the offseason. Though, the coronavirus situation likely complicates things further. With offseason workouts being shortened and training camp potentially delayed, there will be minimal time for a new quarterback to familiarize himself with New England’s offense. That likely played a role in the Patriots’ decision to sign Hoyer, who has been on their roster in the past.
Multiple key Patriots players have already come forward and endorsed Stidham for the starting job, and it is clearly the former Auburn star’s to lose.
Another New England Patriots stalwart is on his way out the door.
According to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe, the Patriots will release kicker Stephen Gostkowski on Monday after 14 seasons with the franchise.
— Jim McBride (@globejimmcbride) March 23, 2020
A combination of age, injury, and price likely ended Gostkowski’s tenure with the Patriots. He turned 36 in January, and appeared in just four games last season due to a hip injury. Add in the fact that cutting Gostkowski saves New England $3.4 million against the cap and it just makes sense to move on.
It’s no secret that the Patriots think very highly of Gostkowski, but kickers are replaceable. This was clearly a business decision, though still a rather jarring one.
The Buffalo Bills made a Stefon Diggs trade come together quickly, but their division rival was also in the mix to make a blockbuster deal.
According to Albert Breer of The MMQB, the New England Patriots were interested in Diggs and pursued a trade when it became clear that the Minnesota Vikings might be willing to deal. However, their interest faded quickly after using the franchise tag on offensive lineman Joe Thuney, costing the team precious cap space.
The last straw was when the Patriots became aware that Tom Brady was likely to leave, making the acquisition of a star wide receiver less important.
If nothing else, it shows that the Patriots were still trying to get more weapons for Brady late on in the process. The reality, however, was that Brady clearly wanted out regardless of what the Patriots were doing transaction-wise. Diggs might have been a nice weapon for the Patriots’ next quarterback, but giving up that much for him never made sense once Brady was out the door.
Many New England Patriots fans are calming themselves down in the wake of Tom Brady’s departure by repeating one of their favorites mantras: “In Bill we trust.” Apparently Las Vegas oddsmakers share the same faith in the longtime head coach.
Even after Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Caesar’s Sportsbook in Las Vegas still lists the Patriots as a comfortable favorite to win the AFC East. New England’s odds are -110, meaning you would have to bet $110 to win $100. The Buffalo Bills have the next-best odds at +180, meaning a $100 bet would net $180.
No Brady no problem? The sharps in Vegas think so:
Per Caesars Sportsbook:
Odds To Win Division
New England -110
New York (A) + 750
— trey wingo (@wingoz) March 23, 2020
The Patriots signed veteran Brian Hoyer on Sunday, and he is expected to compete with second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham for the starting job. While we have heard some fun speculation about New England potentially acquiring a star quarterback, they have barely any salary cap space remaining for 2020. That coupled with the coronavirus outbreak potentially shortening the NFL offseason makes it even more likely that Belichick will not bring in a veteran quarterback who has no familiarity with the Patriots’ offense system.
Belichick is always going to get the benefit of the doubt. The Patriots went 11-5 with Matt Cassel as their starting QB in 2008 after Brady tore his ACL, and New England’s defense was one of the better units in football last year. That said, there’s no debating the AFC East is as wide open as it has been in 20 years. No one would be stunned if the Patriots are finally dethroned next season.
The New England Patriots may not be able to afford a star quarterback heading into next season, but their salary cap situation should be a lot more manageable in 2021. At that point, Bill Belichick will likely have the flexibility needed to pursue a top free agent. If the coach and GM decides to go that route, Deshaun Watson will be a name to watch.
Odds are offered for just about everything these days, and truthfully they don’t mean a whole lot. However, you may find it interesting that gambling website BetOnline.ag lists Watson as the favorite to be the starting QB for the Patriots in Week 1 of the 2021 season.
— Steve DelVecchio (@SteveDelSports) March 22, 2020
Watson is signed through next season but has a fifth-year team option for 2021. The Texans will almost certainly pick up the option, but that does not necessarily mean they will hang on to the former Clemson star.
There has been talk about Watson landing a massive contract extension this offseason, but he may be waiting for Patrick Mahomes to reset the market. It’s also unclear if the Houston Texans are willing to pay Watson more than $35 million per year, especially after they traded DeAndre Hopkins this offseason. Though, you could argue that trading Hopkins will make it easier for Houston to afford Watson.
The Patriots are likely going to head into 2020 with second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham and newly acquired veteran Brian Hoyer. Those two have the best chance of competing for the starting job, especially with New England having more than $20 million in dead salary cap money this year. If Stidham is unable to lock down the starting job by next offseason, Belichick will explore other options.
Texans head coach Bill O’Brien comes from the Belichick coaching tree, but the two may not currently be on the best terms. That could make any potential blockbuster trade between Houston and New England more complicated. The most likely scenario is that Watson will sign an extension with the Texans, but the thought of him being the next great Patriots quarterback is an exciting one for NFL fans.
Brian Hoyer is, as many expected, returning to the New England Patriots.
Hoyer has signed with the Patriots a day after being released by the Indianapolis Colts. It will be his third stint with New England.
BREAKING: The #Patriots have reached agreements with QB Brian Hoyer and former Jets LB Brandon Copeland today. This will be Hoyer's third tour of duty with in New England.
— Jim McBride (@globejimmcbride) March 22, 2020
According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Hoyer is getting a one-year deal.
Bringing back Hoyer makes perfect sense for the Patriots. He’s deeply familiar with the system, having spent parts of five seasons as Tom Brady’s backup. Now that Brady is gone, he could theoretically back up second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham, or potentially even challenge for the starting role.
Stidham actually beat Hoyer out for the backup role in 2019. Now they may be fighting for the Patriots’ starting job.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick had their fair share of issues over the years, but they managed to downplay almost all of them and continue winning championships no matter how hard the media tried to drive a wedge between them. When it came to Brady’s contract negotiations, however, it is clear the two have not been on the same page in a very long time.
ESPN’s Seth Wickersham published a lengthy piece about the divorce between Brady and the Patriots, and in it he discussed how the tension between coach and quarterback hit a boiling point in 2017. It was around that time that Brady began heavily promoting his TB12 brand, and that and the growing presence of Brady’s personal trainer Alex Guerrero was clearly a source of frustration for Belichick. However, Wickersham says Brady’s contract situation was always the biggest issue between Brady and Belichick.
Brady signed a series of short-term deals in his final years with the Patriots. When he was 39 in the fall of 2017, he made it clear he intended to play into his mid-40s and wanted an extension from the team that would allow him to finish his career in New England. Belichick refused to give him one, and Wickersham reports that Belichick and Brady had a “blowup” during a meeting to discuss the quarterback’s contract in late 2017.
Brady then met with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and is said to have received “mixed signals.” Not long after Brady’s meetings with Belichick and Kraft, team president Jonathan Kraft told the media Brady has “earned the right” to decide when he wants to leave New England. The implication seemed to be that Brady would leave when Brady was ready, but that’s not what happened.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Patriots added $5 million in incentives to Brady’s contract. He never reached the incentives and probably never wanted them. What he really wanted was a multi-year extension. When Belichick refused to give him one again last offseason, Brady had the Patriots give him assurances they would not franchise tag him. He also almost walked out of training camp because he was so disgusted with the situation.
Given everything we know, the report we heard about what the Patriots were willing to pay Brady for 2020 and beyond does not sound accurate. In the end, Belichick handled Brady the same way he would handle any other aging player with declining skills. Brady felt he earned the right to be treated differently, and you can certainly understand why. Belichick has never given any player preferential treatment in contract negotiations, and the way he the Brady situation unfolded proves The Hoodie never will.