As Bill Belichick continues this spree of noncommittal offerings about his quarterback position — one that has seen Mac Jones repeatedly benched — the Patriots will have their eye on what could be a pivotal offseason at the position.
It is not fully known if the Pats will move on from the six-time Super Bowl-winning coach, who has already been connected to a few teams, but New England obviously knows its current QB situation will not cut it for 2024. Jones may be playing out the string for the Pats, who will almost definitely pass on the struggling passer’s fifth-year option.
Jones would enter a 2024 contract year in that scenario, but it is also possible the Pats simply move on from the former first-round pick. (Jones is tied to a guaranteed $2.79MM in 2024 base salary.) The team is likely to add a quarterback both in free agency and the draft next year, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes. A two-pronged approached would be about reconstructing the position, per Fowler, but one avenue stands to take precedence.
With the loss to the Giants, the Patriots plummeted to 2-9. With six games remaining, New England sits third in the 2024 draft order — behind Chicago (via Carolina) and Arizona. The No. 3 choice could be enough to land the draft’s second-best signal-caller, but given the demand at quarterback, the ’24 class’ second-best option will be a live candidate to go second overall. QBs have gone first and second in a draft four times since 2015.
While the Cardinals and Bears represent variables due to Kyler Murray and Justin Fields‘ statuses, both are in play to draft QBs in Round 1. The Cards, as they were this year, could also be a gateway into the top three — should Arizona’s new regime still back Murray next year — via a trade. Moving parts exist, but with no NFL lottery in place, more losses piling up for the Patriots would form a direct route to landing a top QB prospect. The team inched into the 2021 draft at quarterback, waiting on Jones to fall to No. 15. The Pats will have a chance to choose a passer earlier in 2024.
The free agent market will include several backup options. While some signed two-year deals this offseason, Sam Darnold, Jacoby Brissett, Marcus Mariota, Tyrod Taylor, Teddy Bridgewater and Joshua Dobbs are among the options to fill in as a bridge player or a true backup. Given the injuries to starters this season, it would not surprise to see the QB2 market increase come free agency.
Gardner Minshew and Baker Mayfield would represent higher-end bridge options, with Ryan Tannehill potentially dropping into that boat after his midseason benching. Kirk Cousins resides as the top free agency option. As of now, the Vikings look like the favorites there. The Pats’ draft position also would point to a stopgap free agent or backup supplementing a rookie — as opposed to a veteran as the answer for a team in need of significant upgrades on offense.
Belichick’s status will hover over all of this. As the losses increase, the chances of the Patriots either forcing the legendary sideline presence out or trading his rights elsewhere seemingly increase. Belichick’s extension is believed to run through only 2024.