Trade Candidate: Bailey Zappe

The Patriots completely revamped their QB depth chart this offseason, but there is still one holdover at the position. 2022 fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe is still kicking around at the bottom of New England’s roster, but it remains to be seen if the third-year pro will still be on the squad come September.

Zappe has had an uneven two years in New England, although the Western Kentucky product hasn’t looked completely helpless in his handful of starts. During his rookie season, he sparked a brief QB controversy after guiding New England’s woeful offense to a pair of victories. However, Zappe slid back down the depth chart when Mac Jones returned from injury, and the Patriots were expected to continue with that same hierarchy for the 2023 campaign.

Zappe ended up struggling under new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, leading to him being a surprise cut towards the end of the preseason. The second-year QB quickly landed on New England’s practice squad, and he was signed back to the active roster in early September. Still, the roster machinations proved that the Patriots were willing to let the player walk for nothing, and the apparent lack of interest from opposing squads proved their wasn’t a whole lot of league-wide intrigue in the signal-caller.

The backup QB managed to bounce back and (somewhat) rehabilitate his image during the 2023 campaign. With Jones and the Patriots offense continuing to struggle, Zappe ended up garnering six starts in New England. His numbers weren’t pretty (59.9 completion percentage, 2.8 touchdown percentage, 4.2 interception percentage), but he was notably under center for two of the team’s four wins. While nobody is confusing Zappe with a starting quarterback, the player at least proved that he wouldn’t compromise his team’s chances if inserted into the lineup.

With the Patriots navigating a post-Bill Belichick era this offseason, the organization decided to completely revamp their QB room. The team used the third-overall pick on Drake Maye, pairing the rookie with veteran acquisition (and old friend) Jacoby Brissett. The organization also used a sixth-round selection on Joe Milton III, a series of moves that seemed to push Zappe off the roster. Reports from earlier this offseason indicated that the Patriots wanted to resolve their QB jam as quickly as possibly, allowing the coaching staff to better evaluate their three sure-thing QBs. That could have led to a speedy cut for Zappe, but the QB is still sticking around the roster.

While the Patriots could claim that Zappe is competing with Milton for the QB3 role, there’s little chance the rebuilding squad will prefer the third-year player to the rookie. So, it seems more likely that the organization is holding on to Zappe until a QB-needy team comes knocking. Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald indicated as much last month, noting that a Zappe trade remains a possibility for the organization. While teams didn’t show interest in Zappe last year, Callahan believes there could be a market for the player in the coming months, especially as teams face injuries during the preseason.

Callahan suggests that the Patriots could fetch a late-round pick in return for Zappe, or the front office could attach a pick to the QB for a better return. Considering the player’s track record, Zappe would probably be more appealing to teams that lose key backups vs. those that lose a starting QB. Of course, in order for the Patriots to avoid a staring match where a Zappe suitor simply awaits the player’s inevitable release, New England would require multiple trade partners to join the fray. Zappe’s most-recent deal with the Patriots keeps him under contract through the 2024 campaign on an easily-manageable $985K cap hit.

It seems like a foregone conclusion that Bailey Zappe won’t be sticking around New England for the 2024 campaign. However, it remains to be seen if the front office will be able to garner a return for the impending third-year QB.

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