Jarrett Stidham

Patriots Notes: Kraft, Newton, Stidham, Free Agency

The Patriots went 7-9 during the inaugural season of the post-Tom Brady era, making it the first time New England had missed the postseason since 2008 (when the team was forced to rely on Matt Cassel in place of an injured Brady). Robert Kraft and the entire Patriots brass are focused on getting back to the playoffs, and they made that clear when they handed out an NFL-record $165MM in guaranteed money during the early parts of free agency.

“What happened here last year was not something to our liking. We had to make the corrections,” Kraft said (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). “In all the businesses we’re involved in, we try to take advantage of inefficiencies in the market. We were in a unique cap situation this year and it allowed us to try to [fix] things we missed, to a certain extent, in the draft. So this was our best opportunity.”

While Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office were able to patch some holes by spending in free agency, Kraft also acknowledged that this strategy isn’t a recipe for long-term success.

“In the end, if you want to have a good, consistent, winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency. You have to do it through the draft. I don’t feel we’ve done the greatest job the last few years and I really hope, and I believe, I’ve seen a different approach this year,” Kraft said.

Tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, linebacker Matt Judon, and wideout Nelson Agholor were among the Patriots’ major free agent acquisitions.

Let’s check out some more notes out of New England:

  • Kraft seemed to excuse quarterback Cam Newton‘s uneven play in 2020, noting that the veteran was joining a new team during an abbreviated preseason, had COVID-19, and dealt with an inconsistent receiver corps. “In fairness to Cam, I’m not sure he had the proper weapons around him last year,” Kraft said. “I really do believe Cam getting COVID, and what it did to the team, it changed a lot. Now we’ll get a chance to see…Players on the team, in the locker room, really love the guy. In the end, I trust Coach Belichick’s ability to build a team, and put the right players in the best position to succeed.”
  • While the owner seemed to hint that Newton would be under center next season, he also kept the door open for former fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham, who was expected to receive more playing time during his sophomore season. “I don’t know that Jarrett has ever really gotten a fair shot,” Kraft said. “We have to wait and see what happens, and we still have the draft. … Quarterback is the most important position on the team. One way or the other, we have to get that position solidified.”
  • While the Patriots certainly had the ability to spend on free agents, Reiss writes that Belichick’s “cachet” was a major reason why the Patriots were able to recruit players. “This opportunity couldn’t be passed up because of the prestige, being coached by some of the best coaches in the NFL,” said linebacker Raekwon McMillan. “Coach Belichick told me that he’s been watching my career. For a player, you’re talking to a Hall of Fame coach, that really inspired me.”
  • Former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia rejoined the organization this offseason as an assistant, but Reiss notes that the coach’s role has continued to evolve. Patricia has spent recent weeks helping to negotiate and finalize contracts, thus serving “as an added layer of support to Belichick,” per Reiss.

Latest On Patriots’ QB Outlook

We heard at the beginning of January that the Patriots and quarterback Cam Newton were unlikely to reunite in 2021, but a report from earlier this week suggested that the the door is not closed on a Newton return to Foxborough next season. And multiple sources tell Ben Volin of the Boston Globe that they would not be surprised to see the Pats re-sign the 2015 league MVP.

After all, HC Bill Belichick reportedly loved coaching Newton, and Volin hears that even after the 2020 campaign, Belichick has raved about the effort that Newton put forth last season. He is concerned about Newton’s arm strength — which is understandable given the 31-year-old’s disappointing passing performance during his first season with New England — but he appears open to continuing the relationship just the same. Newton, meanwhile, has been similarly candid about how much he enjoyed playing for the Pats, so if the two sides can agree to another inexpensive contract, a re-up could be in the cards.

Of course, the club has also had conversations about every quarterback in the league that could be available via trade, and the expectation remains that the Pats will select a QB in the early rounds of this year’s draft (perhaps with their No. 15 overall selection). So if Newton comes back, it obviously won’t be as anything more than a bridge option to a younger passer, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com suggests that the team could even re-sign Newton and pair him with another veteran.

If New England goes that route, one obvious option would be to re-sign longtime Patriot Brian Hoyer, as Volin notes. Volin also believes that Mitchell Trubisky could be on the Pats’ radar, and at this point in their respective careers, Trubisky certainly appears to have a higher ceiling than Newton. Some have connected the dots between New England and former Belichick draftee Jacoby Brissett, but Volin sees a Brissett signing as unlikely since he did not “click” with Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels before he was dealt to the Colts in 2017. Assuming the Patriots do end up adding two QBs this offseason, Jarrett Stidham‘s roster status will be very much in doubt.

One collegiate signal-caller that has been routinely mocked to the Patriots is Alabama QB Mac Jones. As Reiss notes in the piece linked above, former New England OC Charlie Weis was effusive in his praise of Jones, and Weis sees him as a perfect fit in the Pats’ offense. Though he is not as athletic as some of the other passers in this year’s class, Jones is more than capable of moving around in the pocket and can make accurate throws to every part of the field.

If the Pats really want Jones, though, they may have to trade up from the No. 15 pick. His stock is rising, and ESPN draftniks Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay both believe he will be off the board by the time New England is on the clock.

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Jarrett Stidham To Start For Pats If Cam Newton Is Unavailable

The Patriots are currently scheduled to play the Broncos on Monday, and if starting QB Cam Newton is unable to take the field, New England will turn to second-year passer Jarrett Stidham, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (via Twitter). Newton has been taking part in Zoom meetings with the team, and there is still hope that he will be able to suit up.

Of course, Newton’s positive COVID-19 test sidelined him for last week’s matchup against the Chiefs, and though New England’s defense generally held its own against Patrick Mahomes & Co., the club was clearly missing the 2015 league MVP. The Pats turned to veteran Brian Hoyer to start the game, but Hoyer lost track of his team’s timeouts at the end of the first half, and he lost a fumble late in the third quarter. Both mistakes likely cost New England points.

Hoyer was benched in favor of Stidham, and the Auburn product kept the Pats in the game on a nice TD pass to N’Keal Harry, but he ultimately threw two interceptions in just 13 pass attempts (though to be fair, one of them was really receiver Julian Edelman‘s fault, and the other came on something of a desperation heave that Stidham might not have tried but for the score of the game at that point). Given that Stidham, a 2019 fourth-round selection, clearly offers more upside than Hoyer, it makes sense that the Pats would look his way.

Of course, Stidham appeared to be the leading candidate to open the 2020 season as the Patriots’ starting signal-caller until Newton fell into their laps at the end of June. Then, a disappointing training camp that included some injury concerns forced the team to slide Stidham behind Hoyer on the depth chart. Stidham will surely welcome the opportunity to rebuild his stock if Newton has to sit.

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AFC East Notes: Gilmore, Bell, Callaway

Patriots star CB Stephon Gilmore is set to earn $10.5MM this year, which is quite a bargain when considering that the top of the CB market now features average annual values in the $17MM range. But it does not appear that Gilmore is pushing for a new deal at this time, and though he missed five practices in a row last month, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says the absence was not contract-related.

Now for a few more AFC East items:

  • For months, Jarrett Stidham looked like he would be the Patriots‘ starting QB and would serve as the heir apparent to Tom Brady. But now, Reiss says Stidham might actually be the third-stringer behind Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer, and his inability to generate any momentum in training camp has cast his long-term future in doubt.
  • In the same piece linked above, Reiss says that Jermaine Eluemunor has definitively seized the Patriots’ RT job.
  • Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, Jets RB Le’Veon Bell says he has no issues with head coach Adam Gase. In his first comments since his publicly questioning Gase’s decision to pull him out of a recent scrimmage, Bell said, “I don’t understand why everybody is trying to put me and Gase against each other. We’re not against each other. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to believe, but we actually like each other” (via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com). Though Bell may not make it past this year’s trading deadline with Gang Green, it is in his and Gase’s best interests to limit the drama and focus on getting Bell back to his old form.
  • Former Browns receiver Antonio Callaway recently tried out for the Dolphins, as Albert Breer of SI.com notes (via Twitter). Callaway, a 2018 fourth-round pick, has plenty of promise but has had a very rocky start to his pro career, including two separate suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He hooked on with the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers in January but suffered a leg injury shortly after signing, and this is the first time we have heard his name in NFL circles since then.
  • The Dolphins just waived QB Josh Rosen, and as Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald tweets, the team could now reunite with Jake Rudock, who spent last season on the Miami practice squad.

Patriots Name Cam Newton Starting QB

No surprises here, but the Patriots have named Cam Newton their starting quarterback, as Jim McBride of the Boston Globe was first to report. Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald adds that Newton has been voted a team captain (Twitter link).

For a long time after Tom Brady‘s abdication, New England insisted that it was comfortable moving forward with second-year pro Jarrett Stidham as its starting signal-caller. But the team managed to sign Newton for peanuts at the end of June, and as soon as that happened, the 2015 MVP became the odds-on favorite to succeed Brady as the Patriots’ QB1.

Newton has undergone three surgeries since the beginning of the 2017 offseason — two shoulder procedures and a foot operation — and he has missed 16 of the last 18 games. His 2019 season was almost completely wiped out by injury, but he looked like his usual brilliant self through the first 12 weeks of the 2018 campaign, and he ended that year having completed a career-best 67.9% of his throws for 3,395 yards, 24 TDs, and 13 picks. He also showed that he can still make plays with his feet – he tallied 488 rushing yards and four scores on 101 carries.

The most recent reports out of training camp suggested that Newton has not been perfect in practices, but he has been plenty good enough to beat out Stidham — who has been dealing with a hip injury — and Brian Hoyer. And he clearly has ingratiated himself with his new teammates, as evidenced by his captaincy.

Things will feel very different in Foxborough this year without Brady, but between Newton and the Pats’ defense, New England may not be ready to give up its stranglehold on the AFC East just yet.

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Patriots Notes: QBs, Dugger, Jackson

The Patriots did not guarantee Cam Newton the starting quarterback job after they signed him in late June, but assuming Newton is healthy, it would be shocking to see anyone else under center come Week 1. And the 2015 MVP was a “full go” when practices started earlier this month, so all signs are pointing towards Newton serving as New England’s signal-caller when the season opens in a few weeks.

Jeff Howe of The Athletic details how the “competition” has unfolded over the first few practices. Newton has taken the majority of first-team reps, and while he has not been perfect, his accuracy has been impressive. Jarrett Stidham, the second-year pro who was in line to replace Tom Brady before the Newton acquisition, has been dealing with a hip injury, and he has also struggled with interceptions. The team is not concerned about Stidham’s health, but the turnovers aren’t helping his cause.

Brian Hoyer, meanwhile, has had an up-and-down camp thus far, but considering his experience and familiarity with the Patriots’ offense, Howe says the 34-year-old remains an option to start during the early stages of the season.

Now for more notes out of Foxborough:

  • The Patriots’ top draft choice in 2020, safety Kyle Dugger, may struggle to see early playing time on defense because of how much the condensed offseason is impacting rookies’ abilities to learn the pro game. But as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes, the team is eyeing Dugger as its top return specialist. The Lenoir-Rhyne product returned 67 punts for 929 yards and six TDs during his collegiate career.
  • In the same piece linked above, Reiss says Jermaine Eluemunor is in the mix to replace Marcus Cannon — who opted out of the 2020 season — at right tackle. Though Yodny Cajuste appeared to be the favorite for the job, Reiss writes in a separate post that Cajuste, a 2019 third-rounder, appears to be buried on the depth chart.
  • Reiss adds that J.C. Jackson‘s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has touched base with the Patriots about an extension for his client. As a former UDFA, Jackson is now extension-eligible despite having just two years of service time. He has become a key piece of New England’s secondary and has recorded eight interceptions over his first two professional seasons.
  • Lamar Miller‘s one-year deal with the Pats will feature a $1.05MM base salary with $200K guaranteed, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Miller can earn up to $1.5MM more in achievable incentives.

AFC East Notes: Newton, Tua, Fins, Bills

The Patriots made a big splash last night when they signed former league MVP Cam Newton to a one-year contract. The assumption is that Newton will be the team’s starting signal-caller, but Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network says the Pats made no promises in that regard. Still, while there is technically an open competition between Newton and second-year pro Jarrett Stidham, it would be stunning if Newton did not win the job (video link). Garafolo also points out that Newton still has to pass a physical, but the Patriots are confident he will do so.

Garafolo also passes along a fun fact (via Twitter): New England is the third team in NFL history to lose one MVP and sign another in the same offseason. The 2000 Dolphins parted ways with Dan Marino and brought in Thurman Thomas, and the 2005 Cardinals bid farewell to Emmitt Smith and signed Kurt Warner.

Now for more from the AFC East:

  • The Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa with the belief that he will be the franchise signal-caller the team has been seeking for the past 20 years. He may not start right away, but Albert Breer of SI.com believes the southpaw will be put into the starting lineup at some point this season. While the 2020 Dolphins should be an improved squad over last year’s iteration, Miami is still probably at least a year away from playoff contention, so the team will have no reason to keep Tagovailoa on the sidelines for the entire campaign.
  • Miami is set at the LG and C spots with Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras, respectively. Beyond that, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald says the Dolphins are still undecided as to whether second-round rookie Robert Hunt would be a better fit at RG or RT in 2020. If Hunt gets a shot at RT and performs well, that could bump 2019 starter Jesse Davis back to the interior or to the bench. Meanwhile, Michael Deiter will compete for the starting RG and backup C slots.
  • In the same piece linked above, Jackson notes that the Dolphins are working out WR Gary Jennings in the slot — where he thrived in college — and on the outside. Jennings was a fourth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2019, but Seattle waived him in November and Miami scooped him up. He played in just one game for the ‘Fins before getting hurt, but his draft pedigree and upside will give him a good chance to make the club as the fifth or sixth WR.
  • In a minor trade last summer, the Bills acquired OL Ryan Bates from the Eagles in exchange for DE Eli Harold. Philadelphia subsequently cut Harold, but Buffalo hung on to Bates, who was active for nine games. Per Adam Caplan of InsideTheBirds.com, the Bills view Bates, a 2019 UDFA, as a viable right tackle, guard, and center, so they expect him to be a key backup in 2020 who may take on a bigger role down the road.
  • Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic, meanwhile, views Bates as a potential trade candidate. Buscaglia also looks at a few other players that the Bills could put on the trade market, a list headed by WR Robert Foster and TE Jason Croom.

Patriots Notes: Stidham, McDaniels, Winovich

Jarrett Stidham will likely be taking over for Tom Brady next season, and his former college coach is optimistic that the 2019 fourth-rounder will be successful.

“It definitely helped him to learn under the best and see what that looks like, but he’s the kind of young man, too, this is what he’s been waiting on,” Auburn’s Gus Malzahn told ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “I’ll tell you, the moment won’t be too big for him. He’ll be up to the challenge, that’s what I expect.

“Even when he got here, before he played his first game, you could just kind of tell he was a mature young man. Like a gym rat, always at the complex trying to learn, study film. When he got drafted by the Patriots [in 2019], I thought it was a perfect spot for him system-wise — spreading the field. He’s so good with protections, changing protections, and scheme-wise everything that goes with it, and just the flexibility the scheme gives him. I think that really applies to his strength.”

Stidham played a pair of seasons at Auburn, including a 2017 campaign where he connected on 66.5-percent of his passes for 3,158 yards, 18 touchdowns, and six interceptions.

Here are some more notes out of New England:

  • We’ve heard this plenty of times, but Joseph Person of The Athletic reiterates that Cam Newton won’t be landing with the Patriots. In fact, the reporter notes that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wasn’t “necessarily high” on Newton when he interviewed for the Panthers’ head coaching gig.
  • Speaking of McDaniels, SI.com’s Albert Breer writes that a successful 2020 campaign (particularly from Stidham) could go a long way in the OC getting more head coaching interviews next offseason. If McDaniels does leave New England, Breer hints that he may take Patriots pro director Dave Ziegler with him; McDaniels planned to recruit the executive when he was interviewing with Cleveland.
  • Patriots defensive end Chase Winovich is recovering from hernia surgery, reports Stan Grossfeld of the Boston Globe. The 25-year-old underwent the procedure back in February. The 2019 third-rounder had a solid rookie season for New England, compiling 26 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
  • Marqise Lee‘s new one-year deal with the Patriots is worth the veteran minimum, reports Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). The deal could be worth up to $1.0475MM, and it includes $300K in guaranteed money. If Lee makes the team, he’ll have a cap hold of $887.5K.

Bill Belichick On Not Adding QB In Draft

We heard last month that Jarrett Stidham, a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft, is in the driver’s seat to open the 2020 season as the Patriots’ starting QB. But we also heard that New England was all but certain to select a rookie passer in this year’s draft in either the first round or with a mid-round choice, and that did not happen.

The Pats had the opportunity to select Utah State QB Jordan Love with the No. 23 overall pick, but they shipped that selection to the Chargers. They also had multiple chances to select passers like Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm, but they instead chose to address their defense and their thin TE depth chart.

So one of the big winners on draft night was Stidham, whom many believe is better than Love and the other QBs in this year’s class outside of the consensus top-three. Still, the fact that New England completely avoided the quarterback position until it agreed to sign UDFA J’Mar Smith came as a surprise to many, and head coach Bill Belichick was asked about the team’s approach in that regard.

“If we feel like we find the right situation, we’ll certainly draft [quarterbacks],” Belichick said (via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com). “We’ve drafted them in multiple years, multiple points in the draft. Didn’t work out the last three days. That wasn’t by design. We just tried to do the best we could with what we had this weekend.”

Belichick stopped short of anointing Stidham the starter, however. “Jarrett had a good year last year,” the legendary HC said. “He improved a lot. We’ll see where that takes him.”

Per Reiss, Belichick also expressed confidence in veteran Brian Hoyer, who may be more suited to start at least the early stages of the 2020 season if Stidham is unable to get the necessary training camp reps due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The club could theoretically pursue a player like Cam Newton or Andy Dalton, but rumors connecting those two to Foxborough have generally been shot down.

Another speculative fit, Jameis Winston, came off the board earlier today.

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Jarrett Stidham To Start For Patriots?

We heard earlier today that the Patriots may be gearing up for a starting quarterback competition between Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, but Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston says that as of now, the job is Stidham’s to lose.

There is plenty of logic to that. The Patriots selected Stidham in the fourth round of the 2019 draft and are said to be high on him, and most believe that New England will spend 2020 cleaning up its salary cap situation and preparing for a return to contention in 2021. That means that the club will not pursue a potentially pricey QB like the recently-released Cam Newton, and it means that Stidham will have a chance to prove that he can be the rightful heir to Tom Brady.

Curran does say that if the COVID-19 pandemic puts a damper on Stidham’s development — which it seems almost certain to do — then Hoyer could get the nod to open the 2020 season. Stidham, though, would probably step in at some point thereafter. The Auburn product threw just four passes in his rookie campaign but put together a strong two years against SEC defenses in 2017-18.

While we’re on the subject of the Patriots, let’s round up a few more notes out of Foxborough:

  • The release of longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski did not create $3.5MM of cap space, as originally reported. Because $2MM of Gostkowski’s 2020 salary was fully-guaranteed, the move actually frees up less than $1MM of space. So as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets, Gostkowski’s release wasn’t financially motivated; the team just wanted a new kicker.
  • Hoyer’s contract calls for a $1.05MM salary with $2MM in playing time incentives, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Because his deal with the Colts contained offsets, Hoyer will earn at least $2MM in 2020.
  • The Patriots agreed to sign veteran defensive back Cody Davis yesterday, and ESPN’s Field Yates reports that Davis will take home a $1.1MM base salary and landed a $100K signing bonus (Twitter link). He will carry a cap charge of $1.5MM.
  • Fullback Dan Vitale‘s new contract is a one-year pact worth $1.3MM, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets. He received a $100K signing bonus and can earn another $200K in playing time incentives.

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