The Patriots’ backup QB carousel continues. The team is waiving quarterback Will Grier, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The move clears a spot for p-squad offensive lineman Conor McDermott to join the 53-man roster, per Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald.
While Mac Jones has started every game for the Patriots this season, the depth chart behind him has seen plenty of reshuffling. Projected backup (and potential QB1 fill-in) Bailey Zappe was bounced from the roster after the preseason, only to later rejoin the active roster via the practice squad. Former third-round pick Matt Corral was also briefly on the team before eventually earning his walking papers.
The Patriots then pivoted to Grier as a potential backup option. Grier most recently served as one of Dak Prescott‘s backups in Dallas, but following the Cowboys’ acquisition of Trey Lance, the 2019 third-round pick was cut loose. After a brief stint on the Bengals practice squad, Grier was added to New England’s 53-man roster back in late September.
Grier hasn’t seen the field at all this season, and even with the Patriots’ uncertain QB situation, it was unlikely he was going to earn a promotion from his QB3 role. Coach Bill Belichick admitted as much during a recent appearance on Patriots All-Access.
“When you’re new and haven’t been here in training camp and had the full background of OTAs and a chance to run our core plays, it’s a lot to catch up on,” Belichick said. “Will has done a good job of it. There’s no issues with him. It’s just there’s only so many snaps out there.”
With Grier no longer on the roster, Malik Cunningham could be in line for snaps if the Patriots pivot from both Jones and Zappe. The UDFA out of Louisville has spent much of the season working with the Patriots receivers, although the organization hasn’t completely shut the door on his QB abilities. For what it’s worth, the rookie did tell Kyed that he’s not part of the team’s plans at quarterback tomorrow against the Giants.
So, as expected, that leaves Jones and Zappe as the candidates to start Week 12. The Patriots still haven’t announced who will start the game, but with Jones having reportedly lost “at least 80 percent of the Patriots’ locker room,” there seems to be some real momentum towards Zappe earning his first start of the season. The 2022 fourth-round pick showed some flashes as a rookie, but the Patriots have been reluctant to turn to the second-year pro in 2023.
That lack of faith could be because of Zappe’s underwhelming performances at practice. As Kyed writes, the second-year pro has struggled under new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, and Jones has been the superior QB every step of the way. While that’s obviously not saying a whole lot, the Patriots may be struggling to justify a Zappe promotion.