Joe Milton

Patriots Rumors: Godchaux, QBs, Gonzalez

The Patriots have a number of players on multi-year contracts who are heading into contract-years in 2024. One such player is veteran defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, who came to New England back in 2021. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Godchaux didn’t practice at all during last week’s mandatory minicamp amid desires for a new contract.

Godchaux’s initial deal in New England was a two-year, $15MM contract that he earned in free agency following the expiration of his rookie deal with the Dolphins. The following offseason, the Patriots helped Godchaux avoid a contract year, extending him on another two-year deal, this one worth $20.8MM.

Entering the final year of his current deal, Godchaux is set to earn a base salary of $7.15MM. He’ll have the opportunity to earn an additional $150K via workout bonus and an extra $58,823 in per game active roster bonuses (for a potential season total of $1MM). Additionally, Godchaux is set to represent an $11.8MM cap hit in 2024, the third-largest figure on the team’s roster.

If the Patriots are interested in retaining Godchaux past his age-30 season, it could behoove them to work with the veteran to reach a new deal in order to lessen his cap impact this season. That’s a big “if,” though. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Godchaux had the worst season of his career in 2023, grading out as the 102nd-best player at his position out of 130 graded interior defenders. He’s also now six years removed from his best season, in which he was the 39th-best interior defender.

New head coach Jerod Mayo told reporters that Godchaux is only one of a “bunch of guys” who want to “redo contracts.” Other players who are entering contract years who may be a part of that group include Matt Judon, Deatrich Wise, Jonathan Jones, Jabrill Peppers, Jahlani Tavai, Rhamondre Stevenson, Daniel Ekuale, and Raekwon McMillan.

Here are a couple of other rumors coming out of New England:

  • In one of our recent breakdowns of the Patriots’ quarterback situation, we mentioned that the intention of the team was to narrow the field of competition down to three guys by the end of spring. Jeff Howe of The Athletic partially echoed that sentiment, stating that, “ideally, the Patriots hope to enter the meat of training camp with three quarterbacks.” With No. 3 overall pick Drake Maye and veteran Jacoby Brissett likely cemented on the roster in either the QB1 or QB2 roles, that gives Bailey Zappe and rookie sixth-round pick Joe Milton quite a bit more time to earn the QB3 job. In an emergency situation, Zappe has experience starting from a backup role, but Milton has the potential to serve as a more versatile scout team quarterback at practices with more years on his current contract. Regardless, the deadline to wrap up their battle for the third-string role has been potentially extended to training camp.
  • The Patriots’ first-round selection from last year, Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez, saw his rookie season come to a terribly early end as he suffered a torn labrum that would sideline him after only four games. After undergoing shoulder surgery last season, Gonzalez was finally back on the field at the team’s minicamp. He claims to be “feeling good” coming off of a long recovery period, according to Reiss.

Patriots Rumors: Maye, WRs, Hightower

As organized team activities have progressed in New England, it’s looking more and more like Jacoby Brissett may be the team’s starter under center in Week 1. Naturally, some have asked if that makes No. 3 overall pick Drake Maye the primary backup at the position or an emergency option to stash for development purposes.

According to Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald, Maye likely won’t need to sit and develop. In fact, Kyed reports that some in the building viewed Maye as a prospect ready to start right away as a rookie during the draft cycle. Even though Brissett is taking the lion’s share of first-team reps in OTAs so far, there’s plenty of time until training camp and the regular season for Maye to potentially take over the starting gig.

And, should Maye not beat out Brissett for the job, this also means that Maye likely won’t be stashed to sit and develop but, instead, will be the team’s primary backup behind Brissett. Kyed also notes that it makes more sense for the Patriots to stash and develop rookie sixth-round pick Joe Milton than it does to hold on to Bailey Zappe as an emergency third option. The team has seen what Zappe can provide up to this point, and while he won’t garner outstanding trade value, he should return something as an upgrade to many backup situations around the league.

Here are a few other rumors coming out of New England:

  • The Patriots’ wide receivers room is currently packed, while only six or seven players will likely end up on the 53-man roster to start the season. Kyed lists rookies Javon Baker and Ja’Lynn Polk as locks to make the team alongside Kendrick Bourne, Demario Douglas, and K.J. Osborn, leaving only one or two spots left for the rest of the group. That leaves a number of intriguing names in a precarious position including former Pro Bowler JuJu Smith-Schuster, former first-round pick Jalen Reagor, recent second-round pick Tyquan Thornton, and last year’s sixth-round pick Kayshon Boutte. As of right now, none of those four players are viewed as locks to make the roster in 2024.
  • New head coach Jerod Mayo and leading personnel executive Eliot Wolf are heading a new-look team in New England this offseason. One of the ways in which Mayo is attempting to bring the team into this new era is by appealing to the shorter attention spans of younger players. According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Mayo has tossed the old method of marathon meeting sessions, instead favoring a new philosophy of “25-minute mental sprints” before taking short breaks. It reportedly heightens the pace of meetings while allowing for appropriate rest time in between.
  • Since leaving the NFL in 2021, former Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower has enjoyed retirement. While he still shared a love and knowledge for the game, he had little interest in leaving the life he was living behind. In an interview, Hightower claimed that his former college coach Nick Saban and Mayo were the only two names that could’ve drawn him out of retirement onto the sideline, per Howe. It just so happened that his close friend and former teammate became the head coach of their old team and offered him Mayo’s old job of inside linebackers coach. It was one of the very few offers Hightower wouldn’t say “no” to.

Latest On Patriots’ QB Battle

The Patriots hoped that they had the answer to replacing franchise quarterback Tom Brady when rookie first-round pick Mac Jones made the Pro Bowl while taking New England to the playoffs only two years after Brady’s departure. Unfortunately for them, the spark Jones showed in his rookie season quickly fizzled out as he found himself relegated to the bench last year and traded to the Jaguars. Once again, the Patriots have dedicated significant draft capital to the position, but perhaps they have been scared away from depending on their drafted talent in Year 1.

According to Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald, No. 3 overall pick Drake Maye is currently running third on the depth chart in New England, behind Jacoby Brissett and Bailey Zappe. While we’re still early into the offseason, and Maye has plenty of time to work his way past Brissett and Zappe, the Patriots seem to be making him earn his role instead of gifting it to him based on his draft stock.

Technically, all four quarterbacks on the roster were drafted by New England, a feat not seen often in the NFL. Brissett, though, is returning to the team that drafted him for the first time since his rookie season. The 31-year-old veteran is the one currently taking first-team snaps in organized team activities, which makes sense, considering he has the most starting NFL experience of the youthful group.

After starting two games as a rookie, Brissett was traded to the Colts just prior to the start of his sophomore campaign. A week later, Brissett unseated Scott Tolzien as the starter filling in for an injured Andrew Luck and took over as full-time starter once again two years later after Luck announced his retirement two weeks before the 2019 season. Since then, Brissett has served mostly backup duty, starting five games in Miami for an injured Tua Tagovailoa in 2021 and starting the first 11 games of the Browns’ 2022 campaign as Cleveland waited out Deshaun Watson‘s suspension for sexual misconduct.

As a starter, Brissett is 18-30 in his career. Despite failing to consistently stay in the win column, the veteran has been efficient, completing 61.3 percent of the passes over his career for 51 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Not once has Brissett thrown more picks than touchdowns despite a career reputation as a backup. Now, returning to New England as a Patriot for the first time in eight years, Brissett seems to have been handed the reins and will attempt to hold off Maye as the offseason moves on.

Zappe has an intriguing case for the job, as well. New England took a flyer on Zappe as a fourth-round pick out of Western Kentucky two years ago. Filling in for an injured Jones and Brian Hoyer, Zappe showed promise after two starts, both of which were wins and one of which saw him throw for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Last year, despite starting the season on the practice squad, Zappe ended up taking the starting job from Jones down the stretch of the season as Jones’ struggles peaked. The 25-year-old has made the last six starts for the team under center, but his final two outings saw him throw zero touchdowns and five interceptions while failing to breach the 100-yard mark in Week 17 despite 30 pass attempts.

Zappe’s struggles led to the offseason acquisition of Brissett, thanks to the veteran’s known ability to start during bridge seasons when a starter is only needed for about one year. They also led to the team drafting two quarterbacks in this year’s draft: Maye and Tennessee-product Joe Milton. Milton spent the first three seasons of his collegiate career in Ann Arbor, serving as a backup for two years at Michigan before starting five games of the team’s COVID-19-shortened, six-game season in 2020. Going 2-3, completing only 56.7 percent of his passes, and only throwing four touchdowns to four interceptions, Milton progressively lost playing time to Cade McNamara at Michigan and eventually transferred to Tennessee.

Initially entering the 2021 season as the starter for the Volunteers, an injury opened the door for Hendon Hooker, who took over as starter until tearing his ACL 11 games into the 2022 season. Finally, in 2023, Milton got his opportunity to start for a full-season and didn’t disappoint. As Tennessee went 9-4 with Milton, the collegiate veteran completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions, adding seven more scores on the ground.

While one should never say never concerning Milton’s chances of earning the Patriots’ starting job as a rookie, the real draw of the 2024 draft class is the third-overall pick out of North Carolina, Maye. After redshirting in 2021 behind Sam Howell, Maye exploded onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in Chapel Hill, completing 66.2 percent of his passes for 4,321 yards, 38 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions, adding 698 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Last year, the Tar Heels were expected to make a large leap alongside Maye, who many considered to be the top option to go second-overall after Caleb Williams, but the team remained stagnant in their success as Maye failed to come anywhere near his numbers from 2022. In two fewer games, Maye completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 3,608 yards, 24 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He rushed for 449 yards and nine additional scores last year, as well. While Maye’s status as a consensus first-round pick never quite waned, his stock fell quite a bit until a bidding war for passers forced many of the draft’s quarterbacks into the top 12 picks.

Maye clearly has the highest ceiling of the quarterbacks on the roster. The 21-year-old is the youngest arm on the roster by three years, and despite failing to improve in his second year as a starter, he’s shown a lot of pro-ready traits that prove the stage isn’t too big for him this early. The failure to get better also points to the possibility of a low floor for the rookie. If the Patriots are looking for the highest floor, Brissett is the likely pick to start under center.

Realistically, getting Maye’s feet wet and starting his professional development as an NFL starter is more important than avoiding a bad rookie season. The Patriots are a longshot to go from fourth in the AFC East to a division-title contender in 2024, so they likely won’t be in a win-now mindset.

While he has yet to earn the role just yet, expect Maye to be taking first-team reps in New England by training camp. Brissett provides an upgrade as an emergency starter in the worst-case scenario, and Zappe has proven he can be effective in small doses as a backup. Meanwhile, Milton will likely find his well to a practice squad where he can serve as an effective scout team quarterback. The team recently stated their plan to narrow the field of competition to three guys by the end of spring, so Zappe or Milton will likely find themselves off the roster or on the practice squad come September.

Latest On Patriots’ QB Depth

The Patriots are currently rostering four quarterbacks, but the team is expected to resolve the crowded depth chart as soon as possible. According to Albert Breer of SI.com, the Patriots’ plan is to “narrow the competition down to three guys by the end of spring.”

With OC Alex Van Pelt installing a new offense, the Patriots are hoping for a “more efficient” approach by the time the team gets together in the summer. New England’s organized team activities started today and will run sporadically until mandatory minicamp on June 11. The front office will presumably use that following month to resolve the logjam.

After being selected with the third-overall pick, rookie Drake Maye will obviously take up one of the roster spots. Free agent acquisition Jacoby Brissett will also be on the roster, and Breer notes that the veteran still has “an early leg up” on the QB1 spot. Assuming the Patriots intend to roster a third quarterback, the competition for the final spot will come down to Bailey Zappe and rookie Joe Milton III.

Zappe, a former fourth-round pick, has spent the past two seasons in New England, occasionally filling in for Mac Jones. Zappe went 4-4 in his eight career starts, and in his 14 appearances, he’s completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 2,053 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. After showing some promise as a rookie, Zappe seemed to take a step back in 2023, with some sources pointing to his inability to grasp Bill O’Brien‘s offensive system. Zappe’s ability to click with Van Pelt could end up determining his future with the organization.

Milton was selected in the sixth round of the Patriots, so he’s not necessarily entitled to a roster spot. Known more as a developmental passer, the Michigan and Tennessee product is known for his size (six-foot-five, 235 pounds) and his cannon of an arm. With Maye and Brissett firmly atop the depth chart, the Patriots may opt for the rookie’s upside vs. the more experienced option in Zappe.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/10/24

Yesterday’s rush of rookie signings continued today. Here are Friday’s draft pick signings:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

  • K Will Reichard (sixth round, Alabama)
  • C Michael Jurgens (seventh round, Wake Forest)
  • DT Levi Drake Rodriguez (seventh round, Texas A&M-Commerce)

New England Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • G Mason McCormick (fourth round, South Dakota State)
  • DT Logan Lee (sixth round, Iowa)

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

Patriots Select QB Joe Milton At No. 193

New England already added at the quarterback spot at the top of the first round, but the team has doubled down at the position. The Patriots have selected Tennessee QB Joe Milton with the 193rd pick.

Drake Maye – selected with the third overall pick on Thursday night – is in place as New England’s signal-caller of the future. Milton represents another developmental option for new head coach Jerod Mayo‘s staff to work with. The latter spent six seasons in college, though his only full-time starting gig came in 2023.

Milton gained and then lost the No. 1 spot in Michigan before transferring to Tennessee. Upon arrival with the Volunteers, he held down first-team duties prior to being overtaken by Hendon Hooker. Hooker was selected in last year’s draft, which paved the way for Milton to regain the starter’s gig. In 2023, the 24-year-old threw for 2,813 yards while posting a 20:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He added 299 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

At the Combine, Milton showed off his arm strength, something which will be a key factor in his ability to earn a roster spot at the NFL level. Playing time will be hard to come by in New England given the list of other options on the depth chart for the time being, however. Bailey Zappe is a returning passer from last year, but the arrival of two rookies could see him on the move. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport notes Zappe is “likely” available in a trade.

Moving on from Mac Jones this offseason, the Patriots signed Jacoby Brissett to serve as a veteran option while developing a rookie. He could begin the campaign as New England’s starter before the reins are turned over to Maye. While the status of those two quarterbacks will be an intriguing storyline during the summer, Milton will be in place as another passer aiming to earn a 53-man roster spot.