Mac Jones

Jaguars To Decline Mac Jones’ Fifth-Year Option

Mac Jones is set to finish out his four-year rookie contract with the Jaguars, who faced three fifth-year option decisions as a result of acquiring the former Patriots first-rounder. After exercising Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne‘s options, they will make the expected call of declining Jones’.

The Jags will not extend Jones’ contract through 2025, according to’s Michael DiRocco. This would have meant a $25.66MM salary. Seeing as Jones is set to be Lawrence’s backup, the former No. 15 overall pick’s option loomed as a non-starter from the jump. Teams have until May 2 to exercise or decline fifth-year options on 2021 first-rounders.

[RELATED: 2025 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker]

The Patriots’ starter for most of his time in New England, Jones landed on the third tier of the option structure. The Pats were not going to exercise the former No. 15 overall pick’s option, as his play sharply declined after a promising rookie season. The former Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up — acquired for a sixth-round pick in March — is now officially in a contract year.

Jones joins three other quarterbacks from the 2021 first round — Trey Lance, Justin Fields and now Zach Wilsonin being traded. Lawrence is the only member of that quintet who remains with his original team. The former No. 1 overall pick is also the only member of that group who saw his option exercised. That draft serves as a warning sign for teams that dived into this year’s first round for a passer; last week’s group tied 1983 for the most Round 1 passers in a draft.

As for Jones, he will attempt to move back on track in what is expected to be a season out of the spotlight. Disagreements with Bill Belichick created the perception of a frosty relationship between the Alabama alum and the former Patriots HC; the post-Belichick Pats were among the teams to acquire a quarterback in this year’s first round. As Drake Maye prepares to solidify himself as a franchise-caliber passer, Jones is at an early-career crossroads. Lawrence having only missed one NFL start points to Jones taking a reset year.

Jones, 25, was initially linked to being the 49ers’ target in 2021. That may well have been the case, but the team went with Lance. With Josh McDaniels calling the shots to close out his second stint as Patriots OC, Jones piloted the Pats to an 10-7 record and finished behind only Ja’Marr Chase in that season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year balloting. Belichick’s decision to go with Matt Patricia as OC in 2022 predictably backfired, and Jones — who joined the chorus of skeptics about the Patricia decision — drew the ire of his NFL HC for reaching out to Alabama staffers about solutions. No improvement took place under established OC Bill O’Brien, however, further tanking Jones’ value.

Jones ranked 28th in QBR last season and ended up benched for Bailey Zappe to close out the campaign. Averaging a career-low 6.1 yards per attempt, Jones threw 10 TD passes compared to 12 INTs. Going 2-9 as a starter last year, Jones spent Week 18 as the Pats’ third-stringer. The Jags have their three-year backup, C.J. Beathard, signed for the ’24 season as well. It will be interesting to see how Jacksonville’s depth chart looks come September.

2025 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 2 to officially pick up fifth-year options on 2021 first-rounders. The 2020 CBA revamped the option structure and made them fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, fifth-year option salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement and performance- and usage-based benchmarks:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternates) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag
  • Players who achieve any of the following will receive the average of the third-20th-highest salaries at their position:
    • At least a 75% snap rate in two of their first three seasons
    • A 75% snap average across all three seasons
    • At least 50% in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will receive the average of the third-25th top salaries at their position

With the deadline looming, we will use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

  1. QB Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars ($25.66MM): Exercised
  2. QB Zach Wilson, Broncos* ($22.41MM): Declined
  3. QB Trey Lance, Cowboys** ($22.41MM): Declined
  4. TE Kyle Pitts, Falcons ($10.88MM): Exercised
  5. WR Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals ($21.82MM): Exercised
  6. WR Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins ($15.59MM): Exercised
  7. T Penei Sewell, Lions ($19MM): Extended through 2029
  8. CB Jaycee Horn, Panthers ($12.47MM): Exercised
  9. CB Patrick Surtain, Broncos ($19.82MM): Exercised
  10. WR DeVonta Smith, Eagles ($15.59MM): Extended through 2028
  11. QB Justin Fields, Steelers*** ($25.66MM): Declined
  12. DE Micah Parsons, Cowboys ($21.32MM): Exercised
  13. T Rashawn Slater, Chargers ($19MM): Exercised
  14. OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jets ($13.31MM): Exercised
  15. QB Mac Jones, Jaguars**** ($25.66MM): Declined
  16. LB Zaven Collins, Cardinals ($13.25MM): Declined
  17. T Alex Leatherwood, Raiders: N/A
  18. LB Jaelan Phillips, Dolphins ($13.3MM): Exercised
  19. LB Jamin Davis, Commanders ($14.48MM): Declined
  20. WR Kadarius Toney, Chiefs***** ($14.35MM): Declined
  21. DE Kwity Paye, Colts ($13.4MM): Exercised
  22. CB Caleb Farley, Titans ($12.47MM): Declined
  23. T Christian Darrisaw, Vikings ($16MM): Exercised
  24. RB Najee Harris, Steelers ($6.79MM): Declined
  25. RB Travis Etienne, Jaguars ($6.14MM): Exercised
  26. CB Greg Newsome, Browns ($13.38MM): To be exercised
  27. WR Rashod Bateman, Ravens ($14.35MM): N/A; extended through 2026
  28. DE Payton Turner, Saints ($13.39MM): Declined
  29. CB Eric Stokes, Packers ($12.47MM): Declined
  30. DE Greg Rousseau, Bills ($13.39MM): Exercised
  31. LB Odafe Oweh, Ravens ($13.25MM): Exercised
  32. LB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Buccaneers ($13.25MM): Declined

* = Jets traded Wilson on April 22, 2024
** = 49ers traded Lance on August 25, 2023
*** = Bears traded Fields on March 16, 2024
**** = Patriots traded Jones on March 10, 2024
***** = Giants traded Toney on October 27, 2022

Revisiting 2021 First-Round QB Picks

With the 2024 draft approaching, this year’s crop of quarterbacks will increasingly become the center of attention around the NFL. Acquiring rookie passers is viewed as the surest route to long-term success, and the urgency teams feel to generate quick rebuilds fuels aggressive moves aimed at acquiring signal-callers deemed to have high upside.

Each class is different, though, and past drafts can offer a cautionary tale about the downfalls of being overly optimistic regarding a young quarterback. In the case of the 2021 draft, five signal-callers were selected on Day 1, and to varying extents things have not gone according to plan in each case. Three quarterbacks (quite possibly four, depending on how the immediate future plays out) have been traded, while the other has not lived up to expectations.

Here is a breakdown of all five QBs taken in the first round three years ago:

Trevor Lawrence (No. 1 overall, Jaguars)

Lawrence entered the league with enormous expectations after his high school and college success, having been touted as a generational prospect. The Clemson product (like the rest of the Jaguars) endured a forgettable season under head coach Urban Meyer as a rookie, however. The latter’s firing paved the way for the arrival of Doug Pederson, known to be a QB-friendly coach. Lawrence improved in 2022, earning a Pro Bowl nod and helping guide the team to the divisional round of the postseason.

This past campaign saw the 24-year-old battle multiple nagging injuries, and he was forced to miss a game for the first time in his career. Jacksonville failed to find a rhythm on offense throughout the year, and a late-season slump left the team out of the playoffs altogether after a division title seemed to be in hand. In two seasons under Pederson, Lawrence has totaled 46 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions – figures which fall short of what the pair were thought to be capable of while working together. Nonetheless, no changes under center will be forthcoming.

Following in line with his previous stance on the matter, general manager Trent Baalke confirmed last month extension talks with Lawrence have begun. The former college national champion will be on his rookie contract through 2025 once the Jaguars exercise his fifth-year option, but megadeals finalized in a QB’s first year of extension eligibility have become commonplace around the NFL. Lawrence profiles as Jacksonville’s answer under center for years to come, something of particular significance given the team’s past struggles to find a long-term producer at the position.

Four young passers inked second contracts averaging between $51MM and $55MM per year last offseason. Lawrence is positioned to be the next in line for a similar deal, though his generally pedestrian stats could hinder his leverage to a degree. At a minimum, he will see an AAV much higher than that of his 2025 option ($25.66MM) once his next contract is in place.

Zach Wilson (No. 2, Jets)

The Jets’ decision to take Sam Darnold third overall in 2018 did not prove fruitful, and in short order the team was in need of another young passer. Wilson was immediately installed as the team’s starter, but in both his rookie campaign and his follow-up season he struggled in a number of categories. A lack of improvement regarding accuracy and interception rates made it clear a more proven commodity would be required for a team internally viewed as being a quarterback away from contention.

That drove the decision to trade for Aaron Rodgers last offseason, a move aimed at relying on the future Hall of Famer in the short term while allowing Wilson to develop as a backup. Four snaps into the season, though, Rodgers’ Achilles tear upended that plan and thrust Wilson back into a starting role. Playing behind a struggling (and injury-marred) offensive line, the BYU alum guided an offense which finished 29th in scoring and 31st in yardage. In the wake of the poor showing, owner Woody Johnson publicly disparaged Wilson in vowing to upgrade the QB2 spot.

With Tyrod Taylor now in place (and Rodgers aiming to continue playing into his 40s), Wilson’s New York days are believed to be numbered. The Jets have given him permission to seek a trade, which comes as little surprise given the team’s decision to bench him on a few occasions over the past two seasons. A fresh start for both parties could be beneficial, although value on a deal will come well short of the capital used to draft him. Offers for the 24-year-old have nevertheless been received, so a deal could be struck in relatively short order.

Once that takes place, New York will have once again cut bait with a failed QB project. Wilson could follow Darnold’s path in taking on a backup gig before receiving another starting opportunity with a new team. For the time being, though, he will aim to find the ideal supporting role in an attempt to rebuild his value.

Trey Lance (No. 3, 49ers)

Aggressively pursuing a Jimmy Garoppolo upgrade, San Francisco moved up the board at a substantial cost. The 49ers sent the Dolphins a package including three first-round picks and a third-rounder, banking on Lance’s athletic upside. After a year sitting behind Garoppolo, the North Dakota State product was positioned to take over in 2022.

However, a Week 2 ankle fracture cut Lance’s season was cut short; this proved to mark an end to his San Francisco tenure. In all, Lance made just four regular-season starts with the 49ers, as the 2022 season unintentionally resulted in Brock Purdy taking over the starter’s role. The emergence of the former Mr. Irrelevant paved the way for Lance to be traded, but his injury history and inconsistent play when on the field limited his trade market. The Cowboys won a brief bidding war, acquiring Lance for a fourth-round pick.

Lance did not see the field in his first season as a Cowboy, but Dallas will keep him in the fold for the 2024 campaign. He will thus be in line to serve as Dak Prescott’s backup for a year; the latter is not under contract for 2025, but he remains firmly in the team’s plans. Unless Prescott were to depart in free agency next offseason, a path to a No. 1 role does not currently exist for Lance.

The 23-year-old could nevertheless still be viewed as a worthwhile developmental prospect given his age and athletic traits. The Lance acquisition has clearly proven to be a mistake on the 49ers’ part, though, especially given the success the team has had without him. What-ifs will remain a part of this 49ers chapter’s legacy (particularly if the current core cannot get over the Super Bowl hump) considering the substantial price paid to move up the board and the draft picks not available in subsequent years as a result.

Justin Fields (No. 11, Bears)

Like San Francisco, Chicago did not wait on the chance of having a top QB prospect fall down the draft board. The Bears moved two first-round picks, along fourth- and fifth-rounders, to move ahead of the Patriots and add a presumed long-term answer under center. Fields saw playing time early enough (10 starts as a rookie), but his performance that year left plenty of room for improvement.

A head coaching change from Matt Nagy to Matt Eberflus also brought about the arrival of a new offensive coordinator (Luke Getsy). Fields did not make the expected jump as a passer in the new system, averaging less than 150 yards per game through the air and taking 55 sacks. He became only the third quarterback to record over 1,000 yards on the ground in a season, though, showcasing his rushing ability. The Ohio State product made only incremental progress in 2023, despite an improved offensive line and the trade acquisition of wideout D.J. Moore.

As a result, speculation steadily intensified that general manager Ryan Poles – who was not a member of the regime which drafted Fields – would move on from the 25-year-old. Fields received endorsements from Eberflus, Poles and others in the building, but the team decided to move on and pave the way for (in all likelihood) Caleb Williams being drafted first overall. A conditional sixth-round pick sent Fields to the Steelers, his preferred destination.

In Pittsburgh, Fields is slated to begin as the backup Russell Wilson. Both passers face uncertain futures beyond 2024, especially with the former not on track to have his fifth-year option exercised. Fields could play his way into the starter’s role in relatively short order given the 10-year age gap between he and Wilson, who flamed out in Denver. That, in turn, could see his market value jump higher than that of the other non-Lawrence members of this class given their respective situations.

Mac Jones (No. 15, Patriots)

Drafted to become the Tom Brady successor of both the short- and long-term future, Jones was immediately installed as New England’s starter. Coming off a national title with Alabama, he appeared to set the stage for a long Patriots tenure by earning a Pro Bowl nod and finishing second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting. Nothing went according to plan for team or player beyond that point, however.

Jones saw Josh McDaniels depart in the 2022 offseason, leaving head coach Bill Belichick to hand the offensive reins over to Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. That move resulted in widespread struggles on offense, and Jones regressed. Following a 2021 playoff berth, the inability to venture back to the postseason the following year led to increased speculation about the team’s future under center. That became particularly true amid reports of tension between Jones and Belichick.

With both coach and quarterback under pressure to rebound, optimism emerged when the Patriots hired Bill O’Brien as OC. That move did not produce the desired results, though, and by the end of the year Jones was benched in favor of Bailey Zappe. With a Belichick-less regime set to start over at the quarterback spot, the former was dealt to the Jaguars for a sixth-round pick.

Jones has publicly stated the deal (which sent him to his hometown team) was a mutual parting of ways. A backup gig behind Lawrence could allow the pocket passer to regain some of his confidence generated by his rookie success, but his showings over the past two seasons will no doubt give teams considerable pause with respect to viewing him as a starter down the road. Jones’ athletic profile is also a less favorable one than that of Wilson, Lance and especially Fields, something which could further consign him to QB2 duties for the foreseeable future.

Four quarterbacks are considered locks to hear their names called on Day 1 of the 2024 draft, one in which each of the top three picks may very well once again be used on signal-callers. Other QB prospects are also in contention for Round 1 consideration, meaning they and their new teams will be subject to considerable scrutiny. To put it lightly, all parties involved will hope the top of this year’s class pans out better than that of its 2021 counterpart.

Jaguars QB Mac Jones Addresses Patriots Trade

Free agency saw several veteran quarterbacks find new homes. A number of trades took place involving signal-callers as well, though, including the one which ended Mac Jones‘ Patriots tenure.

The 2021 first-rounder was dealt to the Jaguars last week in return for a sixth-round pick. The move will allow Jones to play for his hometown team while getting a fresh start following his underwhelming run in New England. He will serve as Trevor Lawrence‘s backup for at least one season, while the Patriots will reset under center. Jones recently spoke about the trade.

“We kind of just decided the mutual parting of ways was the best decision for both of us,” the 25-year-old said, via Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald“For me, it was just about moving on and getting back home, and I couldn’t be more excited. And for them, it’s about moving forward and turning the page. So really, that’s what we decided, and I think it’s a great decision.”

Jones had an encouraging rookie season, but his struggles the following year under Matt Patricia and Joe Judge led to questions about his long-term viability as a starter. A coaching change led to Bill O’Brien taking charge of the Patriots’ offense in 2023, but Jones did not rebound as hoped. The Alabama product was benched in favor of Bailey Zappe to close out the campaign, furthering the expectation he would be dealt during the offseason.

The Patriots have indeed moved on, with Zappe, former Jaguars addition Nathan Rourke and veteran Jacoby Brissett on the QB depth chart. New England is widely expected to draft a signal-caller third overall, and the understanding of that plan lends credence to Jones’ assertion the trade was a mutual parting of ways. The latter will compete for the QB2 job in Jacksonville with veteran C.J. Beathard.

One year remains on Jones’ rookie contract; the Jaguars will surely decline his 2025 fifth-year option (valued at $25.66MM). His free agent stock will thus depend on his play over the coming season, something which will not involve much in the way of opportunities if Lawrence remains healthy. Jones’ value and the performance of his replacement will be worth monitoring in 2024.

Broncos “Leaning Toward” Jarrett Stidham As QB1

Before the 2024 league year began, we heard that Jarrett Stidham had a good chance to open the season as the Broncos’ starting quarterback. Now, as the dust settles on the first wave of free agency, it appears that Stidham’s hold on the QB1 job has only gotten stronger.

In evaluating the QB signings and trades that have taken place around the league, Mike Klis of says that the Broncos “seem to be leaning toward” having Stidham serve as the starter — at least at the beginning of the 2024 campaign — and using their No. 12 overall selection on a collegiate passer. After all, while Denver considered Sam Darnold, who ultimately signed with the Vikings, Sean Payton & Co. reportedly did not make a contract offer (per Klis, Darnold strongly preferred Minnesota anyway).

Likewise, Klis reports that the Broncos did their due diligence on former Patriots signal-caller Mac Jones, but they did not make a trade offer. New England ultimately dealt Jones to the Jaguars for a sixth-round pick. Klis also says that Denver was never in on high-priced free agent options like Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield, and he adds that the club has not shown any interest in Ryan Tannehill. While there are still free agents (Tannehill) and trade candidates (Trey Lance, Zach Wilson) that the Broncos could pursue, none of them would necessarily unseat Stidham.

Notwithstanding Klis’ expectation that the Broncos’ will use their top draft choice on a quarterback, Troy Renck of the Denver Post believes the team could trade back, unless a player like Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy should fall into that range, or unless Payton is particularly high on Oregon’s Bo Nix. Renck’s sources tell him that four quarterbacks will be selected within the top six picks of the draft, and it certainly seems to be a safe bet that the first three selections will be used on passers. The Bears (No. 1 overall) and Commanders (No. 2 overall) appear poised to draft QBs, and even if the Patriots (No. 3 overall) trade back, the team that trades with them may well use that pick on a quarterback. The price to leap up the draft board to select the third- or fourth-best QB prospect in the draft would be prohibitive for a team like the Broncos that is clearly in rebuild mode (to say nothing of the fact that the Vikings, who have the No. 11 overall pick, are better-positioned to make such a move).

Obviously, if the Broncos were to trade down as Renck suggests, that would solidify Stidham as the short-term starter while helping the team pick up additional capital to address other holes on a roster that has plenty of them. One way or another, as Albert Breer of wrote on the day free agency began, Denver is not going to force anything at the QB position, and Payton’s confidence in Stidham affords them the ability to be patient, even if “patience” is not one of Payton’s favorite words.

Patriots Submit Offer To WR Calvin Ridley

The Patriots’ reported interest in receiver Calvin Ridley is very real. According to Josina Anderson, the Patriots have made an offer to the free agent wideout.

[RELATED: Patriots Pursuing Calvin Ridley]

The organization is also opting to “keep a deal on the table” following today’s reports that focused on the interesting logistics of the previous Jaguars/Falcons trade. If Jacksonville re-signs Ridley before 2pm tomorrow, they’ll owe Atlanta a second-round pick. If they wait beyond that deadline and re-sign the receiver, the Jaguars would only owe the Falcons a third-round pick.

This led some pundits to believe that Ridley was destined to return to Jacksonville and was simply biding his time to provide his organization with better draft capital. However, it sounds like the Patriots are still very much in the hunt, and it’ll be interesting to see how negotiations progress over the next 24 hours.

New England holds more than $80MM in cap space, and with Ridley sitting atop the WR market, it only made sense that the Patriots would target the free agent for their new-look offense. The team moved on from Mac Jones and added veteran Jacoby Brissett, and the organization appears to be leaning towards selecting a QB with the third-overall pick. Ridley would represent an intriguing target for whoever is under center for the Patriots in 2024 and beyond.

The Patriots’ receivers struggled in 2023, although that was partly due to the team’s inconsistent play at quarterback. The team has already moved on from DeVante Parker and is looking to unload JuJu Smith-Schuster, leaving plenty of question marks atop the depth chart. The team did agree to new deals with Kendrick Bourne and Jalen Reagor, but the rest of their depth chart features unproven options like Demario Douglas, Tyquan Thornton, and Kayshon Boutte.

Jaguars To Acquire Mac Jones From Patriots

The Patriots have agreed to trade quarterback Mac Jones to the Jaguars, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Although the deal cannot be finalized until the new league year opens on Wednesday and until Jones passes a physical, it appears that Jones — a Jacksonville native — will try to resurrect his career in his hometown.

Schefter reported that New England and Jacksonville were discussing a sixth-round pick as trade compensation, and Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network confirms that a sixth-round choice (No. 192 overall) is the official return for Jones. Ian Rapoport of says four teams were in the mix for the Alabama product, though Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports says that, as of yesterday, the Jags were the only club to make an offer. Albert Breer of adds that New England was seeking a fifth-rounder before ultimately settling for the sixth.

A report from late last month suggested that the Patriots had a three-step plan in place for addressing their quarterback situation this offseason, and trading Mac Jones was one of those three steps. While there was some pushback on the notion that New England had developed some sort of QB flowchart that had been distributed throughout the organization, it has seemed clear for some time that the club would seek a Jones trade, which would represent a beneficial change of scenery for both player and team. Now, the Pats can focus on adding a veteran to their roster and/or acquiring a top collegiate prospect in the draft. The most recent rumors on the draft front have indicated that if Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels are off the board by the time New England is on the clock with the No. 3 pick, the club will trade back.

While Jones is obviously not a threat to unseat Trevor Lawrence as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback, he will have an opportunity to regain his footing while working with Lawrence — whom he has known for years, as the two frequently competed against each other in high school recruiting camps — and head coach Doug Pederson, a celebrated quarterback whisperer. Jones, the Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2021, clearly has potential that may have been stunted by the Patriots’ coaching and schematic maneuvers in 2022, and as he enters the final year of his rookie contract, Pederson & Co. will try to unlock some of that potential and at least turn Jones into a viable backup.

Another factor in the trade is the health of current backup C.J. Beathard, as ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler details. Per Fowler, Beathard has been “banged up,” so the Jones acquisition gives the Jags a healthy QB2 option. The nature and extent of Beathard’s injury is unclear, and so is his future with the club at this point, though ESPN’s Mike Reiss says Jones and Beathard are expected to compete for the backup job.

The Jaguars will still have a sixth-round compensatory choice (No. 212 overall) in the 2024 draft.

Teams Inquiring On Patriots’ Mac Jones

Mentioned at multiple offseason junctures as a live scenario, the prospect of a Mac Jones trade may be moving closer to reality. Although the Patriots may not be certain to stay at No. 3 and select a quarterback, their three-year starter is unlikely part of the 2024 plan.

On that note,’s Ian Rapoport indicates teams have been calling the Patriots as they work on gathering Jones intel this offseason. The Patriots sound receptive to the prospect of moving the former No. 15 overall pick. Trade compensation may be tricky, especially as a host of veteran options are available, but Jones’ 2024 rookie-deal salary will help on this front.

[RELATED: Patriots To Re-Sign TE Hunter Henry]

Jones is tied to a $2.79MM base salary for 2024. That is all an acquiring team would need to pick up if it decided to take a flier on the Alabama alum, who profiles as one of this year’s top players in need of a scenery change. A trade is seen around the NFL as the best option for Jones, and a February report pointed to the Pats being likely to seek a trade partner to unload the young quarterback.

Benched to close last season, Jones did not enjoy an optimal relationship with Bill Belichick. Despite Belichick’s exit, the Pats have a new offensive staff in place. They are expected to strongly consider a quarterback at No. 3 overall while being seen as likely to sign a veteran as well. This equation would not stand to leave a place for Jones, who could be appealing as a backup option elsewhere.

Jones is heading into his age-26 season and doing so on the heels of two down campaigns. The Patriots not replacing Josh McDaniels with a true offensive coordinator drew extensive scrutiny, and Jones — the Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up to Ja’Marr Chase — was unable to put the pieces back together under Bill O’Brien last year. Jones closed the season on the bench, serving as New England’s third-stringer in Belichick’s finale.

The Jets are also trying to unload their underwhelming 2021 first-rounder, Zach Wilson, though that year’s No. 2 overall choice is tied to a pricier salary. The Patriots should have an easier time finding a Jones taker, but the return promises to be minimal considering how the past two years unfolded.

Latest On Patriots’ QB Plans

MARCH 1: Providing a rebuttal to the MassLive report, Andrew Callahan and Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald write that no multi-step plan has been agreed upon and communicated throughout the Patriots’ organization. Nevertheless, they corroborate the overwhelming expectation around the league that New England will keep the No. 3 pick and use it on a quarterback of the future. The team’s actions aside from taking that route will of course be interesting to follow.

FEBRUARY 29: With a new regime in place and the opportunity to add a franchise passer in the draft, the Patriots will be a team to watch closely as the offseason unfolds. Trading out of the No. 3 slot remains a possibility, of course, but New England could favor remaining near the top of the board and adding one of the top signal-callers in the 2024 class.

The Patriots have “explored their options” with respect to free agent quarterbacks, Chad Graff and Jeff Howe of The Athletic report (subscription required). It remains the team’s preference, however, to make a long-term investment at the position through the draft, they add. Caleb Williams is likely to go first overall (provided the Bears move on from Justin Fields), which will leave the Commanders and Patriots with Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels to choose from in the second and third slots.

The Athletic report confirms Eliot Wolf now in charge of roster decisions – values QB traits which align with Maye and Daniels. It adds that the second tier of passers in this year’s class (J.J. McCarthy, Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr.) could each be off the board by the next time New England picks at 34th overall. That could provide further incentive to remain at No. 3 and take the top available signal-caller.

Providing further detail on the subject, MassLive’s Karen Guregian and Chris Mason report the Patriots have a three-step plan in place at the QB spot. They corroborate that the first of those steps is selecting a passer third overall, although the second phase involves signing a veteran in free agency. The addition of a bridge option like Gardner Minshew, Jacoby Brissett or Ryan Tannehill would allow the newly-drafted rookie to begin his career on the sidelines. The Packers (with whom Wolf spent considerable time prior to his Patriots tenure) have allowed first-round quarterbacks to sit behind established starters in the case of both Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love, though New England’s situation will of course be different if an experienced option arrives via free agency.

With respect to Mac Jones, the Athletic report confirms a trade is seen around the league as something which would represent the best outcome for both team and player. The former first-rounder has struggled over the past two seasons, and moving on would allow him to attempt to re-build his value in a new environment. Guregian and Mason note a Jones trade is indeed the final step in the Patriots’ plan for the offseason.

After bottoming out during Bill Belichick‘s final season at the helm of the franchise, the Patriots have a number of other roster holes to consider filling in free agency and the draft. Seen as being much more than one quarterback away from contention, a move down the board would yield extra draft capital and likely allow for an addition at the receiver or tackle spot. If the team’s evaluation of Maye and Daniels checks out in the coming weeks, though, it would come as no surprise if one of them ultimately became New England’s top option.

Belichick’s evaluation of the 2024 class produced an affinity for Daniels, NFL Network’s Bridget Condon reports (video link). While that is essentially a moot point with Wolf and new head coach Jerod Mayo now tasked with overseeing New England’s rebuild, it will be interesting to see if their examination of the top prospects yields a similar conclusion. In any case, the Patriots remain on track to have at least one new face in the QB room in 2024.

Patriots Reportedly Open To Trading No. 3 Pick; Team Expected To Seek Mac Jones Trade

After seeing Mac Jones regress from Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2021 to third-string quarterback by the end of the 2023 campaign, the Patriots, in the first year of the post-Bill Belichick era, are widely expected to select a signal-caller in the upcoming draft. With Caleb Williams likely to be the No. 1 overall pick, New England will have at least one of Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels to choose from when it is on the clock with the No. 3 overall selection. However, ESPN’s Dan Graziano hears that the Pats are open to trading that pick and acquiring more assets to restock a generally weak roster (subscription required).

In that scenario, New England would look to free agency for a quarterback. Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield presently top the free agent QB class, though both players could re-sign with their current clubs before the legal tampering period opens. If that happens, the Pats would be picking from a number of backup or bridge types like Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Drew Lock (it should be noted that Russell Wilson is also likely to hit the open market in short order).

A team like New England that is probably at least a year away from contention may be perfectly willing to roll with a stopgap option for one season if that strategy allows them to supplement other areas of need. On the other hand, the 2025 class of collegiate QBs is not shaping up to be an inspiring one, so selecting a player like Maye or Daniels now may prove to be the Patriots’ best course of action, even if the bottom-heavy 2025 crop increases the value of the No. 3 pick in 2024.

If new personnel chief Eliot Wolf and new head coach Jerod Mayo ultimately decide that a trade down makes more sense, then Graziano expects the Falcons, who presently hold the No. 8 overall pick, and the Vikings (No. 11 overall) to have interest. Atlanta, which came close to hiring Belichick as its new HC, has plenty of non-QB talent and could be a quarterback away from being a legitimate contender (though team brass is currently undecided on how it will go about upgrading the position). Minnesota, meanwhile, has already been mentioned as a trade-up candidate, and if the team is unable to agree to a new deal with Cousins by the start of the 2024 league year on March 13, it will be saddled with a $28.5MM dead money charge. Per Graziano, there are some within the Vikes organization that are particularly keen on pairing Daniels with fellow LSU product Justin Jefferson, so New England and Minnesota could line up on a trade if the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is not selected with one of the first two picks in the draft. The Vikings having their QB1 on a rookie deal would certainly help ease the sting of a Cousins departure and his dead money parting gift.

In a piece detailing the quarterback situations of a number of clubs, the trio of Ian Rapoport, Tom Pelissero, and Mike Garafolo believe that the Patriots will try to trade Jones in the coming weeks. The relationship between Belichick and Jones deteriorated over Jones’ first three years in the league, and although Belichick is gone, New England’s new power brokers are seemingly prepared for some sort of reset at the position. Indeed, a change of scenery may benefit both parties.

Mark Daniels of, in an article that is well-worth a read for Pats fans in particular, notes that Jones was (understandably) frustrated with Belichick’s decision to hire Matt Patricia as a replacement for Josh McDaniels in 2022 and to shift to an offensive system different than the one in which Jones thrived in his rookie season. Jones’ resistance to those changes angered Belichick, and the HC-QB dynamic went downhill from there.

Hiring Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator in 2023 did not yield the results that the team hoped for, and Mark Daniels reports that New England staff did not view Jones as a strong enough leader, believing instead that the third-year passer simply “wanted to be one of the guys.” Plus, when the Pats’ offense sputtered, Jones began to freelance and play outside of O’Brien’s system, and as Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal observes, Jones simply lost the locker room.

After he was benched in favor of Bailey Zappe, Jones watched every NFL game he ever played in to see what went wrong, and he ultimately acknowledged that his improvisational tactics were a major reason for the offense’s struggles. Given his status as a 2021 first-rounder and the potential he showed that season, Jones may draw some trade interest, but as Mark Daniels unsurprisingly reports, the Patriots will not exercise Jones’ fifth-year option if he is still on the club by the May 2 deadline to pick up or decline those options.