Patriots can wait to upgrade at quarterback in 2021
The New England Patriots will have to replace a legend, Tom Brady, who left via free agency for Tampa Bay after a 20-year tenure in Foxborough.
Given they haven’t acquired a high-profile quarterback via free agency or trade, Jarrett Stidham is the heir apparent.
Belichick will give Stidham a long look
A fourth-round selection out of Auburn in last year’s draft, Stidham will be a work in progress. The Patriots could still add another option, either through the April 23 NFL Draft, free agency, or a trade, but does anybody think Bill Belichick is worried about the quarterback position?
I don’t. I would wager on Stidham being the opening-day starter.
The Patriots endured a mass exodus this offseason
Last year’s aging roster needed to be retooled, and the Patriots stood by while at least nine key contributors (Brady, Jamie Collins, Phillip Dorsett, Nate Ebner, Stephen Gostkowski, Ted Karras, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and Danny Shelton) left during the offseason.
There is not some magic wand Belichick can wave to replace all the starting talent, but the well-respected coach needs to develop a plan for the future. And it’s important to remember, Belichick plays chess when others around him are playing checkers.
A six-time Super Bowl victor, Belichick ranks second by wins (304) in NFL history and could catch Don Shula (347) in the next five years. I'd be surprised to see New England take a significant step back in 2020. Belichick and his staff will bring the same intense focus to every game next season, but it’s a short-sighted approach.
New England can afford the luxury of rebuilding
A well-run organization like New England can endure a rebuilding year — one focused upon developing new players, instead of a win-at-all-cost mentality. The Patriots will face arguably the toughest schedule in the NFL. They may still win a handful of games because of preparation, but there’s value for a team like New England to attain a high pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
New England has only one first-round pick this year, and its next pick comes in the third. With plenty of areas of need, the Patriots must take the best player available, and that probably won’t be a quarterback.
The Patriots could still find a gem in the later rounds, but any rookie quarterback won’t have the same talented team around him that Brady took over in 2000, after he drafted in the sixth round. New England had the worst wide receivers in the AFC last season, along with a punchless ground game and no competent tight ends.
Stidham will benefit from Belichick's tutelage
Stidham is a strong-armed passer with a year in the Patriots’ system. He learned from Brady, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and Belichick, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be given every opportunity to prove he is the quarterback of the future.
If Stidham isn’t the future, New England can address the quarterback position after this season. The Patriots will have more capital at their disposal for the 2021 Draft, with the potential to move up via trade to grab Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, and there may be other viable options.
Quarterback won’t be a priority for New England in the 2020 NFL Draft.