Tom Brady made his intentions known in an Instagram post Tuesday morning: He will not be playing for the Patriots. This has been a possibility since last August, when an adjustment to Brady’s contract bumped up his salary last season but also included two more years that automatically voided on the last day of the 2019 league year, thus making him a free agent for the first time in his 20-year career.
The Patriots traded Brady’s presumptive successor, Jimmy Garoppolo, to the 49ers in 2017. They got two more years, and one more Super Bowl, from Brady after that move … and now he’s on to Tampa Bay. But, what now? Let’s examine the remaining options on a day when many of the open QB seats started to fill up.
Jarrett Stidham: The 23-year-old was drafted out of Auburn in the fourth round last year. He threw exactly four passes last season as Brady’s back-up. “Love you brother!” Stidham commented under Brady’s post announcing his departure. “Thank you for everything!” Brady, of course, was himself a little-hyped late-round pick when he took over for Drew Bledsoe, though little is yet known about Stidham’s aptitude for the job. Jim Nagy, the director of the Senior Bowl all-star game, where Stidham performed well last year, wrote on Twitter that Bill Belichick “stole Jarrett Stidham in 4 round. High-end natural arm talent. Comes off his hand so easy.” Nagy added, “Talented enough to be Brady’s long-term successor.”
Andy Dalton: The nine-year starter is expected to be on the move with Cincinnati in position to draft Joe Burrow first overall. The Bengals could either trade or cut Dalton, who is under contract for one more year for $17.5 million, with no guaranteed money. Dalton has a career completion rate of 62 percent and has thrown 204 TDs to 118 INTs. It wouldn’t be a flashy signing, but since when do the Patriots care about that? He could be a good fit if they are looking for an experienced QB to run their offense as a one-year stopgap or trial.
Jacoby Brissett: With the Colts landing Philip Rivers, could the Patriots bring back Brissett? New England traded its 2016 third-round pick to Indianapolis before the start of the 2017 season, two months before moving Garoppolo at the trade deadline. Brissett had an up-and-down season replacing Andrew Luck but would be a known commodity for the Patriots with knowledge of and experience in Josh McDaniels’ system. He played 2.5 games as the starter for New England during Brady’s Deflategate suspension, after Garoppolo got hurt.
Cam Newton: Shortly after Brady declared his intentions, the Panthers announced they are seeking a trade for the QB who led the team to Super Bowl 50, and then quickly agreed to terms with Teddy Bridgewater. Talent has not been the issue for Newton the last few seasons, but rather his health; in the last three years, Newton has had two shoulder surgeries and another this past December on the foot injury that ended his 2019 season. There would be a risk in trading for Newton while he is still rehabbing from that latest surgery, but if he can stay healthy, the 30-year-old is an intriguing option.
Nick Foles: The Jaguars have said they will let Gardner Minshew and Foles compete for the starting job in 2020. But there has been plenty of speculation that the Jaguars prefer to move forward with last year's sixth-round pick as their starter, and thus could move the Super Bowl LII MVP in the Eagles’ defeat of New England. Foxboro Special?
Draft a QB: The Patriots have the No. 23 pick in this year’s draft, meaning they’d have to make a big jump to get Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert or Jordan Love, the presumed top passers in this year’s class behind Burrow. Washington’s Jacob Eason could be available later in the first round, or another option is Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, who many talent evaluators think might go as high as the second round. Belichick’s history, of course, suggests that they will not go this route: In 25 drafts with the Browns or the Patriots, he has never selected a QB with a top-60 pick. (Garoppolo, taken with pick No. 62, was the highest, which shows how Belichick regarded him). However, he’s also never had to replace Brady.
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