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Where Do Patriots Go From Here? Assessing Their Options at QB

Now that Tom Brady is gone, who will be the next starting quarterback for the Patriots?

Although it's still difficult to comprehend the idea of Tom Brady no longer being a New England Patriot, the show must go on. The legal tampering window is still open, and free agency officially begins in under 24 hours. That doesn't change even when the greatest quarterback of all-time leaves the team he spent two decades with. 

As of Tuesday, March 17, the Patriots are in the market for a quarterback. Or are they? Some think that New England may need to trade, sign, and/or draft a QB now that Brady is gone, while others believe the six-time Super Bowl champions have their next starter on the roster already. 

Let's assess each option available for the Patriots at quarterback as they now move into the post-Tom Brady era. 

You're it, Jarrett Stidham

What I believe to be the most likely scenario at quarterback for the Patriots now that Brady is gone is the team opts to make former backup QB Jarrett Stidham their starter. As a fourth-round draft pick in 2019, Stidham was praised highly by coaches, scouts, and teammates for the big steps he took in his rookie season and how he continues to progress this offseason. 

While it's hard to imagine that Stidham has mastered one of the NFL's most difficult offensive systems in just one season, he may know it well enough to become the starter and have success moving forward. There will be plenty of hiccups during his sophomore season if that does happen, but it may be the best option the Patriots have given the little amount of cap space they have and the other holes they need to fill on the roster. 

Since we are assessing all options, Cody Kessler's name can also be thrown in the hat because he is still currently on the Patriots roster. But the chances of him becoming the starter are slim to none. 

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What About a Trade?

This seems to be the most popular option for New England fans who aren't sold on Stidham being the starter next season. There are some veteran QBs that are reportedly on the trade market, such as Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, and possibly Jacoby Brissett, who just got bumped down on the depth chart now that Philip Rivers signed with the Colts. I wrote back in December how trading for Brissett would be the best option for the Patriots if the opportunity were to arise and Brady left. It looks like that can happen now. Given his experience in the Patriots' system, Brissett would be a great plug-and-play quarterback in Josh McDaniels' offense.

If for some reason Brissett does not become available for trade, which could very well happen given how Indianapolis doesn't mind investing money into backup QBs - which was evident when they kept Brissett around when Andrew Luck was the starter - then Dalton is the next best option. Dalton is a veteran QB who has succeeded in the NFL despite being part of a disastrous organization. On top of that, Dalton's salary for 2020 is $17.7 million, which could be brought down even more with an extension since he is only under contract through the 2020 season. 

It's hard to imagine given Newton's personality and injury history that New England would trade for him. But that option is likely being explored as well. 

Brady's Successor in 2020 Draft?

There was talk that New England had their heart set on drafting a quarterback in this year's draft no matter Brady's decision. But now that the 42 year old QB has decided to change sceneries, the quarterback position has slid up the Patriots' list of priorities as the draft draws nearer. Depending on how the first round plays out, the Patriots could draft a quarterback with the No. 23 overall pick, or they could use guard Joe Thuney - whom the team franchise tagged on Monday - as trade bait to move up a few spots. Seeing the team move up for Justin Herbert, who fits the mold of a Patriots quarterback, makes lots of sense. But depending on how far he falls, if at all, will determine New England's interest in moving up to draft him. 

After the first round, the Patriots don't have another pick until the third round, which would obviously then be their next chance to draft a QB, unless they decided to trade back into the second round. But drafting one in the third round would mean bringing someone into the QB room who could, at the very best, compete with Stidham for the starting role. But that player would likely play backup to the Auburn product in 2020. 

What About a Free Agent QB?

Free agency hasn't even officially begun yet and most of the top-market quarterbacks are already off the board. The only starting-caliber QB to choose from that's left in free agency is Jamies Winston. I'll leave it at that. 

So Who Will Be the Patriots' Starter in 2020?

If I had to put my money on the two most likely candidates to start at quarterback for the Patriots next season, I'd place most of my money on Jarrett Stidham, and the rest on Andy Dalton. But given that free agency is about to begin, New England barely has any wiggle room to fill other holes on their roster, let alone trade for a quarterback, and how highly the team spoke of Stidham in his rookie season, Stidham looks like he is next in line to become the next starter of the New England Patriots.