Another veteran quarterback was added to the free-agent pool on Thursday.
The Cincinnati Bengals released quarterback Andy Dalton after reportedly trying to trade him but finding no suitor. Dalton was seemingly going to play backup in 2020 to Joe Burrow, who the team selected with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft last week. Dalton wants an opportunity to compete elsewhere, so the team parted ways with him after nine years.
The release of Dalton sparked the big question in New England: should the Patriots sign him?
There's no doubt Dalton is talented. Despite playing for an abysmal organization like Cincinnati for the better part of a decade, he was able to throw for 204 touchdowns compared to 118 interceptions, 31,594 yards, and has shown time after time that he can be a good NFL quarterback when put in the proper situation. Unfortunately, the proper situation didn't come too often in Cincinnati, and now a regime change at head coach has the Bengals changing plans at quarterback in 2020.
For the Patriots, they seemingly have their eyes pegged on 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham being their starting quarterback next season. If that fails, then they have a security net - i.e. Brian Hoyer - who has plenty of experience in New England's system, but doesn't bring a very high ceiling of play along with that experience.
While bringing in another talented veteran like Dalton would make sense for the Patriots if they wanted to spark a quarterback competition this summer in New England, there's been nothing done up until this point in the offseason that suggests that's what they would like to do.
If the Patriots wanted to bring in someone to compete for the starting job right away, they could have done so by signing one through free agency prior to the draft. But they didn't. Why? It likely had to do with the fact that they had several other holes to fill on the roster, and very little cap space to fill those holes. It certainly wasn't because there weren't talented quarterbacks available, because there were, and many of them. Instead, the team opted to sign Hoyer, who was released by the Colts the weekend after free agency began.
If free agency wasn't the avenue, then the draft was the next best option, which would have made more sense given the Patriots' salary cap situation. But after seven rounds and 10 draft picks, New England came out of the 2020 draft with no quarterback. Head coach Bill Belichick said they didn't draft a quarterback because the way the draft played out didn't merit them selecting one. But one has to think if the Patriots wanted to bring in someone who could compete with Stidham for the starting job right away, selecting one in the draft - specifically on Days 1 or 2 - would have been the move to make. But the team opted to sign UDFA quarterbacks J'Mar Smith and Brian Lewerke instead.
New England's choices to not bring in a veteran quarterback via free agency and then in-turn ignore the position in the draft tells us one thing: they are confident in Jarrett Stidham, and they have left themselves with little financial room to think otherwise. If that's the case, then why would they bring in Andy Dalton?
With four quarterbacks currently on the roster, Dalton would seemingly take the place of Hoyer, since the Patriots wouldn't keep Hoyer around for $1.05 million in 2020 to take practice snaps and help whoever becomes the starter learn the playbook furthermore. There's not enough cap space for that to work out. Hoyer has a lot of experience in New England's system and could mentor Stidham in his sophomore season. So doesn't keeping him as opposed to signing Dalton provide much more value if the Patriots want to see what they have in Stidham and give him the best opportunity to succeed?
The argument has been made that Dalton might be willing to take Jameis Winston-like money to come to New England and resurrect his career. But should he? Despite one poor season in 2019 in which he threw 16 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and 3,494 yards, Dalton has a been a good quarterback for the better part of his nine-year NFL career and has been no where near the disaster that Winston has been up until this point. That warrants Dalton asking for much more money than Winston. That means he will be out of New England's price range given how much money they have to spend.
If the Patriots bring in Dalton, they are telling Jarrett Stidham one thing: "We like you, but we aren't 100% sold on you being our starter moving forward." That's not exactly a confidence booster for a player that already has the weight of the world on his shoulders as the potential successor to Tom Brady. Because of that and all the other reasons mentioned, signing Andy Dalton doesn't make sense for the New England Patriots.