By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
If there's one thing the Patriots have going for them right now, it's options. For the first time since he took over in 2000, Bill Belichick has a chance to change the tone of the franchise as he looks for a new quarterback.
Whoever they bring in won't adequately replace Tom Brady. That's an impossible task. That being said, some of their options are way better than others. Some posibilites that have been floated could not only leave the Patriots stagnant, but set them back.
One of the most popular names to replace Brady for months has been Andy Dalton. The 32-year-old is expected to be traded by the Bengals, who own the top pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and are expected to take Joe Burrow.
While this is a convenient solution, and Dalton should come at a very affordable price, there's a reason for that. He's just not good. The TCU product hasn't won more than seven games in a season since 2015, and last year threw 14 interceptions in just 13 games.
Those struggles would only be magnified in the Patriots offense. The key to Josh McDaniels system is the quarterback making the right decisions, and quickly. That's not something Dalton has proven he can do through nine seasons in Cincinnati, especially in recent years. The number of late reads leading to sacks and missed throws is alarming.
Dalton just doesn't have the tools to do what's required in New England. With a year left on his contract a cap hit approaching $18 million, he's more expensive than a 'veteran mentor' for Jarrett Stidham needs to be. They can sign a free agent with similar experience and pay him less, than trade for Dalton and his massive deal.
Now you may think, "Perfect. If Dalton is that bad, the Patriots are sure to get Trevor Lawrence in 2021 and all is right with the world." Not necessarily. Bill Belichick alone is worth 6-8 wins minimum, and everything we know about him he's not likely to intentionally tank. The Patriots worst case scenario is a 7-9 season with a sub-par transition quarterback, leaving them with no immediate success and without the draft capital to heavily invest in their future. And that's exactly what they'll get with Andy Dalton.
Almost immediately after Brady announced he wasn't returning to New England, another franchise and their long-time QB announced they were parting ways. The Carolina Panthers (who inked Teddy Bridgewater later in the day) made it known they were exploring a trade for Cam Newton.
Immediately, the Twitter GMs called for Bill Belichick to get on the phone. Apparently they didn't realize it's no longer 2015.
Sure, Newton's peak during the Panthers Super Bowl run was among the best single seasons the league saw out of a QB in the 2010s. But that was four seasons ago. Four years of shoulder, back, and foot injuries.
Newton will be 31 years old when NFL teams begin training camp in 2020, and he's been showing his age. His mobility, his electric playmaking ability that carried him to an MVP season in 2015 hasn't been as evident, mainly due to the fact he's been playing through a myriad of nagging injuries.
The way he plays the game, these sorts of injuries are unavoidable. He likes to run and lower his shoulder. He'll throw into the blitz and take a hit. His physicality at the quarterback position, matched by perhaps only Ben Roethlisberger, is a huge part of what made him so effective. The reality is though that style comes with injuries, and if he changes the way he plays to avoid those injuries, he's just not as good.
Now, Newton is coming off foot surgery that cost him all but two games last season. He has a cap hit just north of $21 million. If the Patriots really feel they need a veteran quarterback to compete with or teach Stidham, there are free agents who will cost less and pose less risk.
Later Thursday, another rumor emerged via NFL Network's Tom Pelissero that the Patriots could be pursuing restricted free agent quarterback and all-around football player Taysom Hill.
Let's start with this: Taysom Hill is one of my favorite players to watch in the league. I really like Taysom Hill. Still, in this situation the Patriots would be best served staying away for a number of reasons.
First off, Hill is not really a quarterback. It's his listed position on the roster, but in reality he's a gadget player. It would be quicker to list the roles he hasn't filled in his three years with the Saints. Running back, tight end, kicker returner, gunner, he's done it all. But between all of that he's thrown just 13 NFL passes, completing less than half. Jumping from that to even just competing to be the Patriots starting quarterback would be a massive undertaking.
Hill will be 30 years old when the season starts, so any 'upside' or 'potential' is limited. Who he is right now is likely more or less who he'll be for the rest of his career.
On top of that, Hill is a restricted free agent with a first round tender. What that means is if he and the Patriots were to agree to a contract, the Saints would have a chance to match any deal, and even if they didn't the Patriots would still have to send them a first round pick. Bill Belichick could possibly negotiate to lower that price, but the Saints are reportedly very high on Hill and would have no motivation to budge.
Again, Hill is a very nifty player who certainly belongs in the NFL. However, he belongs as a gadget player, a piece you add to an already complete roster to give your offense another dimension. If he was an unrestricted free agent, it'd be a terrific fit for the Patriots. But giving up a first-round pick (or possibly more) is an investment for a starting quarterback, and that's just not what Hill is right now.
While these are the three who have been connected to the Patriots through rumors and reports, they're not the only disaster options for the Patriots. You can add the likes of Jameis Winston, Blake Bortles, Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Blaine Gabbert to the list as well.
High risk, low reward options such as Dalton, Newton, and Hill represent everything the Patriots haven't been for the last 20 years. While it's easy to expect them to stay the course, these are very different times. If the Patriots want to take a risk, their best option may already be on the roster.
Instead of giving up picks and serious money for another team's castoff, why not give Jarrett Stidham a shot? New England could copy the Panthers model from the beginning of the decade. In 2010, the Panthers drafted Jimmy Clausen in the second round, 48th overall. Raw but with potential (much like Stidham), the Panthers let him start the year to see if he really was an NFL quarterback. He wasn't, but the end result was Cam Newton, who got them within a game of a title.
Instead of trying to breathe life back into a 30-something quarterback who's best days are behind him, the Patriots could see what they have in 23-year-old Jarrett Stidham. Best case scenario, he turns out to be NFL caliber. If things get ugly? Maybe Bill Belichick embraces a tank and Trevor Lawrence starts another 20 years of dominance in 2021.