By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Andy Dalton is off to Dallas and Cam Newton is not walking through that door, and so this is where we are in the void left by the departure of Tom Brady: on the ground floor of a new beginning, a structure with great promise but one that needs some work.
In New England, the quarterback position is now the equivalent of a starter home, devoid of country club fairways and pricey art, personal logos or the next pliable marketing angle.
At quarterback, the Patriots are bare bones, simple and plain, downright dirt cheap.
If that sounds judgmental, it isn’t. Those are simply the facts. Last season, during Tom Brady’s final year in New England, the Patriots ranked 10th in the NFL in cash spent at the quarterback position with slightly more than $24.5 million according to Spotrac. (The Atlanta Falcons were first at more than $46.5 million.) But as of Monday, the Patriots had dropped all the way to 30th in the NFL, ahead of only the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals, the latter of whom selected quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall selection of the annual draft and a team that will blow past the Patriots as soon as Burrow signs his first contract.
When that happens, the Pats will rank 31st in the NFL in cash spent at the position, just steps ahead of Jacksonville. And as we all know, being that close to Jacksonville is never a good thing – in anything, for any reason.
Here’s the full list:
Now, we know what you’re thinking: yeah … so? So we’re just making an observation. As most anyone will tell you, a good, cheap quarterback is the single most valuable asset in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens, for instance, rank 28th in the NFL in cash spent at quarterback because Lamar Jackson is only two years into his rookie contract. The Kansas City Chiefs, who won the Super Bowl, rank 27th and just finished the third year of Patrick Mahomes' first deal. The Buffalo Bills (Josh Allen) rank 25th, the Houston Texans (Deshaun Watson) rank 23rd. All of those teams made the playoffs.
Get the picture? With good, cheap quarterback play, the ways in which a team can build its roster are endless ... which brings us back to the Patriots.
Just because their quarterbacks are cheap doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good.
At least not yet.
So why is this relevant now? Last week, Jameis Winston agreed to a $1.1 million contract with the New Orleans Saints to back up Drew Brees. Dalton went to Dallas for $3 million. Those two players combined are currently slated to make more than a foursome of Patriots including Brian Hoyer ($1.05 million), Jarrett Stidham ($675,00) and two undrafted free agents who aren’t worth mentioning. The point is that there is frugality and then there is minimalism, and the Patriots have chosen the latter.
In the end, as we all know, the salaries don’t win games. The players do. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rank 11th in cash spent at quarterback, but nobody will remember the money if Brady resurrects one of the great loser franchises in sports. Ditto for the Pats if Stidham can’t play.
But if he can?
The Patriots won’t merely have their next quarterback.
They’ll have a bargain for one, too, which is a fast way to get to the league’s penthouse.