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Patriots Unfiltered Tue Apr 13 | 11:55 AM - 02:00 PM

NFL Notes: Pats should stick with Stidham

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Over the course of the past week there have been stories about Russell Wilson's potential trade partners, Ben Roethlisberger's meeting with Steelers brass and yet another quasi-ultimatum from Deshaun Watson's camp to the Houston Texans.

And that represented a quiet week on the quarterback carousel front in the National Football League.

Indeed with Watson and Wilson still in various states of limbo with their current teams, the activity surrounding the game's most important position figures to slow down a bit as teams try to assess their chances of landing one of the big fish that may or may not be available. Until things settle in Houston and Seattle, it may be tougher to gauge how things are going to play out.

For the Patriots none of that should matter. It's understandable to believe that New England could benefit through a ripple-down effect of sorts should Watson or Wilson get dealt. Depending on where one might land, another possible Patriots passer may become available and thus enter into the discussion.

But for the Patriots there really aren't any realistic options that would greatly change their prospects for 2021. Names like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marcus Mariota, Mitchell Trubisky, Teddy Bridgewater or Cam Newton aren't going to significantly alter the team's expectations or chances to contend given the current state of the roster.

Aside from Jimmy Garoppolo, whose familiarity with Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and the system in general might be enough to squeak the team into the playoffs, none of these options does much to move the needle. Obviously the draft doesn't promise to find the 2021 starter either with the Patriots sitting 15th in the first round.

Rather than exhaust resources in an effort to perhaps crack the .500 mark, the wisest move might be to just stick with Jarrett Stidham and let the season play out.

Stidham will be entering his third season but has yet to get a true chance to lead the offense. When he has played things have not gone well, especially in the ball security department that has seen him throw four interceptions in only 48 career attempts, and a fifth was wiped out due to penalty. Things have not looked smooth with Stidham under center to be sure.

But given the lack of a proven option, not to mention offensive weapons, spending any resources on a retread quarterback rather than allowing Stidham a chance doesn't seem wise. After all, he was the subject of countless testimonials last offseason before Newton's arrival put him on the backburner. He seemed destined to start before that late move, so why not give a shot now?

To be clear I have no real expectations of finding a diamond in the rough with Stidham. Nothing about his performances to this point have warranted comparisons to any of the mid-to-late-round starters in the league. More likely, Stidham would suffer the ups and downs most inexperienced quarterbacks fight through and the team would fall short of the playoffs.

But at least at that point Belichick would know what Stidham is as the youngster enters the 2022 offseason. If he can play, he gained some experience and would be further along in his development entering the final year of his rookie deal. If he shows little to no promise, you continue looking toward the future.

Which brings us to Part II of the 2021 plan: draft a developmental quarterback. If Belichick can't grab one at 15, then a Day 2 option such as Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond or perhaps Jamie Newman might make sense. None of those options will help in 2021, but Stidham would buy some time for a rookie to develop.

Sticking with Stidham would allow Belichick to maintain all of his resources – picks, money and cap space – as he tries to piece back together a roster lacking in several areas. And either way, the 2021 season doesn't figure to end with a Super Bowl trip so nothing is really lost by removing themselves from the quarterback carousel that won't be stopping anytime soon.

Timing is everything … or is it?

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Much has been made of the Patriots quarterback search, and certainly it is far and away the most important element of the team's offseason. As part of that there's a line of thought that says the team must act quickly and get someone in place before the start of free agency, and I'm not sure why that's imperative.

Most feel it's important to clarify things at quarterback ASAP in order to help attract free agents. It's a logical thought for sure as we've already seen players like Chargers tight end Hunter Henry go on record explaining his needs for both money and a quarterback as he enters the market.

But while the idea makes sense in theory, it's hard to imagine most of the Patriots options making much of a difference to any of the top free agents looking for both money and a quality passer. I'm not sure Allen Robinson or Chris Godwin is going to be lured by the presence of Marcus Mariota or Cam Newton when weighing their next destination.

Of those realistically available, only Jimmy Garoppolo would have the potential to impact a free agent's decision, and even that would seem like a stretch. Instead of rushing to fill such an important role, Belichick would be wise to continue showing patience and do his best to come away with the best option – regardless of how it impacts the free agent market.

Unless Watson or Wilson is involved (spoiler alert: they're not), none of the others would dramatically impact the team's chances of acquiring talent.

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2021 Patriots Opponents

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NFL hits 17

While nothing is official, multiple reports have indicated the league's intention to implement the 17-game schedule in 2021. At this point it would appear the league would like to maintain the single-bye format for each team and simply add a game onto the season, which could potentially push back the start of the playoffs a week assuming the opener remains a week after Labor Day.

Interesting elements of the added game include the AFC hosting the extra contests against NFC foes in 2021, with the NFC doing so the following year. Also, the teams line up against the inter-conference divisions they faced in 2019. Therefore the Patriots match up against the NFC East with each club taking on the team that finished in the same position in 2020, meaning the third-place Cowboys will come to Foxborough for the second time in three years.

Having one conference host all the games ensures competitive balance among division/conference teams, eliminating the possibility of say the Patriots having nine home games while the Bills potentially would have eight. This way each team in both conferences has the same breakdown.

Mel on Mac

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One of the rookie quarterbacks Patriots fans have been talking about is Alabama's Mac Jones. Jones enjoyed a solid week at the Senior Bowl before missing the game due to a minor injury, and some have him moving up in the first round and have put New England as possible landing spot.

ESPN's Mel Kiper is one of those high on the Crimson Tide passer. On his conference call earlier this week, Kiper talked about his instincts and how his mobility in the pocket makes up for his lack of speed and athleticism.

"Mac Jones isn't going to run, he's not going beat you with his legs, but he can slip and slide and feel pressure and move around in the pocket enough to buy time, keep his vision down the field and get the ball to a receiver," Kiper said.

"Competitiveness, you see it the way he gets his energy on the field, he doesn't have many bad plays. I love his smarts. You know what the limitations are. You put a lot of pressure on the offensive line when you have a quarterback and he's not mobile and doesn't have the ability to beat you with his legs. But he's competitive, accurate and smart."

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