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Patriots Mailbag: Should the Pats pass on QB?

The idea of passing on a quarterback remains the hot topic in this week's Patriots mailbag.


Do you believe that it could be a trade to get Amare Cooper or David Njoku, or another player from the Browns that Eliot Wolf would be able to get? Since this new scheme needs tackles that have quick feet, is it possible that Cole Strange could be moved to tackle?
Humberto Cavazos

I would never rule out the idea of any trade, particularly ones that would involve players that Wolf is familiar with and that would certainly include Njoku. Cooper was still a member of the Cowboys when Wolf was in Cleveland, but certainly there would be some connection with offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt as well. Both would make some sense for the Patriots given the obvious need for wide receivers and tight ends. I wouldn't be looking to give up much in the way of draft capital to make those moves though. At this point the team is rebuilding and needs as many high draft picks as possible. As for Strange, I feel he needs to get bigger and stronger in order to compete at a higher level at guard, let alone tackle. He is mobile and athletic for the position, but he needs to develop more consistency in order to establish himself as a steady starter regardless.

Ideally, I want the Patriots stay at 3 and draft Drake Maye, though rumors have Raiders and Vikings wanting to come up. I could see us trading out if Maye isn't there but would probably put us in Justin Fields conversation or get J.J. McCarthy.
Mark Silveira

I feel the same way and would be happy to grab Maye if he falls to 3. But the important thing here is that the Patriots need to feel good about the player to use such a high pick. In other words, I don't think they should take a quarterback just for the sake of taking a quarterback. If they like only one of the three and he's not available, then they should look elsewhere and grab the player they feel is best. So, it's more complicated than just saying to pick Maye. As for the trade, if the right quarterback isn't available then I would be in favor of sliding down, adding assets and still taking a quality player at a different position (wide receiver, tackle).

I am completely onboard with the general consensus that our New England Patriots should be seriously looking to take either Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels with the third overall pick in this year's NFL draft but I also feel that it would be in their best interests to try and recruit Dallas' brilliant backup quarterback Cooper Rush or if not think about going with the Baltimore Ravens pending free agent Tyler Huntley to be that reliable experienced backup?Marc Saez

Again, I like the idea of Maye and Daniels but only if the Patriots are convinced that's the guy. Too many teams take quarterbacks they're not in love with and that leads to trouble, especially high in the first round. I'm not overly interested in acquiring backups. Both Rush and Huntley would likely be looking for the opportunity to start somewhere and if the Patriots draft a rookie at No. 3 then at some point he would be the starter. If there is a need for stop gap I'd rather have a veteran like Gardner Minshew or Jacoby Brissett – guys who have started but at this stage are considered backups. Rush and Huntley are likely looking for an opportunity to establish themselves as starters. Either way if the Patriots take a quarterback in the first round I want to see him play sooner rather than later, even if that means allowing him to sit and learn to start the season.

If the Patriots choose not to take a QB with the third pick or at all in this draft, they are choosing a slower rebuild and will most likely have a fairly high pick again in next year's draft. What does next year's QB class look like? I'm assuming there is no Caleb Williams but are there any prospects that show signs they could be as highly regarded as a Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels?
Eric Antonovitch

Obviously a lot of things can change a year from now but at this point most of the experts agree that next year's quarterback class will be weak. That said, not many of those experts felt Daniels would be a potential top-three pick heading into last season and now he's the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and certainly will come off the board pretty quickly. Sheduer Sanders at Colorado could be one of those prospects who rises with a strong season, and Texas' Quinn Ewers has some ability. But overall it is not considered to be a deep and talented crop for 2025.

Regarding the Patriots quarterback situation, why not trade for Justin Fields (third-round pick) and simply bring in a good QB coach to fix Fields' passing problems? Seems logical, especially since Fields is young, athletic, has three years of NFL experience and the Pats could then trade down from No. 3 and stock up on picks for this year and next. What do you think?
Tony Ess

Basically it would come down to a simple question – do you believe Fields is better than whichever quarterback remains on the board at No. 3? Would you rather have Fields or Maye? Fields or Daniels? For me, the answer would be the rookie in both cases but it doesn't matter what I think. If the Patriots think differently then that kind of trade would make some sense. I like Fields and believe he still has the potential to be a quality quarterback. He's obviously a gifted runner but still needs works in the traditional NFL passing game with regard to making his progressions and becoming more accurate on a consistent basis. The skills are there and he's flashed that ability at times, but the bottom line is he is 10-28 as a starter during his three seasons and will be needing a new contract soon. I'd rather go with the young option and hope for more upside.

In the NFL's free agency, money talks loud. There however is a second just slightly less important factor. What is a good fit with the possibility of winning? The Patriots have plenty of capital, over $80 million once J.C. Jackson is cut plus of the top teams with like amounts of free money, they have more players already under contract. My feeling at this point is why would any upper tier free agent want to sign with a team with no quarterback, an unproven coach and staff, a cold weather climate and the worst record of drafting in the top three rounds the past 10 years? Can you talk me down from the cliff?
David Brown

I'm not going to even try to talk you off the ledge because there isn't much wrong with your analysis. The Patriots are rebuilding and in most cases teams in that situation need to outbid the contenders in order to attract free agents. With very few exceptions players opt for the best offer. That was the case in 2021 when the Patriots outspent everybody and acquired a bunch of free agents – so it is possible. Obviously you don't want to be getting into the habit of throwing money around in free agency every year, but identifying one or two top ones and aggressively targeting them makes some sense. That way you can augment the veteran talent with high draft picks and start to work your way back into contention. But it won't be easy and many good decisions will need to be made in order to make that happen.

I understand the Team QB folks who want whichever top quarterback is still standing at the third selection. And I understand the Team Marvin Harrison folks, who want the guy who appears to be the consensus best player in the draft. But for every Joe Burrow, there's a Mitch Trubisky. For every Ja'Marr Chase, there's a Corey Davis. The NFL draft can truly be a crap-shoot. So, doesn't it make sense to increase the odds a little? Am I crazy to think that the best option is to trade down and reap as many picks as possible?
Michael Rose

I don't hate the idea of trading down and adding more picks. The Patriots are obviously more than one player away, so adding picks in the early rounds would help. But I disagree with the notion that trading down increases the odds of finding good players. Yes, by moving down and adding picks the Patriots would be adding more players, theoretically improving their chances of getting talent. But moving down also takes the more talented players off the board, so it makes it harder to find that talent. Obviously there are no guarantees but the third best player in the draft should be more talented than the 15th. Generally the higher you pick the greater the odds are that you will find talent. But it's not a perfect exercise and mistakes will be made, and that's why I don't hate the idea of moving down. Lots of options for the Patriots moving forward but I would still be in favor of taking a quarterback if possible.

The Patriots have a very spotty record of identifying and drafting/signing players in recent years. They drafted poorly, then let most of the few productive draft picks walk (Trey Flowers, Joe Thuney, Jakobi Myers as a UDFA, now Kyle Dugger, Josh Uche and Mike Onwenu) in exchange for comp picks. Their free-agent spree three years ago was largely a bust. And they've used high picks to choose players who, it appears, other teams had much farther down on their draft boards (N'Keal Harry, Joejuan Williams, Cole Strange, Tyquan Thornton, Duke Dawson, Cyrus Jones, Justin Rohrwasser, etc.). Without the dominant presence of Bill Belichick in the talent-selection process, do you expect that we'll we see more of an emphasis on talent and production/track record, rather than value and projecting guys into roles that they haven't assumed before?
Bill Stuart

This post is a very good synopsis of why the Patriots find themselves in the position they're in. Several years of poor drafting and personnel decisions have left the roster lacking in many areas. And you're right to point out the choices to let proven young talent leave via free agency, only to be forced to overpay for their replacements. But Belichick also had a lot of years of very effective drafting and developing that led to the dynasty in the first place. In addition to Tom Brady, players like Richard Seymour, Matt Light, Deion Branch, David Givens, Daniel Graham, Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Dan Koppen, Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson, Logan Mankins, Stephen Gostkowski, Jerod Mayo, Patrick Chung, Sebastian Vollmer, Julian Edelman, Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Marcus Cannon, Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon, James White and Shaq Mason (and that doesn't even include UDFAs) were huge parts of the Patriots sustained success for 20 years. If the new regime manages to hit on as many picks as Belichick did, the future will be bright.

The Patriots have been near the bottom of the league in spending for several years. But since all teams are under the salary cap, exactly what kind of spending does this entail?
Mark Leslie

There's a difference between cap dollars and actual dollars when it comes to spending in the NFL. As an example, if a player signs a five-year, $100 million contract with a $50 million signing bonus, it could be structured in a way that the player gets $50 million up front plus $10 million in salary each year. In that case, in the first year the team would spend $60 million, and then $10 million per season in the next four. But in terms of the cap, the bonus is prorated so it can be spread out over the life of the deal, so for cap purposes it would be $20 million each of the five years. So, in Year 1 it would be $60 million cash spent but counting only $20 million against the cap. The next four years would be $10 million in cash spent but still $20 million against the cap. Also, teams can cut players and no longer be responsible for paying their salaries but any bonus prorations given would still count against the cap. This is what is referred to as dead money on the cap. That's paying cap dollars for a player who is no longer on the team. That's how teams can spend to the cap every year but vary wildly in cash spending. In 2021, the Patriots cash spending was quite high, but since then it's been more on the lower end. But every year the team spends close to the cap because of bonus prorations and dead money. The cap is more about bookkeeping than anything else, and there are many ways to manipulate the space while spending money.

Simple question. What in your opinion is the definition of success for Jerod Mayo and the Patriots next season and what as fans do you think we should be happy with in terms of progress.
Ciaran dePaor

I think this question is anything but simple. Defining success for a team can mean many different things. But to me in Mayo's first season I would like to see a cohesive team that cuts down on the self-inflicted wounds, shows some improvement on offense and has a direction in terms of the quarterback position. Penalties, turnovers and a lack of production on offense have plagued the Patriots for the last four seasons. Improving in those areas while finding a quarterback to move forward with would represent a solid first season. I'm not necessarily concerned with the team's record as much as I am the direction it takes. Move the ball, avoid mistakes and most importantly find a quarterback and we'll all be happy after Year 1.

Obviously, a lot of attention will be paid to the upcoming draft as Jerod Mayo and the new regime build for the future. My question relates to free agency strategy both in the short term and potential long term waiting to see what top players end up not signing right away and can be brought in with more reasonable contracts. Would look at initial splash focusing players like: Jonah Williams (solidly half of the OL); L'Jarius Sneed; Willie Gay Jr; either Hunter Henry or Noah Fant; and either Jacoby Brissett or Sam Darnold as a stronger veteran QB who could be Week 1 starter. Think this could achieve multiple goals and be further foundation to build off for later free agents and potentially making some choices on draft day easier to execute.
Ian Kellogg

I like all the veteran players you mention as free agents but I would not be in favor of signing all of them. The Patriots have gone down that road in the past and it's not really a sustainable course of action. There will be improvement initially and then an inevitable drop-off and with no proven commodity at quarterback it's highly unlikely that the bump would lead to much playoff success. Signing players like Williams, Snead, Gay, Fant and Brissett would cut into a lot of resources. I'd rather pick one or two and target them – maybe Snead and a wide receiver like Calvin Ridley? – and then turn to the draft. This doesn't have to be an overnight rebuild with a new coaching staff. Maintain flexibility, add some talent and most importantly focus on the draft. Obviously finding a quarterback is the top priority but finding as many quality players as possible for the long run is just as important.

Really worried about the staff as a whole. Seems to be a lot of unproven guys with first time responsibilities. The exposure to Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan has been only a few years (if they were aiming to go that route) and at a point of distance (Not like we took a coordinator from them). Also, lots of guys that come in with "meh" results at their recent stops. Who on the staff are you most excited about (excluding Mayo)?
Noel Powers

I like the idea of the experience they brought in with Alex Van Pelt and Ben McAdoo but the guy I'm most excited about is Scott Peters. The offensive line coach is an underrated position and the Patriots have struggled with Matt Patricia and Adrian Klemm in the last two seasons. There have been a lot of communication breakdowns that have led to some struggles in pass protection and that has been at least in part due to coaching. Peters comes with an excellent reputation and learned under one of the best in the business in Bill Callahan in Cleveland. If he's even half as effective as Callahan the Patriots offensive line will improve dramatically.

I am hearing a lot of rumors of Baker Mayfield to the Patriots in free agency, especially since he has close ties to the offensive coaches and the front office. What are your thoughts about signing Baker Mayfield and then focusing on the offensive and defensive lines in the draft?
Jeff Hurlich

I'm not interested in signing a high-priced veteran quarterback while the team is rebuilding. I either want to draft the next guy or find a short-term veteran like Minshew or Brissett to keep the seat warm. I'm not a huge Mayfield fan and I don't believe he has the ability to take the Patriots to the Super Bowl. So, instead of spending big money on him I'd rather continue trying use those resources to rebuild the roster and find the next guy in the draft.

Do you see the final standings in the AFC East any different for the Pats next season whether they draft a QB, OT or WR at 3? Basically, will any of the choices benefit the Pats more in the short term or are we headed for a long-term rebuild?
Brian Brodeur

The answer most likely is a longer-term rebuild but that can change quickly depending on one simple question: Do the Patriots draft their quarterback of the future? Last season Houston took C.J. Stroud and immediately vaulted to the playoffs. If the Patriots take a quarterback and he works out like Stroud did, then it's certainly possible that the Patriots will climb out of the basement in the AFC East. If not, then it will be tough to jump the Jets, Dolphins and Bills if those three teams remain relatively healthy. But I do see the possibility of things changing based on taking a quarterback and hitting on the pick. But that's clearly much easier said than done.

Mailbag after mailbag it is consistently being argued that the third overall pick has to be quarterback because now is the time to take advantage of a class that is known to be strong, and actually supporting that quarterback can be sorted out some other time. What is the actual basis for this strategy based on its historical success rate vs quarterbacks taken later by teams with more complete rosters? At best it seems like a strategy to lose the Super Bowl and/or get the QB injured (possibly to the point of early retirement).
Mike Aboud

I don't know that the Patriots have to pick a quarterback at No. 3. In fact, I'd argue against it if they're not convinced the one available is the best fit. But taking a quarterback is not really a strategy other than simply trying to find the answer at the game's most important position. There are examples of teams with strong rosters who took the quarterback later who have found some success like San Francisco and Philadelphia. But the majority of starting quarterbacks in the NFL were first-round picks, and virtually all of the good teams have first-rounders. The playoffs featured Baltimore, Buffalo, Kansas City, Houston, Cleveland, Miami and Pittsburgh in the AFC and San Francisco, Dallas, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Green Bay. All but the Niners, Eagles and Cowboys were led by a quarterback who was taken in Round 1. I'd also put Cincinnati among the better teams in the league with a QB taken early. So, it's not required to take one at the top but most of the better quarterbacks in the league were high picks.

Whenever I see writers talking about Mac Jones being through in New England one name keeps popping into my head: Jim Plunkett. Do you remember him? A young and talented quarterback the Patriots gave up on way too soon, just to watch him leave and win the Super Bowl with the Raiders. I see a repeat in this with Mac. Do you see what I see? A cheap dump him trade just to watch him blossom for another team that actually has talent around him.
Scott Cayouette

I couldn't possibly disagree with this more. The Patriots didn't give up on Plunkett too soon. In fact, they made one of the best trades in NFL history when they dealt him to the Niners back in 1976. The Patriots gave Plunkett five seasons before dealing him to San Francisco for three first-round picks, a second-rounder plus backup quarterback Tom Owen. That trade proved to be the foundation for the Patriots resurgence as one of the best teams in football as they drafted Pete Brock, Tim Fox, Ray Clayborn and Horace Ivory with the picks they received in the trade. Steve Grogan took over for Plunkett and went 11-3 in 1976 after Plunkett had gone 3-11 the previous season. Plunkett eventually found his way to the Raiders and enjoyed success later in his career, but he also possessed much more talent than Jones. He was a mobile quarterback with a great arm, traits that Jones lacks. The only similarity is that neither was protected very well in New England. And in spite of Plunkett's late-career success, I don't think the Patriots regretted that decision in the least.

Drafting is not an exact science, my choice is at No. 3 would be tackle.
Michael Fitzsimmons

Predicting the draft is even less exact and has nothing to do with science. I would take a quarterback.

There were multiple teams that had very inconsistent placekickers last year, and the Patriots were one of them. Do you see them trying to improve their kicking game this year or just hope their current kicking situation works itself out.
David Polombo

I don't think Jerod Mayo will simply hope the situation works itself out. He will likely give Chad Ryland a chance to show improvement in his second season but I'd also expect to see some competition in camp. And even if Ryland remains the kicker to start the 2024 season, it's likely that the team would continue to look at the position and perhaps keep one on the practice squad. Ryland has some potential to be sure but he was too erratic in his rookie season. If that happens again I'd be surprised if Mayo didn't decide to look elsewhere.

If you do not have a good offensive line, what is the point to drafting a good quarterback? Shouldn't they rebuild the offensive line? Both quarterbacks for the Pats were tackling practice for decent defenses last year. I felt bad for both of them. Occasionally free agency works, but both offensive line and quarterback options are lacking. The Pats are in a rebuild and there is no quick solution. Please, let's do it right.
Alan Buck

Why is it "right" to draft an offensive lineman first? Why can't a quarterback be taken with the third pick and a tackle get selected in the second round? Or a wide receiver or any other position? There's no doubt that the offensive line needs to be addressed, specifically both tackle spots. I expect Mayo to look to the draft in order to get that done. But that's not any more important than finding good players at all positions. Having great protection but no one to throw the ball effectively doesn't mean much either. Mayo has a lot of work to do and it won't be easy. Rebuilding is hard and the Patriots need to find quality players, regardless of positions. I don't think the offensive line has to be first, and I don't think there's a "right" way to do it. Bottom line is Mayo needs to find quality players, regardless of the order in which he acquires them.

I think one of the most important characteristics for a quarterback to become a Super Bowl champion is to be clutch in the important moments as well as playing good football under pressure (physical and mental). I want to know who between Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels is more clutch?
Vincent Kaculini

That's a really difficult question to answer because the factors you are asking about are more intangible in nature than anything we can watch. None of the three has taken a single NFL snap, so it's tough to say which one will show the most mental toughness once they're in the league. All three showed signs of being able to step up and lead their teams in times of adversity – for Williams and Maye more so in 2022 and for Daniels in 2023 – but there were also some struggles for all three. Williams was outstanding in the clutch at times, most notably when at Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry game with Texas. Other times saw him fail like against Notre Dame last season. Maye and Daniels were similar. So in order to answer the question best we'll have to wait until they're in the NFL to find out for real.

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