This is still an uncomfortable fact for some Patriots fans, but Tom Brady will be 42 years old next season, and New England will have to start looking for its quarterback of the future soon.
The Patriots actually already did multiple times, but Brady continually has beat Father Time like no quarterback before him. New England drafted Ryan Mallett in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft and Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Both quarterbacks eventually were traded.
The Patriots currently have 33-year-old Brian Hoyer and 2018 seventh-round pick Danny Etling behind Brady on the quarterback depth chart. Hoyer is a fine backup, but not an option as a future starter. Etling looked OK in training camp and preseason, but the Patriots made him available to 31 other teams when they waived him in September then kept him on their practice squad all season.
It would be an upset if Etling is Brady’s successor.
So, who are the current options? The Patriots can either sign, draft or trade for their quarterback of the future. Here’s who’s available or possibly on the market.
This one is extremely unlikely and dependent on the Philadelphia Eagles electing not to tag the Super Bowl LII-winning quarterback. He’ll cost too much, and it seems unlikely he’d want to sign somewhere else to be a backup when starting jobs should be available. Foles is the top free-agent QB, however.
As a free agent last year, Bridgewater signed an incentive-laden deal with the New York Jets, who in turn drafted Sam Darnold. Bridgewater was traded to the New Orleans Saints and wound up making around $6 million in 2019. He also didn’t do much to increase his value back on the market one year later. Bridgewater likely will want to sign a similar deal with a chance to start in 2019. But he’d be a cheaper option if the Patriots want to sign a QB of the future with prior starting experience.
This one is a longshot, and we’re doing some thinking outside of the box, but Sudfeld is a restricted free agent. If the Eagles place a first- or second-round tender on Sudfeld, then it’s extremely unlikely any team would jump at dealing for him. But if the Eagles place an original-round tender on Sudfeld, then it only would take a sixth-round pick, and a new contract, to add a backup quarterback with some promise.
The Patriots typically like to avoid distractions, but Kaepernick still is available. Kaepernick’s lawyer said he wouldn’t be surprised if Patriots owner Robert Kraft “makes a move” for the QB, who has been out of the NFL since 2016.
Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
He’s undersized at 5-foot-10, but he’s also perhaps the most electric offensive player in the draft. The Patriots probably would have to trade up for him.
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Haskins is known for his precision. He’s also expected to be one of the top quarterbacks off the board, so the Patriots might need to trade up in the first round for him, as well.
Drew Lock, Missouri
As a projected first- or second-rounder, Lock could be around when the Patriots are picking 32nd overall. He has prototypical size at 6-foot-4, 223 pounds and completed 62.9 percent of his passes in 2018.
Daniel Jones, Duke
Jones is expected to be drafted in the same range as Lock. He’s 6-foot-5, 220 pounds and completed 60.5 percent of his passes in 2018.
Will Grier, West Virginia
Grier is slightly undersized at 6-foot-2, 218 pounds, but he put together an impressive résumé at West Virginia, completing 67 percent of his passes with 10.7 yards per attempt. He’s a projected second-rounder.
The Patriots could elect to wait and draft someone like Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Iowa’s Nate Stanley, Washington’s Jacob Eason, Georgia’s Jake Fromm or Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. This is a great idea in theory, but you’d rather be too early than too late in finding a quarterback of the future.
Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals
If the Cardinals draft Murray, then Rosen becomes available. The Patriots showed some interest last spring.
Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts
Others have floated out this idea. We don’t get it. The Patriots had Brissett and traded him for Phillip Dorsett two years ago. Why would they give up anything to reacquire him? Brissett will be a free agent in 2020. While still unlikely, the Patriots could re-sign him as a free agent in the future.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
If the Raiders draft Murray, then Carr becomes available. The Raiders likely would have to convert a whole lot of Carr’s $78.1 million remaining base salary into a signing bonus to make him attractive to the Patriots in a trade.
Nick Mullens, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo as their future starter and C.J. Beathard as their top backup. Mullens showed enough in 2018 that he could be attractive to a team in a trade. It probably wouldn’t take much to get him, either. If Mullens isn’t available, then could Beathard, a 2017 third-round pick, be acquired?