We’re still nearly a month away from the official start of the NFL league year, and we’ve already seen three big-name veteran quarterbacks change teams.
First, it was the Detroit Lions trading Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for two future first-round picks, a third-round pick and Jared Goff.
Then, on Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles reportedly found a taker for Carson Wentz, reuniting him with former coordinator Frank Reich in Indianapolis. The Colts reportedly will send back a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-rounder that can become a first if Wentz either plays 75 percent of snaps or plays 70 percent of snaps and Indy makes the playoffs.
The Eagles will absorb an NFL-record $33.8 million dead money charge from Wentz’s contract in the deal, which, like the Stafford-Goff swap, cannot be made official until the league year begins March 17.
So, where do these moves leave the New England Patriots, who are one of the many NFL teams in the market for a quarterback this offseason?
Jimmy Garoppolo remains the most desirable realistic trade candidate for New England given his experience in the Patriots’ offense, but the San Francisco 49ers are unlikely to deal or release him unless they can find a suitable upgrade. That could take weeks or months, if it happens at all.
Both Las Vegas Raiders quarterbacks (Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota) have been mentioned as possible trade bait. Mariota, Carr’s backup in 2020, is more likely to be moved. He’s set to carry a $10.8 million cap hit in 2021 (though he can make an additional $9 million in cash through incentives) and probably could be acquired for a Day 3 draft pick.
Deshaun Watson wants out of Houston, but the chances of him being traded to the Patriots are extremely slim. Teddy Bridgewater also could be on the move as Carolina looks to upgrade behind center. Sam Darnold, too, though the New York Jets aren’t likely to trade him to a division rival.
As for free agent options, Dak Prescott is the top prize, but most expect him to remain in Dallas. Most other impending UFAs are fringe/bridge starters — Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor and Mitchell Trubisky the most notable names among them.
Brissett, a 2016 Patriots draft pick, is unlikely to re-sign with the Colts with Wentz now on board.
The Patriots also could opt to re-sign Cam Newton, who struggled as a passer in his debut season in New England but lacked top-end weapons and had limited time to learn the team’s complex offense.
Jarrett Stidham and 2020 practice squadder Jake Dolegala are the only Patriots quarterbacks currently under contract for 2021. The Patriots entered this offseason with roughly $63 million in salary cap space — the fourth-most in the NFL.