With Mac Jones reportedly on the trade block, it’s worth revisiting recent comments made by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio on Tuesday reported Bill Belichick has shopped Jones in trade talks with multiple teams this offseason. Florio previously offered additional details on lingering tensions between Jones and Belichick.
The trade rumor arrived as somewhat of a surprise. Although Belichick has been noncommittal when asked about Jones over the last six months, Kraft repeatedly has praised the 24-year-old quarterback while expressing optimism about a potential rebound in 2023. Most speculation about Jones potentially leaving the Patriots typically ended with references to Kraft’s admiration for the 2021 first-round pick.
But Kraft’s remarks at last week’s NFL annual meeting, depending on how you interpret them, might’ve hinted at looming uncertainty surrounding Jones.
“I’m a big fan of Mac,” Kraft told reporters last Monday in Arizona. “He came to us as a rookie, he quarterbacked his rookie season and did a very fine job, I thought. We made the playoffs. I think we experimented with some things last year that frankly didn’t work when it came to him, in my opinion, and I think we made changes (this offseason) that I think put him in a good position to excel.”
Those comments weren’t particularly newsworthy. But, with the benefit of hindsight, what Kraft said afterward feels somewhat prescient.
“Look, in the end, Bill is in charge of my football team,” Kraft said. “He makes the decisions of who should start and who should play, and he’s done a pretty darn good job of it for the last, when you think about it, 24 years. I had peach fuzz when that started.
“But I don’t know. To me, I see (Jones) as a very hard-working young man. He’s in the stadium almost every day now in the offseason. I think bringing in Bill O’Brien will work to his advantage, and I’m very positive and hopeful about this upcoming year.”
On one hand, Kraft again endorsed Jones as the Patriots’ franchise quarterback. But he also shifted the responsibility to Belichick, who, according to Florio, has floated Jones in trade talks this offseason. If Florio’s reporting is accurate, it’s difficult to believe that Belichick would shop Jones without Kraft being aware of it.
Kraft’s comments about Lamar Jackson also are worth pointing out. He claimed that rapper Meek Mill told him that Jackson wants to play in New England before reportedly saying, “That’s Bill’s decision.” Kraft also told reporters that he was fine with the remarks being on the record.
Ultimately, there’s significant reporting indicating Kraft prefers to stick with Jones while surrounding the young quarterback with better offensive talent. And, until last week, Kraft’s comments on Jones didn’t leave much wiggle room.
But those remarks at the NFL meetings, in conjunction with Florio’s reporting, indicate the door is open for Jones’ exit, and that Kraft hasn’t yet closed it.