The Patriots have a major problem at quarterback. Their 2020 starter Cam Newton is a free agent this offseason and has expressed that a deal with the Patriots is unlikely. Currently, the Patriots quarterback room includes Jarrett Stidham and Jacob Dolegala (who?). As a Patriots fan, I am more confident in having former college quarterback Julian Edelman calling the shots than Stidham and Dolegala.
With the Patriots having a pick outside the top 10, it is unlikely they will be able to get a starter from the draft, unless Bill Belichick sells an arm and a leg to a possible suitor. Therefore, the Patriots are left to scrounge the free agent and trade markets for their next signal caller.
Field Yates of ESPN released a column this past week predicting the QB carousel of the 2021 offseason. Surprisingly, Yates projected that Marcus Mariota would go to the Patriots. Mariota, who served as the backup to Derek Carr on the Las Vegas Raiders last season, currently has a 2021 cap hit of $10.7 million, which is unusually high for a backup quarterback. It’s entirely possible that the Raiders’ front office will either trade or straight-up release Mariota to avoid the financial burden of paying top dollar for a player to sit the bench.
The Patriots currently have $63.5 million in cap space this offseason, which is the fourth-most in the NFL. A situation that they rarely find themselves in, the Patriots could make some waves this offseason. Sure, they still have a few important free agents they should re-sign, including Joe Thuney and Jason McCourty. Theoretically, the Patriots should have plenty of money to play around with in the QB market. Mariota’s $10.7 million would make a sizable dent in the cap space, but it wouldn’t put the Patriots into financial trouble entirely.
Although Mariota fits into the Patriots cap situation, his play over the past few years is concerning; he lost the starting job at Tennessee to Ryan Tannehill, and was consequently signed by the Raiders last offseason. He did impress in his sole game of 2020, throwing for 226 yards and a score, while also adding 86 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Mariota’s traits are similar to Newton’s as he thrives when flushed out of the pocket and can extend plays with his legs.
Mariota certainly will not light the NFL on fire if he ends up in a Patriots uniform; the receiver and running back rooms have no weapons, unless the Patriots can make an additional splash and sign Kenny Golladay or Chris Godwin. Knowing Bill Belichick, I doubt that will happen.
Sure, Mariota could be a solid bridge quarterback to the next Patriots successor, and there’s a possibility that he can thrive in offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ system. However, these rumors are not giving me hope for the Patriots next season. Mariota simply does not have enough talent to turn the Patriots into a true playoff contender again.
I do understand that replacing Tom Brady at quarterback is impossible — there will never be another quarterback like him. Nonetheless, the Patriots need to focus on their future and realize that the glory days of that unbelievable dynasty are long behind them. I guess having a veteran like Mariota calling the shots isn’t the worst option possible, but it definitely isn’t ideal. Sounds like another bleak season is inevitable in Foxborough.