While the NFL playoffs are still underway with four teams left standing, the New England Patriots will have to set their sights on the season to come: after being eliminated from the postseason on wild card weekend, the offseason has arrived at Gillette Stadium — and it will be one of major intrigue considering that the AFC East champions have a long list of players scheduled to enter free agency once the new league year begins on March 18.
With that being said, let’s break down where the team stands at this point in time one position after the other. Today, we kick things off at quarterback where the Patriots have three players currently (still) under contract.
Contract status: Contract set to void on March 18. Brady will have a $13.5 million dead salary cap hit in 2020 if not re-signed at that point, a number that would be brought down to $6.5 million if a new deal is reached before free agency begins.
2019 review: Coming off the sixth Super Bowl win of his career, Brady had one of his worst statistical campaigns and finished the regular season with a completion percentage of just 60.8% while throwing for 4,057 yards as well as 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Foot and elbow injuries late during the year played their part in this, as did a supporting cast that was not up to par for much of the season. The veteran himself, however, also had some errant throws and made some questionable decisions at times.
2020 preview: Brady is adamant that he can still play at a championship level after a disappointing season, and judged by his statements since the Patriots’ season-ending loss against Tennessee plans to be back on the gridiron next season. The question, of course, is where: New England has exclusive negotiation rights for the next two months, and should try to get a deal done rather quickly in order to create some more clarity as free agency nears.
Whether or not Brady agrees is a different story, but from the team’s perspective letting him go without a proven successor available would be risky business. The expectation, therefore, is that the future Hall of Famer returns on a contract extension that spreads out his signing bonus over two or three years — especially now that offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels is also set to return to the team for another year.
Contract status: Under contract through the 2022 season. Stidham has a salary cap hit of $744,028 in 2020.
2019 review: The fourth-round rookie was impressive during the first spring and training camp practices of his career — drawing comparisons to former Patriots backup and current San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo — but saw only limited action during the season. All in all, Stidham appeared in just three games and attempted four passes with two completions for 14 yards and a pick-six.
2020 preview: Stidham’s future, at least for the upcoming season, is tied to Tom Brady. If the veteran returns to New England, the Auburn product will likely remain his primary backup throughout at least the 2020 season and a developmental option. If Brady leaves, on the other hand, the Patriots could hand the keys over to Stidham. Whether or not they think he will be ready is a different story, but his upside certainly is intriguing.
Contract status: Under contract through the 2020 season. Kessler has a salary cap hit of $820,000 in 2020.
2019 review: After being let go by the Philadelphia Eagles during roster cutdowns, the four-year veteran joined the Patriots in late September as their number three quarterback. In this role, Kessler did not appear in any games — he was a healthy scratch throughout the season — but did see considerable action in practice while Brady was dealing with his injuries.
2020 preview: As is the case with Jarrett Stidham, Tom Brady’s status also could have an impact on Cody Kessler: he could find himself anywhere from top backup behind a new starting quarterback (possibly Stidham) to being let go after failing to impress the coaching staff over the summer. Needless to say that the 26-year-old will keep a close eye on Brady and Stidham while also trying to convince the Patriots to keep him around another year.
How would you grade the Patriots’ quarterback position heading into 2020?
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