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Patriots backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham focused on improving, not Tom Brady’s free agency status

Related: Tom Brady ‘open-minded’ about upcoming free agency

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New England Patriots currently have only two quarterbacks under contract for the 2020 season, and none of them is named Tom Brady: the future Hall of Famer is of cousre scheduled to hit the open market in mid-March and for the first time in his legendary career is not guaranteed to line up under center for the Patriots heading into a new year. One man in particular will therefore closely watch how free agency plays out for the 42-year-old.

However, Jarrett Stidham is not concerned about the contract status of New England’s long-time starting quarterback and potentially moving up the depth chart to become the Patriots’ new number one at the position. Instead, Brady’s primary backup from last season is focused on becoming a better player entering his first full offseason and second year in the NFL — at least that is what he told ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss last week.

“Right now, I can’t really think too much about all of that,” said Stidham, who was selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of last year’s draft and went on to beat out veteran Brian Hoyer over the summer to earn the number two spot on the depth chart. “I have to worry about what I need to do to prepare to enhance my game, to learn as much as I possibly can. That’s the biggest thing I’ve focused on, making a big stride from year one to year two.”

Year one had its ups and downs for Stidham. He looked good in training camp and drew comparisons to former Patriots backup and current San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but was unable to carry this momentum into the regular season. He eventually played only 15 offensive snaps over three games, and finished his rookie campaign with two completions on four attempts (for 14 yards) and a pick-six.

Heading into 2020, however, Stidham appears to be confident in his ability to build on the foundation he laid over the last few months and the experiences he collected behind Brady.

“Obviously, I know what we’re doing, and what we’re trying to do, that sort of thing, but just kind of enhancing everything on my end, knowing every little detail, all the ins and outs,” he told Reiss. “Obviously, Tom, he’s been in this system for 20 years and knows it extremely well. I’m not going to get to that level quite yet, but trying to close that gap as much as I can, and to learn as much as I can, is my biggest goal.”

While reaching Brady’s level will be a near-impossible challenge for Stidham and every other quarterback to join the Patriots’ organization, the 23-year-old did acknowledge the role the six-time world champion played in his development over the course of the 2019 season: “He’s a phenomenal teammate, a phenomenal person, obviously a phenomenal player. There was just so much that I got to learn from him.”

“He was obviously very open to me about stuff that he’s thought about the game of football, and stuff like that. It was great. I can’t speak highly enough of that guy,” Stidham added. “It was priceless. It’s going to be really cool one day when I can sit there and tell my children, or my grandkids one day, that I got to be in the same quarterback room and talking about coverages and different passing concepts with Tom.”

Whether or not Stidham will be able to continue talking football with Brady next year remains to be seen, but whatever the future holds he obviously knows that he needs to care of his own development first before worrying about his position on the depth chart (alongside fellow 2019 depth quarterback Cody Kessler). In this sense, his approach is similar to that of his superstar teammate.