Change is the only constant in the NFL, and the New England Patriots will have to adapt to it at the sport’s most critical position at one point in the near future: not only is quarterback Tom Brady currently headed for unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career, he also will be 43 years old when the 2020 season gets kicked off in September. Realistically, the Patriots cannot expect more than a couple of seasons out of the future Hall of Famer.
The search for an heir is therefore ongoing and has been at least since the team drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round in 2014. This year’s pre-draft process is therefore obviously a part of it as well — so much so that the team is actively asking quarterback prospects at the scouting combine how they would feel about filling the shoes of a player that has led the Patriots to six Super Bowl wins since getting drafted in the sixth round in 2000.
“I think that was a great question. It was a fair question for them to ask,” said Jake Luton, one of the players asked by the team to share his thoughts on potentially becoming Brady’s successor. The Oregon State quarterback, who talked to reporters about this experience earlier this week, pointed out that the shoes are obviously big ones to feel but that he would not worry about becoming Tom Brady 2.0 if drafted by the Patriots.
“I’m a pretty even-keeled guy. I kind of reiterated that,” Luton said. “I’m going to be consistent. I’m going to be prepared as best as I can be. I’ve never let any of the outside noise distract me, so I don’t think that would be an issue. I’d bring it every day and prove that I’m a leader, no matter if it’s a high or a low. Keep doing it every day, however that works out. I’m not going to worry about filling anyone’s shoes — just doing the best that I can do.”
One of three quarterback prospects reported to have met with the Patriots so far during the combine, Luton is projected to become a late-round selection or priority free agent: he is not yet ready to be a starting quarterback in the league just yet, and needs to clean up his mechanics to improve his long-term outlook. That being said, the 6-foot-6 passer brings the necessary arm talent and feel for pressure to the table to find success in the NFL.
Will this be enough for the Patriots to invest in him in late April? That remains to be seen, as Luton’s interview and workouts both at the combine and at Oregon State’s pro day will also factor into the equation. One thing can be said with relative certainty, however: if he is to become Tom Brady’s heir, he likely will not be in 2020 even if the veteran quarterback is not re-signed. That honor would likely go to second-year man Jarrett Stidham.