Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer were teammates for only four months before the former won the New England Patriots’ backup quarterback spot last summer: Stidham outperformed Hoyer during training camp and the preseason, prompting the team to release the veteran in favor of the fourth-round rookie. Seven months later, the two are united once again as members of New England’s post-Tom Brady position depth chart.
The Patriots reportedly brought Hoyer back over the weekend on a one-year, $1.05 million contract. The deal itself does again not guarantee the former undrafted free agent a spot on the team’s 53-man roster come the regular season, but it puts him in a pivotal position: he will bring experience to the offense and provide leadership in a quarterback room that currently constitutes of just two other players, youngsters Stidham and Cody Kessler.
Signing the 34-year-old does not just add a veteran presence to the mix, though, it also serves as another sign of New England’s plans at the most important position in the sport: the starting job seems to be Jarrett Stidham’s to loose.
The 23-year-old offers some intriguing physical tools, and he left a positive impression on the Patriots during his first training camp in the NFL and the ensuing regular season — even though he attempted just four passes, one of which a pick-six. Stidham did get some chances to run the first-team offense in practice, however, when Brady was forced to lower his workload because of an elbow injury that bothered him over a five-week stretch.
But despite entering his second year in the system, Stidham also lacks experience and has yet to prove that he can be capable of filling the biggest shoes in pro football history. Bringing Hoyer in as a mentor-type quarterback alongside him therefore makes sense: he can help assistant coaches Josh McDaniels and Jedd Fisch help mold the Auburn product into a viable starting-caliber passer, while offering a different perspective on the position.
Hoyer already did just that last year, something Stidham pointed out during a locker room media session last August shortly after the veteran was released: “I can’t really speak highly enough about Brian. He really helped me a ton, especially when I first got here and got to go through OTAs and minicamp: he was here every day for me, helping me in every way that he could. He’s a true veteran, a true pro, and I couldn’t be more thankful for him.”
Re-signing him reunites the two men and gives Stidham another senior passer to learn from. The move also can help settle the position down in case things go awry during training camp or preseason. While Hoyer’s upside is limited — entering his 12th season in the league he is what he is: a serviceable backup — he can have a stabilizing effect given his knowledge of the system and time spent as the number two option behind Tom Brady.
“He has a veteran presence. He’s played on multiple teams. He knows our offense very well,” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty about Hoyer on a recent episode of the Double Coverage Podcast. “I think he’ll bring experience and knowledge, and if he has to go out there and play, he’s going to compete at a high level. Or if it’s coaching up young quarterbacks, I think he’s a guy that’s going to be very necessary to have in our locker room.”
Signing Hoyer also is an indication that New England does not plan on bringing one of the big names available on the quarterback market in via free agency or trade. The team’s current lack of salary cap space and below-average draft capital would have complicated matters anyway from the Patriots’ perspective, but adding Hoyer likely closes the door on other outside acquisitions such as Jameis Winston, Cam Newton or Andy Dalton altogether.
New England could look to the draft to further bolster its quarterback depth chart, of course, but the only realistic candidates ready to start Day One — Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa — will likely be gone long before the team is on the clock. Other highly-rated players such as Justin Herbert or Jordan Love are meanwhile no safe bets to provide the Patriots with a better short-term outlook than Stidham, who has one year in the system under his belt already.
For the time being, however, bringing Hoyer aboard for a third time therefore reinforces the belief that Stidham will be the guy moving forward. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick won’t say so whenever he meets the press during the offseason and summer workouts, but he and his team will give the second-year passer every opportunity to earn the starting role and show that he can be New England’s quarterback of the future.
Along the way, Hoyer will help him get there.
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