Ever since Tom Brady left the New England Patriots in unrestricted free agency to sign a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there was speculation about what the team would do in order to replace him — from drafting a quarterback in one of the early rounds, to signing free agents Cam Newton or Jameis Winston, to acquiring Andy Dalton via trade from the Cincinnati Bengals. However, one after the other did not come to fruition.
The Patriots did not pick a quarterback high in the draft (they did not select one at all), while Winston joined the New Orleans Saints and New England had not shown any interest in Newton whatsoever. Now, Dalton is out of the picture as well: following his release from the Bengals, who made LSU QB Joe Burrow the first overall draft pick last week, the 32-year-old has agreed to a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who first reported the signing, the contract is worth up to $7 million and includes $3 million in guarantees. While this is a solid deal for a backup with considerable starter experience — the former second-round draft pick started a combined 137 regular season and playoff games in Cincinnati between 2011 and 2019 — any deal in that ballpark likely was too rich for the Patriots even if they had been interested in acquiring Dalton.
So, where does all of this leave New England? Right where the team stood ever since Brady’s departure, and possibly even before that: Jarrett Stidham, a fourth-round draft pick last spring, remains the front-runner to earn the starting job after one year as Brady’s understudy. Brian Hoyer will serve as a veteran presence and emergency stand-in behind him, with undrafted rookies Brian Lewerke and J’Mar Smith fighting for the third spot on the quarterback depth chart or a spot on the practice squad.