Following the NFL draft and subsequent free agency period, the New England Patriots currently have the offseason maximum of 90 players under contract. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns on September 5 and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in year’s past, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots keep their dynasty alive in Year One after Tom Brady.
Today, the series kicks off with a member of New England’s quarterback depth chart.
Name: Brian Hoyer
Jersey number: 2
Opening day age: 34
Size: 6-foot-2, 215 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2020 (2021 UFA)
What is his experience? Hoyer originally entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent signing by the Patriots in 2009. He was able to earn the backup quarterback spot behind Tom Brady in Year One and spent the first three seasons of his career in New England. Following his release in favor of Ryan Mallett in 2012, Hoyer spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals before eventually joining the Cleveland Browns in 2013.
He started 16 games for the team over a two-year stretch — going 10-6 — and joined the Houston Texans in 2015. One year later, he signed with the Chicago Bears before eventually arriving in New England again in 2017 via a half-season stint with the San Francisco 49ers. All in all, Hoyer has been in the NFL for 11 seasons and appeared inn 69 regular season games and two playoff contests. He has started 38 games over the course of his career.
What did his 2019 season look like? After serving as the Patriots’ number two quarterback ever since his return during the 2017 regular season, Hoyer faced some serious competition for the role in 2019 after the team invested a fourth-round draft pick in Jarrett Stidham. Even though the veteran entered training camp as the team’s QB2, Stidham’s talents were apparent and forced Hoyer to compete for the top backup role behind Tom Brady.
Hoyer failed to win that battle: on roster cutdown day, the Patriots released him albeit with an intention to re-sign him at a later point. That plan never materialized, however. Instead of waiting for New England to offer him a new deal, Hoyer took the opportunity to sign a three-year, $12 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts and serve as the backup to fellow former Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett. In this role, Hoyer appeared in four games in 2019.
All in all, Hoyer was on the field for 129 of the Colts’ 1,077 offensive snaps during the 2019 season (12.0%) and went 0-1 as a starter. His statistics were mediocre as well: he completed 35 of 65 passing attempts (53.8%) for 372 yards as well as four touchdowns and four interceptions. With Indianapolis bringing veteran quarterback Philip Rivers into the fold as an unrestricted free agent, the team decided to move on from Hoyer and released him in mid-March.
What is his projected role? The Patriots re-signed Hoyer shortly after his release from the Colts, but the expectation is that he will not fill the starting role previously held by Tom Brady. Instead, it seems likely that Hoyer will serve as a veteran backup quarterback in a room also consisting of second-year man and projected starter Jarrett Stidham as well as undrafted rookie additions Brian Lewerke and J’Mar Smith. Realistically, Hoyer will see only minimal playing time during the 2020 season while serving as a seasoned mentor for Stidham.
What is his special teams value? While he does have one special teams snaps on his NFL résumé, Hoyer’s special teams value is like that of any other quarterback: non-existent. While he could serve as a backup holder on field goal or extra point attempts in case punter/holder Jake Bailey gets injured, the expectation is that he will finish the 2020 season just like 10 of his other 11 and not see any playing time in the kicking game.
Does he have positional versatility? Hoyer’s official stat sheet has him down with a combined 106 regular season and playoff rushing attempts, but most of those were kneel-downs. He simply lacks the athletic skillset to do anything more than play quarterback, which in turn means that his positional versatility looks a lot like his special teams value: it should not be counted on. Hoyer offers experience at QB, but nothing more.
What is his salary cap situation? The Patriots signed Hoyer to a one-year deal, and he has a salary cap hit of $1.05 million. That said, the Patriots could part ways with him without taking on any dead money on their cap: his deal includes on guarantees. On the other hand, the deal can increase in value — up to $2 million in total — if certain playing time parameters classified as unlikely-to-be-met are achieved during the regular season.
What is his roster outlook? Just like the last few years, Hoyer is not guaranteed a spot on the roster. Given his experience in the system and noted leadership in a quarterback room that has a combined three in-game appearances outside of him under its proverbial belt, however, his chances of surviving cutdown day and making the 53-man squad do look good. The best-case scenario from the Patriots’ perspective would be Hoyer serving as QB2 throughout the season, with Jarrett Stidham establishing himself as the clear-cut starter.