Following the NFL draft and subsequent free agency period, the New England Patriots currently have 89 of a possible 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 years 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 continues with Brady’s likely successor.
Name: Jarrett Stidham
Jersey number: 4
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6-foot-3, 215 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 UFA)
What is his experience? Stidham entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick by the Patriots last offseason to sit and learn behind future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. While his status as a backup led to him not gaining a lot of actual on-field experience during the regular season and playoffs, it did give him time to develop behind the scenes and get comfortable in New England’s offensive system — something he apparently did very well in both the class room and when asked to take Brady’s spot running the first-team offense in practice while the starter was dealing with an elbow injury.
Stidham’s experience leading an offense extends beyond the practice and preseason snaps he saw in his first NFL season, however: he also started a combined 30 games during his college career. Stidham spent most of his true freshman year at Baylor as a backup before starting the final three games of the 2015 season. After transferring to Auburn and sitting out the 2016 campaign, he went on to start 27 more games for the Tigers — leading them to an 18-9 record while completing 63.6 percent of his passes (470 of 739) for 5,952 yards, 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
What did his 2019 season look like? Stidham entered the Patriots’ system as the third quarterback on the depth chart behind Brady and Brian Hoyer, and ahead of second-year man Danny Etling. Over the course of spring practices and training camp, however, the rookie established himself as a viable option to be the team’s QB2 and proved his upside with a strong preseason performance: Stidham completed 61 of his 90 passing attempts (67.8%) for 731 yards as well as four touchdowns and an interception.
New England therefore eventually decided to part ways with Etling (who at that point had seen more action at the wide receiver than the quarterback position) and Hoyer, who later signed with the Indianapolis Colts and thus paved the way to leave Stidham as the undisputed backup behind Brady. In this role, the youngster saw action in three games: he was on the field for a combined 15 offensive snaps in fourth quarter blowout situations, and dropped back to pass five times. The results varied.
In Week 3 against the New York Jets, Stidham completed two throws for a combined 14 yards but also was sacked once and threw an interception that was subsequently returned for a touchdown. Two weeks later against the Washington Redskins, his lone pass attempt fell incomplete. The rest of his snaps were either hand-offs or kneel-downs. From a purely statistical perspective, Stidham therefore had a rather forgettable 2019 campaign.
All in all, he finished his rookie regular season with two completions on four passing attempts to go along with an interception, while not even seeing the field in 14 of New England’s combined 17 regular season and playoff contests. As noted above, however, he did gain some valuable experience as Brady’s backup and apparently did enough that the organization will likely trust him with a bigger role moving forward. His outlook for Year Two illustrates this:
What is his projected role? After serving as the Patriots’ backup in 2019, Stidham is in prime position to take over the starting role following Tom Brady’s free agency departure. As such, and unless he disappoints in a major way during training camp and preseason as well as the regular campaign, he is expected to start every one of the team’s games in 2020. How he eventually fares with an increased workload and the eyes of the sports world on him remains to be seen, but New England not adding any outside competition through free agency and the draft — other than bringing Brian Hoyer back into the fold — can be seen as proof that the team is high on him and his outlook as a starting quarterback.
What is his special teams value? As is the case with most other quarterbacks, Stidham’s special teams value is practically non-existent. That said, he could take over another one of Brady’s former jobs and serve as the Patriots’ backup holder behind punter Jake Bailey on field goal and extra point attempts. Realistically, however, the 23-year-old will see no playing time in the game’s third phase over the course of the 2020 season.
Does he have positional versatility? While Stidham brings considerable mobility to the table, he does lack the overall functional athleticism to serve in any other role than quarterback. Outside of the occasional trick plays, his positional versatility therefore looks a lot like his value as a special teams contributor: it is non-existent for all intents and purposes. Stidham is a quarterback, and he will be used as such.
What is his salary cap situation? Stidham signed a four-year contract with the Patriots after getting drafted 133rd overall last year, and is on the team’s books with a salary cap hit of $834,028 in 2020 — $159,028 of which guaranteed as part of his signing bonus proration. New England could save money by parting ways with him, but that will not happen: his position on the roster is as secure as that of any player currently on the payroll.
What is his roster outlook? Even though the Patriots re-signed Hoyer earlier this offseason, the expectation is that Stidham will get every chance to become the team’s new QB1. He does have to earn the job over the summer and needs to show the coaching staff that it can trust him, but his development over the course of his rookie season in combination with some added experience makes him a realistic candidate to eventually turn into the present and future of New England’s quarterback position.