The NFL’s 2021 offseason projects to be the most active one in recent memory when it comes to quarterback movement, with the New England Patriots right in the middle of things. Coming off a season filled with inconsistent play in the passing game, they are prime candidates to invest in a new quarterback either through draft, free agency or the trade market.
They are not alone, however, with plenty of other teams also facing questions at the most important position on the field. Two of those — the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams — answered them on Saturday: the Lions traded Matthew Stafford to L.A. in exchange for Jared Goff as well as three draft picks, including first-round selections in 2022 and 2023.
The move itself has an impact not just on the teams involved, though, but the quarterback market in general. Let’s therefore now look at what it means from the Patriots’ perspective.
Two veteran quarterbacks are off the market
Both Goff and Stafford were on the trade block entering the offseason, with the Patriots reportedly inquiring about the latter at one point. But even though they are now off the market, there are others who could potentially become available soon. A look at the quarterbacks facing an uncertain future with their respective teams shows that plenty of quality could be on the move even with Goff and Stafford no longer available.
The biggest name on that list is Deshaun Watson, who reportedly asked the Houston Texans to trade him. While it seems unlikely the Patriots are a realistic landing spot for the Pro Bowler, there are other passers who might be on their radar — from the New York Jets’ Sam Darnold to the Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz.
The most realistic fit, however, appears to be San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo simply due to the fact that he started his career in New England as Tom Brady’s backup. The 49ers would save $23.6 million against the cap in case of a trade, with those numbers also making him a possible candidate to get cut at one point over the next few weeks and months.
The compensation gives an indication about other moves
The Rams gave up a hefty price to bring Matthew Stafford aboard; the organization parted with a third-round draft pick in 2021 as well as first-round selections in both 2022 and 2023. Jared Goff’s hefty contract — the Lions will pay him $27.8 million in 2021 — certainly played a role in this, but the move still serves as a baseline of sorts for other quarterback trades that might happen this offseason. If Detroit can get two firsts for a 32-year-old Matthew Stafford, imagine what the Texans will ask for Deshaun Watson, for example.
Detroit is not in play for a quarterback in the draft
While Goff has had his ups and downs during his final season in Los Angeles, the Detroit is reportedly projecting him as its new starting quarterback: according to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington the Lions “very clearly view him as their starter moving forward.” This, in turn would eliminate the team from the quarterback draft market in Round One.
The Lions are currently scheduled to pick seventh overall in late April. While they might be a candidate to trade down to a quarterback-needy team, it would also not be surprising to see them stay put to address another position (keep an eye at wide receiver with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola all headed to free agency). This, in turn, could push another top-tier QB down the board — possibly into New England’s range.
New England will face Jared Goff next year
While it remains to be seen how the NFL designs the 17-game regular season and whether or not he even stays as his new team’s starting quarterback, the current mechanism has the Patriots play Goff and the Lions in 2022. This means that they will face the former first overall draft pick for the fourth time in his career.
The first three games against New England did not go well for Goff, even though he beat the team during the 2020 regular season. All in all, he completed 49 of 95 passes (51.6%) for 527 yards as well as two touchdowns and four interceptions. Goff also was sacked nine times while positing a passer rating of just 57.7.
As for Matthew Stafford, he and the Rams are next on the Patriots’ regular season schedule for the 2024 season. Given his age, however, there is no guarantee he will be on Los Angeles’ roster at that point.