Coming off a disappointing 2020 campaign, the New England Patriots are headed into a pivotal offseason: they need to rebuild a roster that went just 7-9 last year and is in need of some major upgrades across the board. Part of those could be bringing back the players scheduled to enter free agency — and there are quite a few of them.
All in all, 26 players that were with New England in one way last season are in need of a new contract. Among them is quarterback Brian Hoyer, who is an unrestricted free agent and will therefore hit the open market on March 17.
Name: Brian Hoyer
Jersey number: 2
Opening day age: 35
Size: 6-foot-2, 215 pounds
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
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 behind the future Hall Of Famer. Following his release in favor of second-year passer 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 along the way — and joined the Houston Texans in 2015. One year later, Hoyer signed with the Chicago Bears before eventually arriving in New England again in 2017 via a half-season stint with the San Francisco 49ers. He earned a Super Bowl ring during his second stint with the Patriots, but was let go again in 2019 after losing the QB2 spot to Jarrett Stidham. After one year with the Indianapolis Colts, Hoyer returned to New England in 2020.
All in all, the veteran has been in the NFL for 12 seasons and appeared in 70 regular season games and two playoff contests while spending time with eight different teams. He has 39 starts on his résumé, including one with the Patriots.
What did his 2020 season look like? On the same day they signed Philip Rivers in free agency, the Colts decided to part ways with Brian Hoyer. It did not take him long to find a new home, however: four days after his release, the veteran quarterback returned to New England for a third time — signing a one-year, $1.05 million contract with the team that allowed him to compete for a roster spot against second-year passer Jarrett Stidham and, later on, fellow free agent addition Cam Newton.
Hoyer eventually earned the number two spot on the quarterback depth chart behind Newton, and was active for each of the Patriots’ first three games of the former league MVP’s backup. After not seeing any playing time through Week 3, Hoyer was elevated to the starting position ahead of New England’s road game against the Kansas City Chiefs: Newton had tested positive for the Coronavirus pandemic, forcing the team to make a change on short notice before its meeting with the then-reigning world champions.
The game did not go well for Hoyer. He completed 15 of 24 pass attempts for 130 yards and also threw an interception interception; he also turned the football over two more times in the red zone when he was sacked as time expired in the first half and later when he lost a fumble. After that giveaway, he was benched in favor of Stidham. From that point on, Hoyer was relegated to the number three position on the depth chart and declared inactive as a healthy scratch over the final 12 weeks of the season.
Free agency preview
What is his contract history? After signing a standard three-year rookie deal in New England as well as a restricted free agency tender, Hoyer went on to sign numerous deals around the NFL — including a two-year, $10.5 million pact with the Texans (2015), a two-year, $12 million contract with the 49ers (2017), and a three-year, $12 million deal in Indianapolis (2019). All in all, Hoyer’s contractual career earnings are estimated at $32.7 million by Over the Cap.
Which teams might be in the running? While Hoyer likely will not get much if any consideration as a starting quarterback, teams could opt to bring him in as an experienced backup capable as serving as a mentor for younger players. That list does not just include the Patriots, but might also see the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins or Denver Broncos as potential landing spots.
Why should he be expected back? Outside of Tom Brady there is no other quarterback in the NFL who has the same amount of experience in New England’s system as Hoyer. Accordingly, the Patriots might opt to re-sign him on a cost-effective deal to serve as a veteran leader in a quarterback room that could look drastically different in 2021. Even if he has to be considered a long shot to become anything more than a third-stringer, his sheer presence could have a positive effect and as such value to the organization.
Why should he be expected to leave? Not only is Hoyer already 35 years old, the Patriots also made the decision to go with Jarrett Stidham instead of him during the 2020 season. His experience and leadership cannot be denied, but the NFL is a production-based league — and Hoyer simply did not produce when asked to do so last year. New England could therefore decide to have the veteran role on the depth chart filled by another player such as Cam Newton or a possible free agency or trade acquisition.
What is his projected free agency outcome? Even though the Patriots think highly of Hoyer, his demotion during the 2020 season also shows where they stand on him: he is a number three at this point in time. They could bring him back on a one-year deal near the veteran’s minimum to serve as a mentor-type option at the position, but the more likely outcome is that the two sides will part ways once again with Hoyer probably looking for an opportunity to either get playing time or at least a better standing on the depth chart.