Now’s as good a time as any to throw the guess out there that whichever #source originally told the Patriots beat that the frequently infuriating 7-9 2020 New England Patriots would be “uncharacteristically aggressive” in free agency was probably a big crossover thrash metal guy.
The lyrics even kinda work in context!
The patience once held over
Has been quickly boiling over
You pushed us toward mass aggression
And there’s no other way out
Indeed, when you’re the New England Patriots and your recent draft record is what it is and the GOAT has left and become Florida Man, there is no other way out besides admitting your mistakes and ponying up to fix ‘em.
And to their credit, the Patriots and Bill the GM specifically have both added enough new weapons and retained enough of the key free agents that they’ve put themselves in the pretty enviable position of not having to draft for need. There’s no one position, besides quarterback, that’s absolutely bare on the depth chart. Sure, just about every position on the roster would immediately benefit from a shot of 1st-round or Day 2 prospects, but there’s no position (again, besides quarterback) that looks like tight end last year, where the position status pre-draft was.....Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo.
Dare I say, we’re all on the same page about trading up for a quarterback? Knowing what we know now, it feels like a pretty safe bet that a first-round quarterback move, almost regardless of cost, would be Belichick’s most immediately popular draft day trade-up since......ever. Even if it ended up being moving up a few spots for Mac Jones, most of the fanbase could probably at least get on board with the idea that if Bill and Josh think he’s the guy to run the offense to point-and-shoot perfection, then, well, so be it.
Beyond the first round, at this point we’re all also exhaustively familiar with the Project Quarterback Extended Cinematic Universe in this year’s draft by now. Almost all of them at least have something intriguing to bring to the table, aside from a couple that really beg the question “what would you say....you do here?”, and it seems to be the consensus among our draft analysts here that just about any of them that are slated to go before Day 3 would at least be solid competition for Jarrett Stidham, if not an immediate upgrade altogether.
Here’s the hypothetical that has at least a 1% chance of happening and therefore must be at mentioned, though;
We’ve been plowing through the last 3 months - and rest assured I’m including myself here - under the assumption that there’s going to be SOMEONE in the draft that the Patriots roll the dice on to beef up the quarterback room. First-round trade-up, second-round Jimmy G-type project QB, something.
But what if they don’t? What if, a lá wide receiver in the ostensibly-loaded 2020 draft, they just eschew the position altogether?
Please understand before we go any further that this is not what I want to happen, nor is it what I think will actually happen. The 1% chance mentioned previously is in there for a reason. That being said, there’s at least a couple reasons that the Patriots and Belichick could be assessing the quarterback situation at various points in the draft and instead of throwing darts at a rookie signal-caller, they decide “nah, we’re good” and use those precious draft picks on something else.
The most obvious of these has to do with Bill and his staff’s grading criteria; not only do we know the Patriots famously keep one of the smallest draft boards in the entire NFL, but we’ve also been treated the past couple offseasons to a deluge of Bill’s scouting criteria going all the way back to his days with the pre-reboot version of the Cleveland Browns.
Put another way, Bill’s not going to take a quarterback in the second round, or anywhere else for that matter, just to check the box and say he took one. If there’s one out there that has some skills he thinks he can work with, like he did recently with Jimmy G, Jacoby Brissett, and yes, Jarrett Stidham, then a prospect could be worth a pick. But assuming people like Jim Nagy, the former Patriots scout in the article linked above and current executive director of the Senior Bowl is correct and the Patriots’ draft board usually only has about 70 prospects even graded as draftable, then it seems like a fair guess that a substantial number of college quarterbacks hoping to hear their name called won’t even be on the Patriots’ board at all.
Second, without trying to divine what Bill’s exact opinion on the floor and ceiling of Cam and Stidham is, it’s been a recurring theme/debate topic this offseason everywhere from this here website and our pods all the way to places like the Dan Patrick and Rich Eisen shows that while the rest of the league chases the next Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, the Patriots may very well be of the mindset that they can still be extremely good with a passer who’s merely.....competent. It’s certainly possible, and some people like friend of the blog The Senator Phil Perry have repeatedly hypothesized, that Bill understands success in today’s NFL almost always requires a transcendent passing talent, or at least a passer with some freaky athleticism to offset the inevitable plays in every game where the play gets blown up immediately and the QB’s gotta make some magic. That may well be the case. There’s also a not-insignificant chance it may not be! And if Bill and the scouting staff don’t believe anyone who’s available on days 2 and 3 of the draft represents a notable upgrade on either of the quarterbacks that appear to be roster locks as of today, then why would he spend the pick on one?
Finally, and understand I’m loath to even bring this up as well, but there’s always the possibility the Patriots want to play the waiting game with Jimmy Garoppolo as well. The 49ers allegedly trying to trade him before and/or during the draft is cute and all, but yeah, proooooooobably not happening unless a team cracks open their swear jar to afford it:
Good luck moving him during draft with a 25m salary and a no-trade clause. https://t.co/c3F5e5T8Qn— Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) April 27, 2021
There’s always the possibility that Jimmy could finagle a pay cut as part of a trade, I guess, but all signs seem to point to him getting cut at some point between now and August. At which point, the Patriots can obviously sign him for the low, low price of......money. Can’t imagine there’d be a whole lot of competition for Jimmy G’s services, especially post-draft, so, maybe Bill could give him the Cam Newton prove-it special and see what Jimmy can do with it. Which, objectively speaking, a camp battle between Jimmy and Cam would be fun as hell, if not maybe a bit counter-productive.
It’d be tacky at this point to list all the personnel moves Bill Belichick’s made over the years that left all our jaws on the floor, so I won’t waste your time with stories you’ve already heard a thousand times over. That being said; is it probable that the Patriots would skip addressing the quarterback position in the 2021 draft altogether? Of course not. Is there at least a possibility that they might, if they feel like all the elite prospects are gone and none of the developmental/project guys are worth the picks and the time and the roster spot? If we’re being completely honest, the answer is yes, there’s a chance. At least in the Dumb & Dumber sense of the word “chance”.