The New England Patriots had a busy day on Monday. Not only did they kick off the second phase of their voluntary offseason workouts, they also bolstered the depth of their roster by officially signing a pair of veteran offensive linemen. On top of it all, they later also apparently decided to bring another experienced player back into the fold after leaving him unsigned for two months.
That’s right, quarterback Brian Hoyer is back for yet another stint with the Patriots.
Hoyer will be the fourth passer under contract with the team, joining incumbent starter Cam Newton, third-year backup Jarrett Stidham, and first-round rookie Mac Jones on the depth chart. On paper, the group was a solid one even without Hoyer, though: Newton has a year of experience under his belt, Stidham has apparently impressed the Patriots this offseason, Jones is the future of the franchise.
This begs the question why exactly he was brought back in the first place. In order to find out, let’s go through four possible reasons why New England decided to re-sign Hoyer after he lost his No. 2 spot to Jarrett Stidham last season.
1. The workout procedures
When Tom Brady was still around, the Patriots traditionally kept a smaller quarterback room but they still employed their fair share of so-called “camp arms” during the offseason. Those mostly lower-profile passers were brought aboard to work with the scout team in practice: the top QBs would be off with the respective starting units, while the second- or third-string teams would work with an additional passer on the depth chart.
That role was filled by undrafted rookie Brian Lewerke last year, and it seems as if it will be Hoyer’s in 2021.
While that is quite the change of status for the veteran— Hoyer has 40 starts on his résumé, including one in New England last fall — it is reflective of his situation: already 35 years old and coming off a disappointing campaign, returning to the Patriots in this capacity might have been his lone chance at keeping his NFL career alive.
2. His knowledge of the system
Any player brought aboard from outside the organization would have had to learn New England’s complex offensive system from scratch. Hoyer, on the other hand, knows it inside out: he spent six previous seasons with the club over three separate stints, and has seen the field in 25 games as a Patriot. He knows the offense better than any other player the team would have been able to acquire at this point.
Accordingly, Hoyer was best suited to fill that fourth quarterback role the team was apparently looking for. Instead of bringing in somebody else and having him learn the offense while still functioning as QB4 — possibly playing an integral role in helping young players adapt to the system — New England went with the proven commodity.
3. The undrafted quarterback depth
The aforementioned Brian Lewerke was one of two undrafted rookie quarterbacks signed by the Patriots last year: he and J’Mar Smith were added after the draft to offer depth behind a group consisting of only Stidham and Hoyer at that point (Smith was later let go before training camp, while Cam Newton was added to the mix).
This year, however, New England did not add any additional passers through the rookie free agent market. In fact, they hardly added any players at all: Michigan place kicker Quinn Nordin remains the only UDFA signed by the Patriots at this point in time.
The fact that the Patriots did not sign any other rookies quarterbacks following the draft, and now decided to bring Hoyer back as well, is an indictment of how they see the rookie market: there are no players like Lewerke or Smith worth being brought aboard even for what would likely be short-term or eventual practice squad stints.
4. His leadership kills
When the Patriots re-signed Hoyer last offseason following his release from the Indianapolis Colts, the expectation was that he would serve as a mentor for then-projected starting QB Jarrett Stidham. That plan did not quite materialize over the course of the 2020 season, though, prompting the team to invest the 15th overall selection in the draft in Alabama’s Mac Jones.
Jones, as noted above, is the future of the franchise: you don’t draft a player in the first round to have him play a backup role on your team. That is especially true at the quarterback position. Hoyer adds another experienced voice for Jones to learn from alongside Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham.
While he should not be expected to be around into the regular season — at least on the 53-man roster — having him as another mentor during the offseason and training camp is certainly no mistake. It also adds more value to Hoyer’s on-field role as a fourth-string quarterback to work with the scout team.
5. The general circumstances
Those are pretty straight forward. The Patriots had open roster spots as they headed into Phase 2 of voluntary offseason work, had the salary cap space to bring Hoyer back in, and were facing some potential competition from the New York Jets after they worked him out last month. Mix it all up, add a dash of the other four reasons mentioned above, and you get the perfect recipe for Hoyer to return to his old stomping grounds yet again.