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Patriots 2021 roster breakdown: Jarrett Stidham will be fighting for his roster life this summer

Related: Patriots roster breakdown: K Quinn Nordin

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

With the NFL Draft in the rear-view mirror and voluntary offseason workouts underway, the New England Patriots are already fully “on to 2021.”

The team currently has 88 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in early September 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 bounce back from what was a disappointing 7-9 season last year.

Today, the series kicks continues with quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

Hard facts

Name: Jarrett Stidham

Position: Quarterback

Jersey number: 4

Opening day age: 25

Size: 6-foot-2, 215 pounds

Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 UFA)

Experience

What is his experience? Stidham entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2019 and spent his first two seasons with the team as the number two quarterback — first behind future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, later behind Cam Newton. His status as a backup led to him not gaining a lot of actual on-field experience outside of practice and preseason: heading into his third season, Stidham has played just eight games, completed half of his passes for 270 yards, 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

Stidham’s experience leading an offense extends beyond the few snaps he saw in his first two NFL seasons, however: he 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 2020 season look like? After having spent his rookie season as Tom Brady’s lone backup, Stidham entered the 2020 league year as the frontrunner for the starting quarterback position: Brady had left the team to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while only one passer — veteran Brian Hoyer, whom he beat out the previous summer — was brought aboard in free agency and during the draft. New England did add undrafted rookies Brian Lewerke and J’Mar Smith, but the QB1 role appeared to be Stidham’s to lose.

Then came Cam Newton. The Patriots signed the long-time Carolina Panthers passer and former league MVP to a one-year contract in late June, adding him to the training competition for the starting gig. It became clear early on that Newton was the frontrunner for the QB1 role despite his lack of experience in the system. Stidham in particular struggled: the second year man did not only toss multiple interceptions during team drills, he also missed some time due to a hip injury.

As a result of his issues, Stidham started the regular season third on the depth chart behind Newton and Hoyer. After being inactive as a healthy scratch over the first three games, he moved up one spot ahead of New England’s Week 4 matchup in Kansas City: Newton tested positive for Covid-19, forcing him to miss the trip. Stidham initially served as the backup behind Hoyer, but was inserted in the third quarter after the veteran was unable to get the job done.

Stidham went just 5-for-13 for 60 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions — a sign of things to come. While he did remain in the number two spot on the depth chart even after Newton’s return, he saw only limited playing time over the remainder of the season: even with the starter playing some uneven football following his return from the Coronavirus reserve list, Stidham only saw mop-up duty for the rest of the year.

In total, he ended up appearing in five games during the 2020 season and played a total of 85 snaps. While that was an increase over his rookie output, Stidham failed to take advantage of his opportunities and eventually was unable to challenge Newton’s status as the starter: he finished his second year in the league with just 22 completions on 44 attempts, with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Stidham also was sacked four times and gained 7 yards on 7 rushing attempts.

All in all, his second season with the Patriots was therefore a disappointment. He failed to earn the starting gig after Brady’s departure, was unable to unseat Newton even with the veteran struggled, and is therefore heading into Year 3 as a major question mark.

2021 preview

What is his projected role? After serving as the Patriots’ primary backup for the majority of the last two seasons, Stidham’s role heading into 2021 is uncertain. While he could theoretically even win the starting position ahead of Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer and first-round rookie Mac Jones in training camp, it appears to be no less likely that he continues his up-and-down play and either ends up as a backup or even on the chopping or trade block. Stidham’s development will be fascinating to watch regardless of the eventual outcome.

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 one of Tom 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 24-year-old will see no playing time in the game’s third phase over the course of the 2021 season even if he makes the team.

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 in 2019, and is on the team’s books with a salary cap hit of $1 million in 2021 — $159,028 of which guaranteed as part of his signing bonus proration. New England could save some money by parting ways with him: while his signing bonus will remain on the team’s books regardless of what will happen, his $850,000 salary would come off in case of a cut or trade.

What is his roster outlook? Even though the Patriots have reportedly been encouraged by his urgency and preparation this offseason, Stidham suddenly breaking out in Year 3 and earning the starting spot would be a surprising development. After all, he was unable to do the same last year even with a clear advantage over Newton in terms of experience. It would therefore be no surprise if he left camp as QB2 or, depending on Mac Jones’ development, even QB3. Of course, it is equally likely that he fails to make the team in the first place and gets either released or traded.