Eight teams are left standing in the NFL postseason tournament, but the New England Patriots are not among them. They are already in the process of turning their attention towards what lies ahead: the offseason has arrived at Gillette Stadium after their wild card playoff loss in Buffalo.
It projects to be an interesting one for the Patriots. The team did go 10-7 in the regular season and returned to the playoffs, but it does face plenty of questions after its late-season collapse and with numerous starters in all three phases headed towards free agency. With that in mind, let’s break down where the Patriots stand at this point in time one position at a time.
Today, we kick things off at quarterback (and in case you are wondering the players are listed alphabetically and based on a projected depth chart).
Contract status: Set to enter unrestricted free agency on March 16.
2021 review: After spending two months as a free agent, the Patriots re-signed Brian Hoyer to a one-year, $1.08 million contract in mid-May. The veteran provided an experienced depth option behind incumbent starter Cam Newton and first-round rookie Mac Jones, serving as a mentor for the latter. Nonetheless, Hoyer was released on roster cutdown day alongside Newton.
As opposed to the former starter, however, Hoyer was re-signed — first to the practice squad, then the active roster. He served as New England’s QB2 behind Jones throughout the season, appearing in five games in mop-up time. The 36-year-old went 9-for-11 as a passer for 227 yards and a touchdown.
2022 preview: The 36-year-old has no real shot at earning a starting position elsewhere, which means he faces three options this offseason: return to New England on another low-cost deal, join another team as a backup, or call it a career. All three seem possible given his role with the Patriots these last two seasons and his age.
That said, New England might still have a vested interest in bringing him back into the fold. After all, Hoyer is a respected leader in the locker room and has spent considerable time in New England’s system throughout the years — possibly continuing to provide assistance to Mac Jones as he heads into Year 2.
Contract status: Under contract through the 2024 season. Jones has a salary cap hit of $3.54 million in 2022.
2021 review: The Patriots invested the 15th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft to get Mac Jones aboard, and the Alabama product quickly adapted to his new team. Competing against incumbent starter Cam Newton in training camp and preseason, Jones earned the starting quarterback despite playing second fiddle all summer; Newton was released and Jones was headed the keys to the offense.
Despite his lack of experience and occasional hiccup, the youngster fared well in his first year in the NFL. In fact, Jones was clearly the top rookie quarterback in football and a capable and promising starting option: he finished the regular season going 352-for-521 for 3,801 yards as well as 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Jones did appear to hit the so-called “rookie wall” late in the year, playing more inconsistent football after the bye week. The Patriots also played a rather conservative brand of football behind him at times. All in all, however, his first year as the team’s starter was certainly a success — and a strong foundation to build upon.
2022 preview: No player’s development heading into 2022 will be as important as Mac Jones’. The 23-year-old is New England’s quarterback of the future and as such the key to the team’s offensive success moving forward. As he grows so will the Patriots as a whole.
Where his journey will take him in Year 2 remains to be seen, but the goal from an organizational perspective has to be clear: surround him with the best possible supporting cast at the skill positions and along the offensive line. New England already started this process last offseason, investing considerable resources to rebuild its offense alongside the rookie. If he and the rest of the unit can take a leap in 2022, it should look a lot more formidable than it did at times in 2021.
What should also help Jones is the coaching. Bill Belichick is not going anywhere, and it seems as if offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels and assistant QB coach Bo Hardegree are also set to return. The stage is therefore set for Jones to make the famous second-year jump.
Contract status: Under contract through the 2022 season. Stidham has a salary cap hit of $1.12 million in 2022.
2021 review: The 2021 season was largely a disappointment for Jarrett Stidham. While the team praised him for his proactive approach during the offseason and organizing a passing camp in California, he was forced to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing back surgery during in late July.
Stidham was activated in early November but ended the season without any in-game action. He served as the number three quarterback behind Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer throughout the year.
2022 preview: While Stidham is still under contract through 2022, everything appears to be on the table. The former fourth-round draft pick could take over as New England’s QB2 in case Hoyer departs or, if re-signed, gets beaten out in training camp, but it is also likely that the team might view him as a trade chip. Regardless of what happens, Stidham’s future with the Patriots will likely be as a backup.