Coming off a 2021 season that saw them return to the playoffs but eventually come up short on wild card weekend, the New England Patriots have a long list of to-dos this offseason. One of its items is bringing back players who are scheduled to enter free agency.
There are quite a few of them: all in all, 18 players that were with New England last year 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 16.
Name: Brian Hoyer
Jersey number: 5
Opening day age: 36
Size: 6-foot-2, 215 pounds
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
What is his experience? Hoyer originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agency acquisition by the Patriots in 2009. He was able to earn the backup quarterback spot behind Tom Brady in his first year in the league and spent three seasons in New England behind the future Hall Of Famer. Following his release in favor of second-year passer Ryan Mallett in 2012, Hoyer moved on to join the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals before eventually signing with 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 was picked up by 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 tenure with the Patriots, but was let go again in 2019 after losing the QB2 spot to then-rookie 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 13 seasons and has spent time with eight different teams. He appeared in 75 regular season games and two playoff contests, and has 39 starts on his résumé — including one with the Patriots during the 2020 season.
What did his 2021 season look like? Despite coming off a disappointing season that saw him lose the Patriots’ backup job to Jarrett Stidham, the team brought Hoyer back in free agency on a one-year, $1.08 million contract. Initially returning to a quarterback room headed by incumbent starter Cam Newton as well as Stidham, the group also saw the addition of Mac Jones in the first round of the draft. As a result, Hoyer headed into training camp as the fourth player on New England’s QB depth chart.
By the time the regular season began, however, he had risen to the QB2 spot: Stidham spent the summer on the physically unable to perform list following offseason back surgery, while Newton was released after losing the starting gig to rookie Jones. Hoyer was released on roster cutdown day as well, but he eventually returned to the New England practice squad the very next day. He was promoted to the 53-man roster shortly after the season opener and with the exception of a short stint on reserve/Covid-19 spent all of 2021 there.
Even when Stidham was activated in early November, Hoyer’s status did not change. He was the primary backup behind Jones, and as such active for all 18 of New England’s games. With the youngster starting all of those, however, his playing time was limited to mop-up duty: Hoyer saw action in five games — always late in the fourth period — and went 9-for-11 as a passer for 227 yards as well as a touchdown. His primary contribution to the team was his role as a mentor for the Patriots’ rookie quarterback.
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 put his signature on numerous contracts 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 $33.9 million by Over the Cap — or roughly $850,000 per career start.
Which teams might be in the running? Numerous teams across the league face questions at the quarterback position, but Hoyer will not solve those. That said, he could have value to teams with young quarterbacks or uncertain starting positions. The Jets, for example, already tried to lure him to New York last offseason. Other potential teams to watch include the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants.
Why should he be expected back? The Patriots lost both offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels as well as assistant QB coach Bo Hardegree to the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason. Hoyer’s potential as an emergency option let alone a starter is limited at this point in his career, but his experience in the system and leadership skills are certainly valuable with Mac Jones’ development in mind.
Why should he be expected to leave? Given his age and status as a backup, Hoyer will not sign a multi-year contract in free agency. That said, other teams might be more willing to offer him a contract than a Patriots club that already has Jarrett Stidham under contract as well. Furthermore, at age 36, Hoyer might be a candidate for a different route out of Foxborough: he might decide to call it a career and head off into retirement.
What is his projected free agency outcome? Hoyer’s 2022 free agency experience depends largely on whether or not he decides to continue his career for a 14th season. If he does, bringing him back would be a smart move for the Patriots to ensure stability in the quarterback room with both Josh McDaniels and Bo Hardegree no longer a part of it. Him signing a one-year pact at the minimum veteran level of $1.27 million — potentially as a veteran salary benefit to limit the cap hit to $1.05 million — would make sense for both parties.
Will the Patriots re-sign Brian Hoyer?
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