With the NFL Draft in the books and voluntary offseason workouts underway, the New England Patriots are already fully “on to 2022.”
The team currently has 85 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 men fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots build on their 10-7 record.
Today, the series continues with veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Name: Brian Hoyer
Jersey number: 5
Opening day age: 36
Size: 6-foot-2, 215 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2023 (2024 UFA)
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.
What is his projected role? The Patriots re-signed Hoyer to a two-year contract ahead of free agency, and he will continue to fill the same basic role he held last season. He will serve as Mac Jones’ backup as well as an experienced leader in a quarterback room — one that features two young passers in Jones and rookie Bailey Zappe, and lost its long-time coach, Josh McDaniels, earlier this offseason. His role is an important one even if he best never see the field outside of late-game situations.
Does he have positional versatility? Hoyer’s official stat sheet has him down with a combined 121 regular season and playoff rushing attempts, but most of those were end-of-half/game kneel-downs. He simply lacks the athletic skillset to do anything more than play quarterback or make an impact on trick plays. The 36-year-old offers experience and leadership at QB — which are both valuable — but nothing more.
What is his special teams value? While he does have one special teams snap on his NFL résumé, Hoyer’s kicking game value is like that of any other quarterback: virtually non-existent. While he could serve as a backup holder on field goal or extra point attempts in case punter/holder Jake Bailey gets injured, the expectation is that he will finish the 2021 season just like 12 of his other 13 and not see any playing time in the game’s third phase.
What is his salary cap situation? As noted above, the Patriots re-signed Hoyer on a two-year free agency deal earlier this offseason. The contract has a total value of $4 million and in 2022 can be broken down as follows: it pay him a fully-guaranteed salary of $1.12 million as well as a $240,000 signing bonus proration and $400,000 in likely-to-be-earned roster bonuses. Hoyer’s salary cap hit resulting from these numbers is $1.76 million, currently the 30th highest on the team.
How safe is his roster spot? Hoyer can be considered a lock to make the Patriots’ roster this season. Not only does the team’s quarterback depth chart outside of him consist of Mac Jones and fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe, his contract structure also makes a release at one point a highly unlikely scenario: cutting Hoyer even after June 1 would create a dead money charge of $2.76 million that would be higher than his current cap hit. He will therefore be on the team come the regular season, the question is whether or not Zappe can challenge his status as Jones’ primary backup.
One-sentence projection: Just like last year, Hoyer will spend the entire season as QB2 behind Mac Jones and only see a handful of snaps.