Eight teams are left standing in the NFL playoffs, but the New England Patriots are not among them. Finishing the regular season with an 8-9 record, they failed to qualify for the tournament are already on to the offseason.
It projects to be an interesting one for the team. On the one hand, it is coming off a disappointing year that saw especially the offense fall short of its expectations — a fact that is expected to lead to changes on the coaching staff. On the other hand, however, the Patriots are among the league leaders in offseason resources and already have plenty of young building-block-type players under contract.
With all that in mind, let’s break down where the Patriots stand at this point in time by looking at each position individually. Today, we kick things off at the most important of them all: quarterback.
Final 2022 depth chart
Mac Jones: Entering his second season in the NFL, Jones was seen as a realistic breakout candidate. However, Year 1 after offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels proved to be a challenge for him in and he never was able to build on the success he enjoyed as a rookie. Missing time with a high ankle sprain early in the year, he ended up seeing action in 14 games — all starts — while going 288-for-442 (65.2%) for 2,997 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Bailey Zappe: A fourth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2022, Zappe entered the season as New England’s QB3. Jones and Brian Hoyer both suffering injuries, however, temporarily elevated him into the starting gig. In total, he appeared in four games with two starts. Zappe went 65-for-92 (70.7%) for 781 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Garrett Gilbert (PS): After already spending time in New England in 2014 and 2021, Gilbert returned via the practice squad in early October. He was elevated to the game-day roster twice to serve as a backup during Zappe’s stint as starter, but did not see any action. His contract with the team expired recently, and he is now a free agent.
Brian Hoyer (IR): Hoyer re-signed with the Patriots in the offseason and entered the year as QB2 behind Mac Jones. He was pushed into action following Jones’ ankle injury, but in the first quarter of his debut suffered a concussion that would eventually knock him out for the remainder of the year. Hoyer therefore finished 2022 with one in-game appearance, going 5-for-6 (83.3%) as a passer.
After having a solid rookie season, and looking like he might be the guy for the Patriots, Mac Jones had a real up and down year in his second season. There were times when he looked good, and made solid, decisive throws; there were other times where he looked lost and made some really bad mistakes. Ultimately, he didn’t progress the way that people would have hoped he would this year, but the belief is that he has earned another year as the starter to see if the circumstances were the main problem in 2022.
Jones is never going to be the same type of player as Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, but that does not mean he cannot be a competent QB in this league — and the leader of a Super Bowl contender. There is a lot more uncertainty about him than there was at this time last year, but at least during the 2023 offseason there will be no quarterback controversy in New England.
As for the projected QB2, Bailey Zappe proved himself a competent backup who can step in and play if necessary. In a simplistic offense, he was able to throw the ball around the field and make some plays, but his ceiling is limited. Still, having a competent quarterback on a rookie deal as a backup is a luxury that not every team has.
Finally, Brian Hoyer. He may not be on an expiring deal, but he might as well be. After going to injured reserve in October and never coming off, and it would not be a surprise to either see the team move on or him simply calling it a career at the age of 37.
Given who they have under contract for the upcoming year — Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe — the Patriots don’t have to do anything drastic at their quarterback spot this offseason.
There is no need to bring in a veteran free agent even with Hoyer’s future up in the air. New England should, however, look into possibly drafting another late-round quarterback or signing one as a rookie free agent; maybe taking a shot at somebody in the “new” mold of QBs who is more of a dual threat that you can coach up and at the very least use as a scout-team option.
At the moment, though, the following players are under contract for 2023:
- Mac Jones: $4.25 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2024 (plus possible 5th-year option)
- Bailey Zappe: $1.03 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2025
- Brian Hoyer: $1.93 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2023