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What releasing backup quarterback Brian Hoyer means for the Patriots

New England is planning to part ways with the veteran QB.

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New England Patriots Practice Photo by Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

The New England Patriots and Brian Hoyer are expected to go separate ways moving forward. As was reported on Saturday, the team is set to release the veteran quarterback at the start of the new league year on Mar. 15.

For Hoyer, the release will end his third stint in New England and add another chapter to what has been a turbulent career so far. For the Patriots, meanwhile the upcoming transactions can be analyzed as follows.

The Patriots part ways with their most experienced quarterback. Hoyer originally joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2009, and spent eight of his 14 seasons in the league as a Patriot. He only saw marginal action for the organization, starting just two games, but his experience as an NFL player is still substantial.

He has more years in the system than Mac Jones (2) and Bailey Zappe (1) combined, after all, and his career résumé includes 41 total starts and over 1,500 career pass attempts. The Patriots are not necessarily parting ways with a high-quality passer at this stage in his career, but with a backup option that has played a lot of football through the years and was able to serve as a mentor for the young guys in the quarterback room.

Bailey Zappe is New England’s QB2 — for now. The Patriots entered the 2022 season with Mac Jones as their undisputed starter, and Brian Hoyer as the No. 2 behind him. When Jones suffered an ankle injury in Week 3, and Hoyer a concussion the very next game, it was Bailey Zappe time.

The fourth-round rookie looked surprisingly solid in his showcase, leading the team to victory in both his starts and mostly operating the offense on an efficient level. Granted, he benefitted from going against bad defenses and was shaky in Week 7 against Chicago, but he proved himself a capable NFL player. The Patriots appear to think so as well, and have now effectively promoted him to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Mac Jones.

The Patriots are expected to be in the market for another passer. While the Jones-Zappe combo can carry the team through the 2023 season, the expectation is that New England will add at least one other quarterback to the equation either through veteran free agency or the draft process — or both. Doing so makes sense from a competitive perspective to improve the depth at the game’s most important position, and from a procedural one: you need more than two quarterbacks to run practice.

The move will decrease the team’s salary cap space,... While a player being released usually increases a team’s salary cap space, that is not the case with Brian Hoyer. His contract, after all, includes considerable guarantees that will remain on New England’s books as dead money; $1.4 million of his salary are guaranteed, as is a $240,000 signing bonus proration.

Releasing Hoyer still creates $294,118 in gross savings. However, with another player set to take his spot on the Patriots’ Top-51 contracts, the team will actually be losing around $450,000 in cap space once the move is processed.

...but Hoyer signing elsewhere would be good news for the Patriots. In case Hoyer decides to continue his career — which is not a given considering that he is 37 and suffered a season-ending concussion in October — the Patriots would have an interest in him finding another team. As noted by salary cap expert Miguel Benzan, the guaranteed portion of his salary contains an offset; most or all of his guarantees would be removed from New England’s books if he found a new club.

This also explains the timing of the release. Parting ways with Hoyer now would give him more opportunities to sign with another team, as opposed to releasing him at the cutdown deadline in early September.