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What signing quarterback Trace McSorley means for the Patriots

New England added the free agent on Thursday.

Arizona Cardinals v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ quarterback position has been in the headlines quite a bit as of late, and Thursday was no exception. This time, however, it was not about any rumors but rather a move being made: the team added free agent Trace McSorley on a one-year contract.

A former sixth-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens, McSorley arrives in New England as a veteran of four NFL seasons — three in Baltimore and one in Arizona — and nine in-game appearances. What does adding him to the mix mean for the Patriots, though?

Let’s find out.

This move has nothing to do with Mac Jones. Given some of the narratives that have been thrown around this offseason, this unfortunately needs to be said: signing McSorley has nothing to do with the team’s starting quarterback of the last two seasons, Mac Jones. The 27-year-old was brought aboard to improve the depth at the position and add a slightly different skillset — nothing more, nothing less.

New England fills its QB3 spot... The Patriots entered the offseason with three passers under contract: Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe and Brian Hoyer. The group was not meant to last, however, with Hoyer getting the axe in March; the 37-year-old was coming off a season that ended due to a Week 4 concussion and had lost his QB2 job to Zappe.

The Patriots will roll with Jones and Zappe as the top two passers on their roster, but there was still a need to improve the depth behind them: with Hoyer gone, the team had no third-string quarterback to help with scout-team work and general practice procedures. Now, it has.

...but might still add another passer this offseason. Even though McSorely offers some experience and skill — more on the latter in a second — his spot on the roster will not be guaranteed in 2023. Quite the opposite: it would not be a surprise to see the team add another passer as early as this month’s draft to further strengthen the depth at the QB spot and challenge his position on the team.

Fact is, the Patriots will be heading into training camp with at least three quarterbacks under contract. McSorley will be one of them, but his longer-term future with the club might be on the practice squad rather than the 53-man team.

The quarterback room has added a different skillset. As opposed to the negligibly athletic Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe, McSorley brings a dual-threat element to the quarterback position. His mobility and escapability can be an asset, and while it likely will not be used outside of preseason should help New England’s defense prepare for some of the elusive QBs on the 2023 schedule.

That said, McSorley does have some tools as a passer worth working with. He excels when throwing downfield and outside the numbers from clean pockets, shows eye discipline to hold post safeties versus single-high look, has the touch and accuracy to put the ball away from coverage, and knows when to throw back-shoulder passes.

Not all is positive, though. There are plenty of turnover-worthy plays on McSorley’s résumé, especially underneath. His accuracy and footwork also wane significantly under pressure; he also oftentimes throws late and/or behind receivers on out-breaking routes and makes some rough decisions outside the pocket.

All in all, though, the Patriots apparently view him as a player worth working with, if only over the summer.

The move will not impact the Patriots’ salary cap and compensatory formula too much. With the compensatory portion of free agency still underway, signing McSorley could have an impact on New England’s compensatory draft picks formula for 2024. However, there are two reasons why that will not be the case: 1.) The Patriots were already in the red here even before this signing, and 2.) McSorley’s contract will likely not qualify for consideration anyway.

That latter point also means that the Patriots’ salary cap will not be hit too hard by the signing. McSorley would qualify for Top-51 treatment given that the minimum salary for a player of his experience is $1.08 million, but still not cost a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.

New England has 15 spots left on the offseason roster. McSorley is the 75th player signed by the Patriots, leaving them 15 shy of the offseason limit. There is a realistic chance that the team will add more players than that through draft and subsequent rookie free agency, meaning that follow-up moves might have to happen post-draft.