The New England Patriots’ quarterback position is heading into an uncertain future. Even though Cam Newton has played some solid football considering all the circumstances — from his late arrival to his Covid-19 diagnosis — he has had an up-and-down season overall and failed to establish himself as the unquestioned quarterback for this team beyond 2020. That is especially true with him headed for unrestricted free agency next spring.
While there always is a chance the Patriots bring him back either as their QB of choice for the next few years or a “bridge” option until another long-term solution steps up, that is far from a guarantee. Accordingly, Bill Belichick and company might have to look elsewhere for a new starter next season — be it Jarrett Stidham, a draft pick, or a free agency acquisition.
One player that falls into the latter category was recently mentioned as a target in a Pro Football Focus story about the top-50 free agents in 2021: Ryan Fitzpatrick.
PFF’s Brad Spielberger wrote the following about him:
After one of the most volatile careers in recent history, Fitzpatrick has played the best football of his career since 2018 as he’s posted three of his four best PFF grades. His aggressiveness allows playmakers to create chunk plays down the field, but it also allows the defense to make just as many plays on the ball. Still, that style works well with the right supporting cast, and Fitzpatrick has actually done a fine job of maximizing his group of playmakers and subpar offensive line in Miami.
The Fitzmagic rolls on for another season, as the journeyman QB seems to age like a rich Bordeaux. Miami made it clear this past offseason that retaining Ryan Fitzpatrick was a priority, even with clear plans to draft Tua Tagovailoa. The 38-year-old had an $8 million base salary for 2020 with no other compensation left on his deal, and teams were reportedly sending trade offers. Miami’s decision to keep one of the great “bridge” quarterbacks around has been a win-win for both parties, and there will be several suitors for Fitzpatrick’s services again in 2021.
Prediction: Patriots sign Ryan Fitzpatrick for one-year, $10 million ($10 million APY): $10M total guaranteed/fully guaranteed at signing.
Fitzpatrick opened the year as the Miami Dolphins’ starting quarterback but was eventually supplemented by first-round rookie Tua Tagovailoa.
With the 38-year-old demoted to backup, he might consider his options elsewhere after this season. New England might actually be rather high up on that list if Newton, as predicted by Spielberger, departs after his one year as the organization’s QB1 (the prediction is he joins the Cincinnati Bengals on a fully guaranteed one-year deal worth $20 million): the Patriots might be in need of another possibly “bridge” to help groom a young starter.
Of course, a lot can and will change over the next month. There is a realistic chance that Newton returns next year if he plays some solid football down the stretch, or that the Patriots feel good about other options. One of them could be Fitzpatrick, which would allow him to complete his tour of the AFC East after previous stints with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets as well.
While Newton and Fitzpatrick are listed at No. 15 and No. 22, respectively, they are not the only players with (projected) ties to the Patriots. Guard Joe Thuney checks in at No. 19 on the list — the second-highest interior offensive lineman behind only Brandon Scherff of the Washington Football Team.