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New England Patriots 2024 Starting Quarterback Candidates



Denver Broncos are one of the fastest moving teams up the NFL Power Rankings. Wilson is now a free agent. Could the New England Patriots be his next team?

The New England Patriots got their best quarterback play of the season last Sunday, courtesy of Bailey Zappe. The win in Denver improved New England’s record to 4-11 on the season, 2-2 with Zappe under center. But has the second-year QB done enough to prove he should be the Patriots plan to lead the offense in the future? Zappe has shown enough to belong in the conversation, but he is far from alone among the 2024 New England Patriots quarterback candidates.

Whoever is coaching the Patriots next season, whether it is Bill Belichick or a replacement, needs competent quarterback play. There are four options to find the player to fill that role. Candidates come from the current roster, trades, free agency, and the 2024 NFL Draft. A look at the four ways to find next season’s starter:

Current Roster (2)

With all due respect to Nathan Rourke, as of now it does not appear he’s in the conversation. This leaves two options from the current roster.

Bailey Zappe – The current Patriots starter took over a team with a 2-9 record and has gone 2-and-2. He has now won 4-of-6 games as an NFL starting quarterback, which is no small feat for a team that has struggled for wins without him in the lineup. Zappe has two more opportunities in 2023 to show what he can do. If Bailey Zappe can play well enough to earn New England another win or two, the more difficult it would be for the Patriots to find his replacement at the top of the draft. It was written here a month ago that the Patriots 2024 QB is not on the roster. Can Zappe’s play force a reevaluation?

Mac Jones – It was only two years ago that Mac Jones put up one of the most productive rookie seasons for a QB in NFL history. But Jones took a major step back in 2022, and 2023 was even worse. Jones’ final interception in Germany deflated his confidence in himself, and the team’s confidence in him. Needless to say, playing quarterback in the NFL with no confidence is nearly impossible. Can the time on the sideline and an offseason get Jones back on track? Are fundamentals and decision making, which have both regressed, capable of improving going into year four?

Trade Candidates (2)

Certainly there are additional candidates that can be had for the right cost. Possibilities include Zach Wilson (NYJ), Jake Browning (CIN), Geno Smith (SEA), and others.

Kyler Murray – There is a lot standing in the way of Kyler Murray coming to New England making sense. He has a large contract, has had injury issues in 2023, and the asking price in a trade could exceed the value for a team with many needs on the offensive side of the ball. The issue in his contract rewarding film study (which was later removed) certainly raises red flags for a potential employer. Arizona currently hold the second draft pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. They need to decide if they are going to replace Murray or attempt to build around him.

Justin Fields – Chicago is in a similar situation with Arizona. They will also be drafting near the top of the first round (twice in their case) and will have the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback. If the Bears are satisfied that Justin Fields can still become a franchise quarterback himself, they have the chance to build around him with their draft capital. Based on comments from former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi, it seems unlikely Fields in Foxboro is a legit possibility as long as Bill Belichick is still making decisions.

Free Agent Options (4)

If the Patriots bring in a UFA capable of starting, options exclude Ryan Tannehill (TEN) and Tyrod Taylor (NYG). But if they draft a rookie “future starter” a veteran for one-year such as Jameis Winston (NO) or Joe Flacco (CLE). could be included.

Russell Wilson – Denver announced Wilson will be benched for the rest of 2023. His numbers are solid, with 3,070 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He’s not Sean Payton’s guy, but Wilson is a starting-caliber NFL QB. It is likely he gets waived, which is why he’s not among trade options.

Kirk Cousins – Minnesota’s QB was off to a great start before a season-ending Achilles injury. He’ll be the prized option on the market, despite his recovery. Not clear coming to New England makes sense for either Cousins or the Patriots. Even a one-year deal to show he’s healthy is likely available at more desirable locations.

Baker Mayfield – Reports indicate mutual interest in Mayfield returning to Tampa Bay. He’s passed for nearly 3,600 yards, with 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2023. The Patriots reportedly liked Mayfield a lot coming out of college. New England would be his fifth NFL stop in four years. Is Mayfield’s success with the Buccaneers sustainable?

Gardner Minshew – Possibly generous to put Minshew in this group. He would be the most affordable of these free agent options. After rookie Anthony Richardson was lost for the year, Minshew has gone 6-5 as the Colts starter. He could serve the same role in Foxboro that he served this season with Indianapolis. He’s a veteran that knows his role, and has a chance to either compete to be the starter or provide a solid backup option. Adding Minshew would come in conjunction with a draft choice.

2024 NFL Draft Prospects (4)

There are more than three quarterback draft prospects who could become the New England Patriots 2024 starter. But instead of counting each QB, each tier is counted as one.

Tier One: Drake Maye, Caleb Williams – These two will only available if they get a top two or three pick. As noted by the Bears and Cardinals situation above, either could also be open to trading down if they stick with their current starter. Both are likely Day 1 starters in the NFL. That seems to be more desirable to a head coach other than Bill Belichick, if he returns.

Tier Two: Jayden Daniels – The Heisman Trophy winner gets his own tier. He’s not considered in that first group yet, but has above the next group in my estimation. A QB-needy team could (and likely will) take him in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft. Would fourth or fifth be too high to gamble on a player with a frame not necessarily built for the NFL game?

Tier Three: Bo Nix, Michael Penix, Jr. – The Pac-12 quarterbacks are very different players. However, both are likely to be selected in the same general area. It would be surprising to see either last until the second round, but they will not warrant a very high pick either. So likely trading down in the first, or trading back into the second half of the first round, will land them in New England. Both are older players, more mature and likely to be ready to play immediately than the average NFL rookie. Postseason performance could solidify them here or bump them down a tier.

Tier Four: J.J. McCarthy, Quinn Ewers – McCarthy in particular has a chance to advance into Tier 3 with a strong performance in the CFB Playoff and other postseason activities. As of now, these are players that would go in Day 2 of the NFL Draft. It would allow the New England Patriots to address other needs early (offensive tackle, wide receiver) and then still grab the quarterback of the future.