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Patriots Roster Breakdown: Bailey Zappe Fights for a Job

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New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe speaks during a news conference following an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Pittsburgh. The Patriots won 21-18. (AP Photo/Matt Freed)

There are expected to be a lot of changes in the New England Patriots locker room before the 2024 season gets underway. The coaching staff has already seen significant turnover, most notably with Jerod Mayo replacing Bill Belichick as head coach. But what will the New England roster look like in the fall? Some of that will be determined by players not currently on the team. The NFL Draft and free agency will both bring new faces to Foxboro. But what about the players from 2023? Patriots Football Now will break down all potential 2024 roster players in “Patriots Roster Breakdown” before Week 1 arrives in September.

Today’s Patriots Roster Breakdown featured player is Bailey Zappe

Bailey Zappe

It is often said that the most popular player on a football team is the backup quarterback. Fans and media alike assume they can always do a better job than a struggling quarterback. Bailey Zappe had the real opportunity to prove people right during the past two seasons. In 2022, he gave a cult-like following Zappe Fever. In 2023, things did not go as smoothly.

Bailey Zappe was selected by New England in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft (No. 137 overall) out of Western Kentucky. Zappe began his rookie season as third string, behind both Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer, but was pressed into game action in Week 4 of the season against Green Bay. In Week 5 he made his first career start. The results were impressive.

Zappe became the first rookie quarterback to win his first two NFL starts while posting a QB Rating of 100+ in each game during the Super Bowl Era. Mac Jones returned to start the following week against the Bears. Zappe fans voiced their displeasure. The Patriots brought Zappe in relief against Chicago but his magical run came to an end. It was his last game action of 2022.

New England gave Bailey Zappe a longer look in 2023. This was due largely to the struggles of Mac Jones. In 2022 Zappe completed 70.7% of his passes while throwing five touchdowns and three interceptions. Zappe completed only 59.9% of his passes in 2023. He threw six touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

Pro Football Focus viewed Zappe’s performance extremely unfavorably in 2023. His final grade for the year was 52.2, down from 67.1 as a rookie. This was the exact same grade given to Mac Jones. Only Atlanta’s Desmond Ridder (51.9) scored lower by PFF’s metics.

Contract Status

Bailey Zappe has two years remaining on his rookie deal, worth a total of $2.085 million. However, there would be no dead money counted against the Patriots salary cap if he is cut or traded.

Quarterback Group

New England currently has three quarterbacks under contract for 2024: Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, and Nathan Rourke. With the third overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Patriots are likely looking to find their franchise quarterback. The question is whether any of the three players under contract can serve effectively as either a bridge QB until they are ready, or a serviceable backup to a rookie starter. New England could also opt to find their starter via trade or free agency, though those options appear to be less cost-efficient.

Outlook for Bailey Zappe

With no dead money at stake, keeping Bailey Zappe around seems to be a no-risk proposition leading up to the 2024 season. If the New England Patriots got a trade offer for Zappe, it seems to reason they would be quick to accept even a Day 3 NFL Draft pick. However, when Zappe was released before the start of the 2023 season (before being brought back) no other NFL team claimed him on waivers. That was before there was as much negative tape on the QB.

There also did not seem to be much of a collaboration between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe in Foxboro. With New England attempting to create a more positive work environment, they need to be certain that any veteran on the roster is going to be a good role model for their presumed rookie quarterback. It is not clear that either of their current veterans is willing to play that role.

The prediction here is that Bailey Zappe is shopped heavily on draft day, with no reasonable offer refused. Barring him wowing the new staff in training camp (Alex Van Pelt did say everyone had a clean slate) it is unlikely Bailey Zappe will be back in New England for the 2024 season.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.

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