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Kelley: Patriots Quarterback Rumors Make Little Sense

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New England Patriots opinion, Bailey Zappe

The New England Patriots have a new offensive coaching staff in 2024. They also have almost an entirely new quarterback room. New England traded Mac Jones to Jacksonville and parted ways with Nathan Rourke and many other quarterbacks who cycled through Foxboro last season. Bailey Zappe remains on the 90-man offseason roster, the sole quarterback left from the 2023 team. Reports came out earlier this week that put Zappe’s roster status in jeopardy as well.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated wrote an article about how the three teams at the top of the NFL Draft handle their rookie quarterbacks at OTAs. That group includes New England, who took Drake Maye third overall. Breer’s reporting about the Patriots’ practices or Drake Maye’s progress report is not what piqued my attention. It was Breer’s report about how the New England plan to pare down their quarterback room before training camp begins this summer.

Read More: Meet the New England Patriots 90-Man Roster (Plus One)

Breer wrote, “The plan is to narrow the (New England quarterback) competition down to three guys by the end of spring, so everyone can be more efficient in the summer.”

Assuming Albert Breer’s report is accurate, why would this be the Patriots’ plan? Explaining why this doesn’t make sense is an easier endeavor.

Drake Maye

Sorry to state the obvious but the New England Patriots are not getting rid of the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft before he attends his first training camp. The odds of Drake Maye being cut or traded before camp are the same as New England signing me to play for them: zero. And in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Jacoby Brissett

New England signed Brissett this offseason to a one-year $8 million deal. They want him to compete for the starting quarterback job in 2024 and mentor Drake Maye. In Breer’s article, Jerod Mayo had high praise for the veteran QB.

“Jacoby (Brissett) is a competitor,” said Mayo. “But he doesn’t hold knowledge close to the vest. He wants to help everyone. He just wants a fair shot competing. It’s been great to have him around.”

The Patriots signed Jacoby Brissett to a contract that would give him that fair shot at competing for playing time while being an asset for their rookie quarterback(s). Cutting ties with him before training camp is not going to happen.

Joe Milton III

The Patriots used a sixth-round selection to take Tennessee QB Joe Milton III. A player selected at No. 193 overall not making New England’s 53-man roster is not outlandish. The idea of that decision being made before he gets to training camp as a rookie makes no sense. Milton is unpolished, explaining why he was available in Round 6. But his raw talent and athleticism are spectacular. It is why he was ranked as the No. 7 quarterback in my 2024 NFL Draft rankings.

Milton is not expected to compete for the starting job in New England, but he is certainly expected to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster. If he fails to make that, New England would certainly be interested in signing him to the practice squad if he clears waivers. Why would they say goodbye to him so soon after saying hello? They wouldn’t.

Bailey Zappe

Zappe ended the 2023 season as the New England Patriots starting quarterback. After an impressive start to his NFL career in 2022 he ended the season on the bench while Mac Jones played every snap. He failed to impress after coming on in relief of Jones in 2023, though he did help defeat the Denver Broncos with a strong showing in Week 16.

Bailey Zappe worked out with Patriots wide receivers Kendrick Bourne, DeMario Douglas, and Tyquan Thornton this offseason. He appears to be a popular player among the group. Mayo has declared that the competition to be the Patriots starting quarterback is wide open. Does that include their incumbent starter?

Conclusion

New England’s reported plan to “narrow the competition to three guys by the end of spring” might be accurate. But if it is, there are only two possibilities. The first option would be parting ways with Bailey Zappe because trading or releasing the other three quarterbacks makes no sense. But does parting ways with Zappe before training camp make sense? What would be the benefit to the Patriots? Zappe’s departure would leave New England with no quarterbacks with NFL experience, Jacoby Brissett excluded. That feels like an unnecessary risk before camp even arrives.

The second possibility is the most logical one I can decipher. Albert Breer reported that New England plans to “narrow the competition” down to three, but he didn’t say what competition he was referencing. Many, including myself after one read, assumed this meant the competition to make the 53-man roster. However, what if the competition is for the role of starting quarterback? In that scenario, Joe Milton III remains on the roster but receives fewer reps in practice as New England attempts to identify their Week 1 starter.

The New England Patriots top priority with their QB room is developing Drake Maye. Whether he starts in Week 1, later in the season, or not until 2025 remains to be seen. The other quarterbacks on the roster should all assist in Maye’s growth. Whether this is from guiding him or pushing him, there cannot be a toxic work environment for the player New England hopes becomes their franchise quarterback. The most logical conclusion to Breer’s report is that Joe Milton III will not be part of the competition to be the Patriots starting quarterback in 2024. Saying goodbye to any of these players this early simply makes no sense.

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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