Could Brian Hoyer end up back in New England? (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)
So what happens with the Patriots at quarterback if Tom Brady is forced to sit for the first four games of the 2016 season? At this point on the calendar, Plan B is backup Jimmy Garoppolo, a second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois who has seen limited action to this point in his career, but is maybe best described as solid at this point in his development.
But if the Patriots aren’t completely enamored with Garoppolo’s overall development or if they simply want to expand their depth at the position while waiting for Brady to return, they do have some other options. With the draft looming at the end of the week and a handful of bodies still available in free agency, here are a few possibilities for New England at the quarterback spot.
(One thing to remember: When the Patriots draft a quarterback or sign one as an undrafted free agent later this spring, it shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a wide-ranging referendum on Garoppolo. Only one team has drafted more quarterbacks since 1999 than New England, and that doesn’t even begin to take into account the various free agents — both undrafted and otherwise — that have been added to the Patriots’ roster over the years. Bottom line? They get a quarterback every spring. The context may have changed because of Monday’s announcement, but they’ll follow the same routine this time around.)
Brian Hoyer: The 30-year-old was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State in 2009, and served as a backup to Brady from 2009-11. Along the way, he saw action in 13 games, going 27-for-43 (63 percent) with 286 passing yards and a touchdown. Hoyer has since played in Arizona, Cleveland and Houston, but was cut loose by the Texans earlier this offseason. In his career he’s made 26 starts, completed 58 percent of his passes for 7,163 yards to go along with 38 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions. His familiarity with the scheme and coaching staff, plus the fact that he’d come relatively cheaply, make him a legitimate option in this instance.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: You know he went to Harvard, right? The bearded one is still on the market because the Jets have been playing a game of high-stakes chicken with the 33-year-old, who has played for Buffalo, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Houston, Tennessee and the New York Jets over the course of his career. Last season in North Jersey, he completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,905 yards, to go along with 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The chances here are extremely unlikely, as he’s likely looking for more security in the form of a long-term deal and a payday commensurate with his decent year last season.
Trade: Bill Belichick does have a handful of pals around the league who could be talked into a deal. That’s not to say that they’ll pull off a major heist, but when you take a look around the league at some of Belichick’s favorite trade partners and examine their quarterbacking depth charts, there are more than a few short-term possibilities to consider. For the record, since he took control of the Patriots in 2000, Belichick has made the most deals with Oakland and Chicago (9 each), followed New Orleans and Green Bay (7). Next, it’s Houston, Denver and Tampa Bay (6). But with former Patriots’ front office staffers in Detroit (Bob Quinn), Tennessee (Jon Robinson), Atlanta (Thomas Dimitroff) and Tampa Bay (Jason Licht), the possibilities certainly exist for the Patriots to try and make a deal for another signal caller.
Draft: As we said previously, the Patriots always go out and pursue a new quarterback every spring, either in the draft or free agency. And even though there’s now a perceived need for more backup quarterback depth, don’t expect them to deviate from one of their traditional team-building ideas. To that end, we have five late-round/undrafted possibilities here, a group that includes Navy’s Keenan Reynolds (who doesn’t project to be a quarterback in the NFL, but for purposes of our story, we’ll include him), Stanford’s Kevin Hogan, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, Alabama’s Jake Coker and USC’s Cody Kessler.