Friday Mailbag: The three-point plan for fixing Patriots' quarterback situation

Phil Perry
·12 min read

Perry's Mailbag: A three-point plan for fixing Pats' QB situation originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Karen! I've laid it out that I wouldn't be all that interested in a Jimmy Garoppolo return unless his price tag comes way down. He's set to make more than $20 million next season. He hasn't been good enough (or healthy enough) to warrant that kind of contract, even if he knows the offense.

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He's also going to be 30 years old next year, and I don't know if he's going to be OK with being paid like a bridge guy while the team looks to find its next long-term option. (If the team stops looking for its next long-term option because Garoppolo is in-house, that would be another reason not to bring him back.)

Here's what I think would be the best course of action: 

1) Add a veteran who can play right now but won't break the bank. If that means calling Ryan Fitzpatrick to complete the AFC East cycle, so be it.

He can still play. He's a free agent. He's a great locker room influence. He's a competitor. He won't cost much. I'd put Tyrod Taylor in the same category. 

2) Add a young reclamation project via trade for a mid-round pick or via free agency for a reasonable salary.

Ryan Tannehill went to the Titans for a fourth-rounder last year. Could the Patriots convince the Jets to send Sam Darnold their way for a third or fourth? Would the Patriots be interested in bringing back Jacoby Brissett for low money? How about Jameis Winston?

Roll the dice on a young player who'd be worth it from a cost perspective.

3) Draft a guy with a premium pick. Trust your process. Make sure you have faith in him. But draft a guy who has a real shot. Those guys go in the first round, generally, so be ready to do it there.

He won't have to play right away because of the depth you've created with Steps 1 and 2. But a first-round dart throw is a dart throw worth taking. And in the first round you're just chucking at the board from a shorter distance. There should be plenty of those in this year's class. (We'll lay out the names here later...)

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Notice Matt Ryan isn't in that conversation. Neither is Matthew Stafford. It's a cost-effective route that gives the Patriots multiple opportunities to guess right on young players while also having a veteran in house who can allow the team to compete in the short term.

Quarterback evaluation is far from a perfect science. If the Patriots simply give themselves multiple chances, they'll have a better shot to strike it rich. The plan above might require parting with a first-rounder and a fourth-rounder to add a couple young passers with some promise. But given the state of the position in Foxboro -- and given the fact that the Patriots have three fourths in the 2021 draft -- it'd be worth it.

He does have the ability to change plays. He has. I thought he made a nice check in Buffalo to get into an option-pitch play for Rex Burkhead that worked well. But you're right, he also tried to change the play at the line early in the game and took so long to make the switch that he was called for delay of game.

He can do it. He has the ability to. I don't think he has the same fluency in the offense to do it in the same way Brian Hoyer or even Jarrett Stidham might be able to, but he can and he has. I'd say that's not his biggest issue, though. It's just trusting his reads and making accurate throws to targets who need all the help they can get.

I would contend that the Jets are the worst team we've seen in the last 30 years. The other contenders, of course, would be the 2017 Browns or the 2008 Lions.

Those Browns, though, had a couple of legitimate pros on the offensive line as well as plenty of defensive talent. Those Lions were about as bad roster-wise as the 2020 Jets, and their coach (Rod Marinelli) would give Adam Gase a run for his money in terms of their overall inability to run a team.

But they had a future Hall of Famer at a critical position in Calvin Johnson. That's the trump card for me. The best player on the Jets roster is a tossup between offensive tackle Mekhi Becton and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.

To answer your other questions: A) Sam Darnold (you need to start taking shots at quarterback and I think he's worth a shot). B) Yes. Not sure J.C. Jackson is an All-Pro but he can be the best corner on a contending team, in my opinion.

I think they'll have a shot at a legitimate talent at quarterback in the draft. Even if they somehow win seven games and draft in the middle of the pack, they should have a shot at a legitimate talent at quarterback.

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There could be six taken in the first round. So if they don't have a track at Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, they could make a run at Trey Lance, Mac Jones, Zach Wilson or Kyle Trask.

Michael Onwenu has been so good at tackle, I wouldn't move him. Both tackle spots are more valuable than anywhere along the interior. I imagine Joe Thuney will be elsewhere next offseason as one of the highest-paid interior offensive linemen in football. Their odds of finding a suitable replacement inside, I think, would be easier than getting a very good tackle.

Onwenu looks like he has a chance to be very good. He has been already. It's just a matter of whether or not he can keep it up. What a steal in the sixth round. Maybe the biggest steal of the 2020 draft right now.

Josh Uche can run. He represents a bit of a change at the position. They spent a second-round pick on him so he should be part of the long-term plan. Jamie Collins could run, too.

I think the Patriots just have very specific roles for that position group. They have first and second-down 'backers who are big and can play the run. That's Elandon Roberts. That's Ja'Whaun Bentley. They have "Will" linebackers who can move a bit more. That's Collins and Uche. What they don't have is the undersized guy who can really scoot in coverage like Deion Jones or Patrick Queen. They'd rather use bigger safeties at the second level in coverage.

If you're going to have a coverage player, I think they'd argue, use a coverage player. Doesn't mean they couldn't be a little faster at the position. You could make the argument that the Roberts/Bentley role is a little antiquated. But that's why the position looks the way it does.

I think Tom Brady's post-career plan has been pretty well identified, John. He loves the game, but he also loves the business that he's started. Coaching requires an almost unhealthy amount of work most places. As you've noticed, he's pretty protective of his sleep and overall health. 

AFC: 1) Chiefs. 2) Steelers. 3) Titans. 4) Bills. 5) Ravens. 6) Browns. 7) Colts.  

NFC: 1) Bucs. 2) Seahawks. 3) Packers. 4) Eagles. 5) Saints. 6) Cards. 7) Rams.

We aren't in that game unless I catch a touchdown from Zo, so no. I'm a Will Fuller type. Bad hands. Tight hamstrings. May win you a game. May lose it for you. May do both in the same game. Came to terms with that very early in life.

Doesn't look good right now, Jeff. Dalton Keene has been injured so often it's been hard to get a great read on him. Devin Asiasi had plenty of opportunity through the early portion of the season and still couldn't beat out Ryan Izzo.

Can't bury either just yet. But that they haven't made more of an impact on a roster desperate for impact offensive players is a concern.

No. Because of the Dolphins. And the Raiders. And maybe the Chargers, depending on how well Justin Herbert plays.

The evaluation is ongoing, Nat. But I would say it's time to refresh after this season. See my answer at the top of the bag to Karen.

I don't see why not, Janks! Wrote up that possibility earlier this week. 

The two positions that need the most urgent help are quarterback and receiver. I laid out my quarterback plan above, which would not include paying a high-priced quarterback.

Receiver, though? There are a number who could come in and contribute right away and give the quarterback a chance. Chris Godwin. Allen Robinson. Will Fuller. Kenny Golladay. JuJu Smith-Schuster. It's a loaded group, and I'd be willing to pay up for one of them.

They need to stay ahead on the scoreboard so that they aren't forced to pass. Then they need to create positive gains on first down in the running game. If they can do that, they'll have a chance to move it because they have the pieces to run it effectively.

But if the score calls for them to pass? If the down and distance call for them to pass? That's when they get into trouble. It's not complicated. But it's kind of their only option given the way their roster is constructed at quarterback, tight end and receiver.

They do need help along the defensive line, but that's a spot where you should be able to find help in free agency or the middle rounds of the draft. They need to spend their free-agent dollars and high-end draft capital on the most important positions in the game: quarterback and receiver.

If you want to include tight end there because those are just glorified receivers these days for the most part, I won't stop you.

If there's a quarterback they think has a real chance to be successful at No. 10, and they take a linebacker or defensive tackle because they think a player on that side of the ball would be a safer bet? That'd be a serious mismanagement of assets.

Nothing matters more than finding the next quarterback. If you have a chance to find the guy, you can pass on a very good player at a much less valuable position. The risk is worth the reward there. Unquestionably.