Signing Brian Hoyer prepares the Patriots for any what-if scenario

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The New England Patriots added a fourth quarterback in Brian Hoyer on Monday, according to Hoyer’s agent. With one veteran, Cam Newton, and two developmental players, Mac Jones and Jarrett Stidham, the common refrain surrounding Hoyer’s signing was, why?

Hoyer got a start for New England during the 2020 season while Newton was on the COVID-19/reserve list, and in that loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, he made rookie mistakes in a game where the Patriots clearly hoped he’d be a conservative game-manager. Hoyer was supposed to be a stabilizing force in the event of uncertainty with Newton. And Hoyer couldn’t deliver — at least in that one start. Of course, the Chiefs made a Super Bowl appearance — they were arguably the second-best team in the NFL. Hoyer wasn’t the only quarterback to struggle against Kansas City.

But because the Patriots benched Hoyer in that game and then made Stidham the backup in the games that followed, New England seemed to signal it viewed Stidham as a more viable option. Signing Hoyer, however, shows the Patriots still have faith he can compete for a backup spot, which means New England is probably preparing for any one of the following scenarios.

What if Cam Newton gets hurt...

The Patriots were lucky to have Newton stay healthy in 2020 -- even if he ended up missing time with COVID-19. Newton's shoulders, knees and ankles held up for the season. But considering how much he runs the ball, there's not guaranteeing Newton, one year older, will make it through the year playing all 17 games. When a quarterback rushes for 12 touchdowns (like Newton did last year), he faces an abnormally high amount of contact. New England simply has to have a second option, in the event Newton goes down -- perhaps even in training camp or preseason. But even that speaks to another what-if...

What if Mac Jones needs more time than anticipated...

New England signed Hoyer the Monday after Jones completed rookie minicamp. Could there be any connection between the signing and what the Patriots saw during the weekend? Perhaps it's nothing. Perhaps... it's a signal. Jones could have impressed enough for the Patriots to think he'll take over the starting job, which might lead New England to want to secure another backup in the event Newton loses the job and elects not to settle for a backup role. (He has stated he doesn't want to be a backup.) It's hard to imagine the Patriots coming out of rookie minicamp thinking Jones is ready to be a starter, however. (His most intimidating defender is, literally, a trash can.) What is more likely: New England could have realized just how much work it'll have to put into Jones before he's ready. In which case, the Patriots will need another veteran who can step in to start in the event Jones doesn't get up to speed by Week 1. But what does that say about their view on Stidham?

What if the Patriots feel they can trade or cut Jarrett Stidham...

If the Patriots want to focus the coaches' attention on 1) developing Jones and 2) preparing Newton as the starter, then Hoyer is actually a perfect option to sit in between both players. Newton will start, Hoyer will be the backup until Jones is ready, and Jones will be a developmental third-stringer. So then what's the plan for Stidham? He needs more time to develop, and New England might not be able to give him the energy he needs. So at a certain point, the Patriots may have to cut their losses on the former fourth-round pick. They could cut or trade him.

BUT! What if Brian Hoyer isn't any good...

So that's kind of the point we need to return to. Hoyer has never shown to be anything more than backup-caliber. And even then, he's somewhat unsatisfactory. But Hoyer's price tag is, no doubt, small. He knows the system. His presence is low maintenance. Even if he doesn't make the roster, he is only value added. He'll take away snaps from Jones and Stidham, but not so many that it will actually stunt their development. It will be fine, folks. To those wondering, why? The simple answer is: why not?

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