As New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones looks to secure the starting job for 2023, his chances for starting beyond that look all the more doubtful.
That’s the way Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon sees it, and he tapped the Patriots as one of the “prime candidates to pursue a franchise quarterback next offseason” in 2024. Jones looked like the new Patriots franchise quarterback after Tom Brady in 2021, but struggles in 2022 raised doubts.
“There’s already been chatter that Mac Jones could be running out of time, as [head coach] Bill Belichick might be running out of patience,” Gagnon wrote.
Despite the doubts that surround Jones, the Patriots didn’t get projected to land a quarterback in 2024 mock drafts released this week. Major outlets project the Patriots to select a wide receiver, tight end, or offensive lineman. Top quarterback prospects Caleb Williams and Drake Maye will likely come off the board long before the Patriots realistically have a pick.
Michael Penix Jr. 2022 Washington Season HighlightsWashington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. led the Pac-12 in passing yards (4,641) in 2022, guiding the Huskies to an 11-2 season.2023-01-20T02:22:10Z
Despite the top quarterbacks looking out of reach in 2024, the Patriots could go for the next tier of quarterbacks in the draft. Signal callers to watch include Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix, and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy.
New England could go the free agency route for a quarterback in 2024, but the free agency class only has a pair of established starters. Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings and Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans could both hit free agency. While both have enjoyed productive moments, both turn 36 next year and could command well over $20 million annually based on their current contracts.
Patriots Have Real Doubts About Mac Jones
As Jones struggled and battled injury in 2022, Belichick found another viable option at quarterback when Bailey Zappe stepped for two starts as a rookie. Zappe went 2-0 and threw for 781 yards and five touchdowns versus three interceptions. Belichick notably committed to neither in March as the starter for 2023.
“Everyone will get a chance to play,” Belichick said at the NFL annual meeting in Arizona.
It looked more tenuous for Jones as a report surfaced about Belichick’s exploration of trade partners for Jones, which Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported. Then, “parameters for a trade” surfaced in a rumor via Reddit before the draft, which 98.5 The Sports Hub weighed in on.
New England didn’t trade Jones, but the Patriots considered it during the draft according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. While those rumors persisted, Belichick talked more at length about plans for Jones during the draft.
“Yeah, I mean, look, Mac’s been our quarterback for two years,” Belichick told reporters on April 28. “As I tell the team every year, each player, each coach, we all have to re-establish and prove ourselves every year. That’s what this league is. That’s for all of us — ’23 is ’23. We’ll see how ’23 goes.”
Patriots QB Battle Heats Up
Zappe acknowledged that he could challenge for the starting job this year. Meanwhile, Jones won’t back down according to Patriots insider Mike Giardi.
“Mac’s not afraid of competition. That’s all he wants to do, compete. I think people are underestimating him and that can only help us,” a Patriots player said according to Giardi.
Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien alluded to there being a quarterback competition. O’Brien notably met Jones when they crossed paths at Alabama in 2021, but O’Brien downplayed that connection after he took the Patriots job this year.
“I think that everything that we do here is always based on competition,” O’Brien told reporters during the draft. “That’s been the same that it’s been for 23 years, including the years that I wasn’t here with the Patriots. Everywhere that I’ve been, whether I was working for Nick Saban or Bill Belichick or when I was a head coach, everything is earned in the meeting room and on the practice field. That’s the way we’ve always been.”