It’s been an incredible 20 years since the New England Patriots were searching for a new quarterback in the off-season. That’s because they’ve had the finest quarterback in the history of the NFL to rely upon in the shape of Tom Brady. The icon has opted to leave the Patriots at the end of his current contract, in favor of a switch to sunnier climes and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brady has been a shining light for the Patriots throughout his 20-year love affair with the franchise. The now 42-year-old arrived as a fresh-faced 22-year-old and would go on to become a six-time Super Bowl champ, picking up four Super Bowl MVP awards and three NFL MVP awards along the way.
No other NFL star has had such a seismic impact on a franchise on their own. It will be interesting to see if the departure of Brady affects Patriots’ standing in the eyes of traders in the futures NFL Vegas odds available before the new season. And next season is something that the Patriots’ hierarchy will already be planning for, as they seek their seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy.
As the Patriots look to plug arguably the biggest gap ever left in their roster, let’s assess the most realistic candidates to step up and fill the boots of Tom Brady:
On the face of it, Andy Dalton coming in as the headline replacement for Tom Brady at quarterback would probably leave many Patriots fans feeling somewhat nonplussed. The 32-year-old has been with the Cincinnati Bengals for his entire NFL career, signing for the franchise in 2011. Some people would consider him a middle-of-the-road candidate. A “steady Eddie” that would be consistent yet unspectacular.
That might be doing Dalton something of a disservice though. Particularly once you realize he holds the Bengals’ record for passing yards in a season, as well as passing touchdowns in a season. As a rhythm thrower, Dalton might just slot in masterfully into the Pats’ carefully constructed roster.
Brissett is no stranger to the Patriots’ setup. He was drafted by the Patriots to act as Brady’s backup during the 2016 season, before being traded to the Indianapolis Colts the following season in exchange for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. In 2019, Brissett became the starting quarterback for the Colts following the eventual retirement of Andrew Luck. It’s well-documented that Brady experienced a poor 2019 season by his own high standards, but Brissett finished ahead of him in terms of down-to-down efficiency.
As a likely free agent this summer, Brissett could be another value pick for the Patriots here. Negotiations with Brissett would be straightforward too given that he avoids the use of agents at all costs.
23-year-old Jarrett Stidham is already within the Patriots’ roster. Last season, he was Brady’s backup and the youngster from Kentucky may be crossing his fingers that he’ll get the chance to step up to the plate next season.
Stidham was a very big prospect during his time in college football and boasts plenty of physical attributes that could work in his favor. First and foremost, he has a huge arm, but Belichick will want the confidence to know that he has the vision and decision-making to make full use of his power.
Like Andy Dalton, Cam Newton would be a well-known commodity to Belichick and co. The 30-year-old enjoyed an eight-season stint with the Carolina Panthers, who drafted him in 2011. Newton made a significant impact on the NFL in his early months, bagging the Rookie of the Year award. Just four years later, his performances leading the Panthers to Super Bowl 50 earned him the 2015 NFL MVP gong – one of four African-American quarterbacks to do so.
It’s fair to say he has gone off the boil since then, with injuries hitting his consistency hard on the field. If Newton could replicate his 2015 form one more time, it could be a hugely beneficial move for the Patriots, but it’s unlikely that Belichick will deem it a financial risk worth taking.