5 Free Agent Targets to Prepare the Patriots for a Rookie Quarterback

Dec 10, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith (77) on the field
Dec 10, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith (77) on the field / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
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As next month's NFL Draft creeps closer, the New England Patriots are presented with the third overall pick, and an opportunity to reposition the franchise on a winning course. The assumption is that New England will select a quarterback with the pick, although a lot can transpire before April 25 in Detroit. Even if the Patriots do not take a QB at three, there is no feasible scenario in which New England exhausts all of their picks without taking a player at the position.

Taking a rookie quarterback triggers a litany of subsequent needs on the offensive side of the ball as the Patriots work to put their quarterback in a position to succeed, both in the immediate and long-term future. Most NFL franchises go as their quarterback play goes, and New England just wrote the book on how to ruin a young quarterback with Mac Jones. They can't make the same mistakes all over again.

Here are five players that the New England Patriots should bring in to prepare for a rookie quarterback.

5. Austin Hooper

The Patriots did bring back their no. 1 tight end in Hunter Henry on a three-year deal, but Mike Gesicki is out of New England after an underwhelming season, leaving Pharaoh Brown and La'Mychal Pettway as the only tight ends on the roster.

Neither is a no. 2 tight end, so New England should look to add one through either free agency or the draft. Austin Hooper is a quality option through free agency.

Hooper gets the nod above other available tight ends because of his blocking ability. Hooper earned a 81.5 pass blocking grade in his 2023 season with the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Patriots already tried (and failed) with a one-dimensional tight end with Gesicki in 2023, it would be hard to imagine them going down that path again. Protecting the rookie quarterback will continue to be a theme on this list, and Hooper's dual-threat ability is enticing.

Previously, Hooper played two seasons with the Cleveland Browns from 2020-21, with new Patriots offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt serving as Cleveland's OC during those seasons. If Van Pelt liked what he saw during their time together, don't be surprised if they bring Hooper in.