Surprising New Option Emerges For the Patriots At Quarterback

The New England Patriots might choose to address their quarterback need in free agency instead of the Draft.

Jan 21, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) warms up
Jan 21, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) warms up / Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
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After Baker Mayfield's renaissance season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the only 28-year-old is in line to receive some widespread interest in free agency. Mayfield had a standout 2023 campaign with the Bucs, as he completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 4,044 yards and threw 28 touchdown passes while having only 10 interceptions.

The former first-overall pick's completion percentage, yards, and touchdown total were all career-bests. He thrived under Dave Canales' offense, helping the Bucs advance to the NFC Divisional Round after knocking off the defending NFC Champions Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round.

In recognition of his career-best season, Mayfield earned a Pro Bowl nod and finished third in Comeback Player of the Year voting.

NFL Rumors: Baker Mayfield Emerges As An Option for the Patriots

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, writing on Friday, laid out a hypothetical scenario in which the Patriots swoop in on Mayfield after his standout campaign with Tampa Bay:

In his scenario, Fowler also highlighted the connection between Mayfield and the Patriots' restructured front office. Eliot Wolf, New England's primary decision-maker this offseason, and Alonzo Highsmith, a personnel executive hired by the Patriots on Feb. 7, were both part of the Cleveland Browns front office that selected Mayfield with the first overall pick.

The Patriots have long had their eye on Mayfield. Prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield was "convinced" that New England would trade up to the second overall pick. The Patriots held two first-round picks at 23 and 31 in that draft. Ultimately, Mayfield was selected first overall by the Cleveland Browns and New England drafted two Georgia products, Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel with those respective picks.

The fallout from a trade-up to grab Mayfield would have been massive, as New England eventually won the Super Bowl that season with Tom Brady under center.

Picking up Mayfield would also give the Patriots the flexibility of sitting their rookie quarterback for a season while the young signal caller develops, similar to the approach that the Kansas City Chiefs took during Patrick Mahomes' rookie season.

However, this would require a willingness and sacrifice on Mayfield's part, who could be averse to signing a one-year deal when there will undoubtedly be another opportunity out there for him with longer job security.

Fowler elaborated on how a Mayfield acquisition could impact New England's approach to the draft:

"Yes, the Patriots can take a quarterback at No. 3 overall. But who’s to say they wouldn’t still need a veteran? Or, if they believe Mayfield is a long-term answer in this case, they could draft Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. or trade back for more capital."

Jeremy Fowler

New England has no shortage of holes that they need to fill on their roster, so although it would certainly generate some backlash from the fanbase, trading back could be a prudent decision when all is said and done.

On Friday, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports provided a report that the "starting point" for a Mayfield deal with the Bucs could land around three years and $75 million. This would provide a ballpark for Mayfield's payday. It's important to remember that the Patriots enter the offseason with the third-highest available cap space of any team.

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