With the way the Patriots came out guns blazing in the first week of free agency, trading up in the first round feels more likely than ever. After all, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran did say the Patriots are going to be extremely and uncharacteristically aggressive this offseason.
The quarterback position is basically the one area that has not been addressed in free agency. Yes, I understand that New England brought back Cam Newton on a one-year team-friendly contract, but after his 2020 performance, are the Patriots really just going to hand him the starting job again? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the Patriots to draft a young quarterback? For long-term team-building reasons alone, it is in Bill Belichick’s best interest to start developing a young player that he has identified as someone who could lead this team for the next decade.
According to Adam Schefter, re-signing Newton doesn’t prevent the Patriots from adding another quarterback.
Patriots are bringing back Cam Newton but it doesn’t preclude them from making another QB move in the weeks to come, per league sources. This move locks in a QB heading into free agency. https://t.co/hgf4ZhqM5w
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2021
If the Patriots are going to make a splash at quarterback in the first round of the draft, they will need a trade partner. The Atlanta Falcons are the perfect team to pull off a day one draft-day trade with.
The Falcons restructured Matt Ryan’s contract. According to WSB-TV Sports Director, Zach Klein the Falcons converted $21 million of Ryan’s $23 million salary to a signing bonus. As a result, Ryan’s cap hit is $26.9 million rather than the original $40.9 million.
It appears feasible that Matt Ryan is staying put in Atlanta for at least the next couple of years. While this doesn’t eliminate the possibility that Atlanta will stand pat and draft a quarterback or a position of need at No. 4, it does make it less likely.
Reporters out of Atlanta were talking about trading down being an attractive option for the Falcons even before Ryan restructured his deal. But now that they’re looking at a potential rebuild around Ryan, it may be more tempting for them to move down a few spots to pick up extra draft capital to expedite a rebuild.
What Would It Take To Trade Up?
For the Patriots, moving up to No. 4 guarantees that they are able to draft one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Some of the options are Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones. Moving from pick No. 15 to No. 4 is going to come at a hefty price. It would likely cost their No. 15 pick, a 2022 first-round pick, a second-round pick, maybe even a mid-round pick, and likely a player like Stephon Gilmore.
Of course, acquiring the No. 4 pick is easier said than done. In all likelihood, the Patriots would be bidding with several teams wanting that No. 4 selection. If it does become a bidding war, the price could go up. Belichick could sweeten the pot by adding more appealing picks to his offer. That might sound like a steep price, however, when it comes to getting a franchise quarterback, you pay whatever it takes.
Whether or not the Patriots do indeed draft a quarterback remains to be seen. In any case, the Patriots were among 30 NFL teams present for Trey Lance’s Pro Day at North Dakota State, sending their most experienced scout, Matt Groh, to attend the session.
Performance-wise, Lance was excellent. He threw 28 touchdown passes with zero interceptions in 2019. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 scores as he led NDSU to a perfect 16-0 record and an FCS National Championship.
Lance is widely considered the third- or fourth-best quarterback prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft, with most draft analysts projecting him as a top-10 pick. That makes him a perfect candidate for the Patriots to trade up for in order to land him.
The Patriots also met with Mac Jones. In an interview at the Senior Bowl, Jones said he enjoyed talking with New England scouts.
“We just had a good conversation,” said Jones. “[We] talked and they got to know me really well. I really liked their [team’s] table. It’s kinda fun to see how different tables, they act a little different, but the Patriots were really cool and asked some really good questions.”
Jones is an interesting player to keep an eye on because of his ties with Nick Saban and Alabama. Belichick has a history of seeking advice from Saban and drafting players out of Saban’s programs. In fact, Belichick has drafted 10 Saban-coached players over the years. It also does not hurt that Jones is coming off a stellar junior year for the Crimson Tide in which he led the team to an undefeated championship season, threw for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns. He also finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Wilson’s arm talent is insane. He can make all of the throws needed to be a good NFL quarterback, and he has great mobility. That is probably why Wilson is consistently showing up in the top ten in NFL Mock Drafts, even going as high as No. 5.
Wilson is already saying all of the right things. In a radio interview with Zach Gelb of CBS Sports, Wilson shared his thoughts on possibly playing with the Patriots.
“That’s cool,” Wilson told CBS Sports Radio’s Zach Gelb. “If that’s the team that wants me, shoot, I’ll give it everything I have. Even if Cam [Newton] was still there when I went into that situation, what a great quarterback to learn from. What a great guy to sit behind and experience the way that he has experienced the game and learned from all his mistakes and the things that he’s had success with as well. And [Bill] Belichick’s a great coach and they’re gonna be on top again one day.”
If Belichick thinks Wilson is the guy, he’ll have to trade up. Swinging a trade with the Falcons makes perfect sense. Also, just in case you’re wondering why I did not talk about Justin Fields, it’s because I’m going with the assumption that he will be drafted No. 2 overall.
The NFL draft is set to kick off at 8 p.m. ET on April 29. If the Patriots do trade up, we’ll know during the first hour of the draft.
–Kevin Tame Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Tame