The Patriots appear on track for a full rebuild, which would include replacing Mac Jones.
Bill Belichick’s future in New England is unknown, but ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky claimed this month that a destination for the head coach already is in place. It’s possible Robert Kraft and Belichick mutually agree to part ways after a disaster of a season since the Patriots owner reportedly isn’t in favor of firing Belichick outright.
What does seem to be more clear is Jones has no future in New England. ESPN reported this week the Patriots could use the Week 11 bye to prepare Bailey Zappe to be the starter despite Jones taking practice reps Wednesday. But if New England does land a top selection in the 2024 NFL Draft, quarterback has to be the way to go.
Jones is owed $2.8 million in 2024, and it would be a shocker if his fifth-year option is picked up. However, it’s unclear if it’s wise for New England to retain the third-year quarterback as a backup next season.
There’s a contingent around the NFL who still believe Jones can be a great quarterback and blame Belichick for not putting the 25-year-old in a position to succeed. The Patriots reportedly tried to trade Jones before the 2023 season, which also reportedly created a rift between the team and Jones. The Alabama product also could have been traded before this season’s trade deadline, but a deal never materialized.
Jones’ stock sunk lower since those reported trade rumors, and this offseason would be the final opportunity New England would have to salvage any value from the 2021 first-round pick. These five teams would make the most sense as trade partners.
San Francisco 49ers
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell floated this idea in a Thursday column, and he noted how Kyle Shanahan reportedly traded up in the 2021 NFL Draft to draft Jones. Trey Lance was chosen instead, and he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys this past offseason. Orlovsky claimed in October that even Jones could succeed in the 49ers offense. George Kittle disagreed with the assessment, though it could be argued the star tight end primarily was defending Brock Purdy from detractors rather than taking a knock at Jones. But Purdy can be erratic, and it’s possible he falls into the Shanahan curse of injury-prone quarterbacks. Shanahan’s system and the array of weapons in San Franciso could be the change of scenery Jones desperately needs.
Speaking of Orlovsky, he suggested Thursday the Browns would be a playoff team with Jones under center — it’s almost like the ESPN analyst and the New England quarterback are friendly or something. To be fair to Orlovsky, Rob Gronkowski also wanted Jones to make his way to Cleveland after Deshaun Watson’s season-ending injury. It’s unclear what the long-term effects of Watson’s injury will be a day after the news, but what is clear is the Browns have yet to reap the benefits of going all in on a player who was accused of sexual misconduct. Similar to the Shanahan system, Jones would fit well under Kevin Stefanski, and Amari Cooper would be a great anchor No. 1 target for the QB. If Nick Chubb can return to full strength, that also would help Jones, but brief Alabama teammate Jerome Ford would benefit Jones, too.
New York Giants
What the Giants will do at quarterback is anyone’s guess. They committed to Daniel Jones with a contract extension last offseason, but they’re in contention for a top draft pick. As much fun as the Tommy DeVito story is, he’s not the answer in New York. It’s obvious Jones also isn’t an inspiring option, and Brian Daboll might get another shot to find the magic he willed in his rookie season as head coach. While Daboll was Alabama offensive coordinator during Mac Jones’ freshman season, the Giants head coach has spoken highly of the former Crimson Tide quarterback’s growth. If Daboll wants to give Daniel Jones some quarterback competition, Mac Jones could be an option.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams appear to be a ticking time bomb of a franchise. Matthew Stafford, Copper Kupp and Aaron Donald’s futures always are up in the air, and Sean McVay seemingly has a broadcast career ready whenever he feels like stepping down. Stafford isn’t getting any younger, and while he can play at a high level, his health became a concern since Los Angeles won Super Bowl LVI. The Rams went through a rotating cast of backup veterans with Baker Mayfield last season and Carson Wentz this season. If Los Angeles’ stars decided to run it back next season, Jones could be a more permanent backup situation. Tight ends coach Nick Caley also worked with the QB in New England, so he could put in a good word if he still has a high opinion of Jones.
Sean Payton’s side pulled off huge upsets over the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills in back-to-back games, and Denver is on the bubble of the playoffs. However, if the Broncos flame out, it’s more likely Russell Wilson will take the blame for another disappointing season. The Broncos would need to be creative with Wilson’s contract, and it’s possible he becomes a trade candidate since there was speculation Payton wasn’t all in on Wilson when he took over this season. He could reset and try to mold the Broncos into his version of the New Orleans Saints. To compare Jones to Drew Brees would be like a terrible remake of a classic movie, but perhaps Payton squints hard enough to convince himself he can make it work. Jones would reunite with college teammate Jerry Jeudy and could help the wide receiver reach the potential he showcased at Alabama.