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The Patriots Are Hurting Their Rebuild With These Particular Trade Talks

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

The Patriots have been having a sneakily good offseason overall and are looking to elevate towards a high level in the draft. Fans would absolutely want Belichick to continue looking for talent in the free agency trade market, and most trade fodder would be welcome. However, shopping their franchise QB after just two years is absolutely not in the category of what fans should be looking for, and here’s why.

The Patriots Are Slowly But Surely Sapping Mac’s Confidence

Confidence is a major part of any young player’s development, but for someone like Mac Jones, who has seen so many ups and downs in his career, both in terms of his own level and things happening around him, it’s paramount. After an extremely promising rookie season, Mac was given an insane number of circumstances that sapped his confidence.

At the outset of the offseason, Mac lost an offensive coordinator that he had good chemistry with in McDaniels, and instead had to deal with an uncertain and ultimately awful situation with Patricia and Judge. The Patriots, while looking for Mac to evolve in year two, took away the tools that would help him do just that. To add to this, he lacked true bona-fide weapons on offense, to the point where his WR/RB core at Alabama in 2020 was arguably superior to his core in 2022.

Furthermore, the offensive line situation, particularly right tackle, was riddled with injuries, and none of the tackles showed an NFL starter level even when healthy. As a result, Mac took a whopping 34 sacks in just 14 games of action and was rushed in the pocket throughout the season.

Beyond just the team’s personnel situation, the team’s treatment of him left a lot to be desired. When Mac suffered a tough ankle injury, the Patriots not only had tension with him about his recovery timeline, but they also did nothing to make him feel secure about his job, sparking a QB controversy between him and Bailey Zappe.

When Mac took steps to try to take the offense into his own hands, from going back-and-forth with Patricia over disagreements over play calling to consulting outside of the organization for tips on how to handle his situation, he was put in the proverbial doghouse by Belichick. And this offseason, when things were finally starting to look good, with the Patriots working on surrounding him with the right sideline in Bill O’Brien and Adrian Klemm, not only does Belichick remain noncommittal on Mac’s status as a starter, he also is exploring possibilities of getting rid of him.

When the right thing to do is to throw their confidence behind their young signal caller, the Patriots are doing the opposite. Not what you want when undergoing a rebuild.

Mac Still Has The Tools For Success

Lost in the overall struggles of the offense in 2022 is the fact that Mac, in a better situation, still has a lot of potential. His 2021 season was proof of that. First of all, his accuracy and ability to make quick decisions allows for safe, efficient offensive execution. In 2022, the complete lack of time in the pocket due to his line didn’t allow this quality to shine.

He distributes the ball well and makes use of all of his weapons – unfortunately, in 2022, the poor play calling didn’t allow Mac to make those decisions freely and relied way too much on the quick game and low-risk, low-reward plays. He is extremely accurate in short to medium range passes given time and has shown a larger willingness this past season to use his deep arm, and with the work he’s been doing with Tom House, he should be able to reap results there.

Of course, last season, the deep passing game wasn’t used properly, in terms of situations where it was used and choice of wideouts, so the overall effectiveness decreased as a result. There’s a common theme here: the qualities that made Mac such a good QB for the Patriots in 2021 were all stifled by the situation around him.

He has the ability to adapt and learn from his mistakes, and despite the offense’s struggles as a whole, he was able to turn in a stretch of 11 TDs to just four interceptions after starting the season with just two touchdowns to seven interceptions. Throughout the latter half of the season, he slowly but surely was able to figure out ways to at least breathe some life into the hapless offense, even if ultimately it was a futile attempt.

More than the mere stats, Mac showed resilience in a tough situation and was able to help keep the Patriots in contention right up until the final whistle in week 18, even while not playing anywhere near his best level. His competitive fire and resilience are befitting of a New England Patriot.

His Alabama days, as well as his rookie year, show his ability to flourish in the right situation. With that potential, it’s simply a waste to not at least give him one more year to prove himself with an improved roster and coaching staff.

There’s No Better Option In Terms Of Skill, Youth, Value, And Availability

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the Patriots should look at other options. Who? If they had gotten a high-budget quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, Derek Carr, etc…, the Patriots wouldn’t have the space to surround that QB with the weapons that they would need to succeed, both in terms of skill positions and the trenches. Meanwhile, Mac remains on a rookie contract, allowing them to make the free agency moves they’ve made and still have room for more acquisitions.

What about another young QB? Of the handful that are comparable or have performed better than Mac, no other teams would be willing to give up that piece. The Bears believe in Fields, the Jaguars believe in Lawrence, and one would hope that the Patriots wouldn’t want Zach Wilson. One arguable option is Lance, but ultimately, Trey is injury-prone and unproven when healthy. In the case of another former 49er, Garoppolo, the former Patriot-turned Raider, he’s also extremely injury prone, and it remains to be seen what he can do outside of the quarterback’s heaven that is San Francisco.

This is all an elaborate way of saying the following: there is no quarterback out there that meets the intersection of: better than Mac, healthy, available at a good value.

The Bottom Line

Now that Mac will actually have a good offensive system to work with, the answer for the Patriots is simple. Throw their faith behind the 2021 Pro Bowler, focus on making his weapons core even better, and giving him reliable offensive tackles to complement the positive change in offensive line coaching, and let him lead this offense. If, after all of that, he still struggles, then it’s probably time to move on.

 

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