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Teddy Bridgewater trade illustrates Patriots' startling lack of long-term plan at QB

Alex Reimer
August 29, 2018 - 3:57 pm
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The Saints have an iconic quarterback who’s nearing the end of his career and is only signed through next season. On Wednesday, they traded for Jets QB Teddy Bridgewater, who will serve as the backup this year and could be tapped as the heir apparent in New Orleans. It cost the Saints a 2019 third-round pick. 

The Patriots are in the same exact spot. But right now, their lone quarterback behind Tom Brady is Brian Hoyer. There doesn’t appear to be any long-term plan in Foxboro at the most important position in sports. That’s worrisome.

Drew Brees’ counting numbers took a dip in 2017. His passing yards declined from a league-leading 5,208 to 4,334 and touchdowns went from 37 to 23, which is Brees’ lowest total since 2003. He only played in 11 games due to injury with the Chargers that season. 

The emergence of star running back Alvin Kamara, and the Saints’ increased dependance on the running game overall, played a role in Brees’ statistical decline. He still led the league, however, in completions, completion percentage and yards per attempt. The 39-year-old Brees isn’t Tom Brady, but he’s the next closest thing. 

Still, the Saints seemingly realize they must have a contingency plan. That’s where Bridgewater enters the equation. The 2014 first-round draft pick led Minnesota to an 11-5 record in 2015, earning his first Pro Bowl appearance. Then he suffered a non-contact injury to his left leg in 2016 and has only appeared in one game since. The Jets picked up Bridgewater this offseason for $1 million, but they appear poised to start rookie sensation Sam Darnold at quarterback Week 1.

Bridgewater is a free agent at the end of the year, so he may only make a pitstop in New Orleans. But the Saints will get an extended look at him, and could theoretically decide if he’s the right choice to succeed Brees. 

The Patriots have no such option. Though they added $5.5 million of incentives to Brady’s deal this summer, they didn’t tack on any additional years, which they’ve done during his last three contract alterations. That means Brady will enter training camp next season as a lame duck quarterback, since the Patriots can’t even revisit his deal until August. 

In an interview with “Kirk & Callahan” earlier this month, Brady reaffirmed his commitment to playing for as long as possible. But if the Patriots were certain he planned to play past 2019, it would’ve made sense to extend his contract at least one more year. At the least, it would've allowed the Patriots to spread out his cap hit. Next season, Brady is slated to count $27 million against the salary cap. 

At this point, the Patriots seem to be going year-to-year at quarterback. Even though Jimmy Garppolo is long gone, Brady hasn’t extended his contract. No Garoppolo replacement was drafted, unless you count seventh-round flier Danny Etling. 

It’s possible the Patriots could add another quarterback to the mix over the weekend when roster cuts are made. New Orleans backup Tom Savage, for one, suddenly looks expendable. As NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry notes, Savage was selected 73 picks after Garoppolo in 2014.

Savage, however, would appear to qualify as more of a Hoyer replacement than potential Brady heir apparent. There’s no way the Jets were trading Bridgewater to the Patriots, but his move from the Meadowlands to New Orleans illustrates New England's newfound long-term uncertainty under center. 

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