The New England Patriots, like every other NFL team, played 16 games in the 2020 regular season. But Bill Belichick's offense only produced 12 total passing touchdowns. It's safe to say that this unit is in flux; Cam Newton is reportedly out, and it seems the Houston Texans or the Philadelphia Eagles could hire the team's offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels.
Even when one puts these factors aside, it's clear that the Patriots need to retool their offense. New England ranked near the bottom of the NFL in points-per-game, passing yards per game, and total yards per game. In team's first season since Tom Brady left, the offensive production plummeted.
While it's easy to blame the quarterback, the Patriots lacked dynamic offensive playmakers. Their receivers were particularly lackluster. Star wideout Julian Edelman missed most of the season, and the Patriots didn't have the depth to successfully handle this loss.
When one compares the Patriots' receivers to NFL's best wideouts, the disparity is quite alarming.
Without Brady, the Patriots' passing game crumbled. But New England can find the cure to this problem. Belichick just needs to find a competent quarterback. The Patriots head coach can win with a decent player who can simply manage the game. Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, so he doesn't need an elite quarterback.
But the Patriots must find an upgrade at the position if the team hopes to bounce back next year. With that being said, here's a look at the team's realistic options in draft prospects, free agents and trade targets.
The New England Patriots have a few options in the NFL Draft
In the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots will have the 15th overall pick. Here, the team could target Alabama QB Mac Jones. At Alabama, Jones played in a system that greatly resembles the Patriots' offensive scheme. But many scouts doubt his ability to transition from one of the most talented college teams of all time to a team that lacks playmakers.
On the other hand, the Patriots could target Trey Lance. He is arguably the most dangerous dual-threat quarterback prospect in this draft class. He could be exactly what the New England Patriots need. Lance should be the type of player that teams can can design both a strong run and pass game around. He could be the Patriots' answer to Lamar Jackson.
Of course, Lance isn't a perfect prospect. He sat out this past season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, he only has one year of experience as a starting quarterback at the collegiate level. As a prospect, Lance is comparable to Josh Allen. Drafting Lance might not fix all of the Patriots' offensive woes. But the team could take a chance on his intriguing potential.
Another option could be Florida Gators QB Kyle Trask. He the NCAA in passing touchdowns this year. Trask has a lot of impressive game manager traits, but he lacks mobility in the pocket. He needs playmakers to succeed, so the Patriots would have to completely transform their offense to help him thrive.
The New England Patriots could also turn to free agency
The New England Patriots have two main options on the free agent market. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been linked to the Patriots, but the veteran would only be a stop-gap for the franchise. New England could lean on "Fitz-Magic" while the team develops a young quarterback.
The Patriots arguably wouldn't be a Super Bowl contender if they choose Fitzpatrick as their starter. Sure, he is a playmaker who has proven himself in the AFC East. Fitzpatrick is also a likable player that tends to elevate his teammates. But he takes a lot of chances when he throws the ball, and Belichick might opt to choose a safer quarterback.
The other primary option is Indianapolis Colts QB Jacoby Brissett. As a former Patriot, he knows the team's scheme, and he has experience as a starter. But Brisset is a quarterback with a limited skill set. So the team might prefer to play with a well-rounded player.
The trade market offers the New England Patriots a few options
The writing is on the wall for the San Francisco 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo is a good player, but this team needs a superstar. Coach Kyle Shanahan is at his best when he has an elite quarterback who can take advantage of his innovative scheme. Garoppolo could be expendable as many reports suggest that the 49ers could leap ahead in the draft to take Trey Lance.
"Jimmy G" would be a dream for coach Belichick, as he only needs to have a game manager in order to win. Garoppolo is a former Patriot, so he already knows the team's offensive strategy. Plus, other trade candidates like Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold are either too questionable or too expensive for coach Belichick to gamble on.
While the Patriots have plenty of glaring issues they must fix this offseason, the New England Patriots will probably be just fine. In 2020, the Patriots fielded a decent defense, run game and special teams unit. The team only floundered because it fielded one of the league's worst passing units.
The NFL is a passing league now, so the Patriots must acquire a successful quarterback. Getting Lance or reuniting with Garoppolo could help this team return to its winning ways sooner rather than later.