Patriots

Patriots

Andy Dalton finally is a free agent after the Cincinnati Bengals released him Thursday, and the New England Patriots are a popular pick as a potential destination for the veteran quarterback.

In fact, Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Thursday, citing a source, that the Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars "are among the teams interested" in Dalton.

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Oddsmakers also view the Patriots as a landing spot for Dalton, and the DraftKings Sportsbook currently has pegged New England as the betting favorite to land the 32-year-old quarterback.

Here are the latest betting lines on which team will sign Dalton:

1. New England Patriots: -125
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: +175
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: +500
4. Washington Redskins: +2500
5. Atlanta Falcons: +3300
6. Carolina Panthers: +3300
7. Chicago Bears: +3300
8. Denver Broncos: +3300

It makes sense the Patriots are viewed as a possible fit for Dalton. The most likely starter for the Patriots to begin the post-Tom Brady era is 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham. Brian Hoyer is the only other QB on New England's depth chart besides the two undrafted free agents signed over the last week. 

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The Patriots absolutely should start Stidham rather than Dalton. Stidham has shown flashes of impressive talent and potential, and the best way to find out if he can be a competent NFL starter is giving him a chance to prove it. Now, if the Patriots wanted Dalton to be Stidham's backup, that could work. Dalton is a better player than Hoyer and would give the Patriots a better chance to remain competitive if Stidham suffered an injury or wasn't ready for the challenge.

The Jaguars are a team that definitely should make a run at Dalton. He would be a good backup behind starter Gardner Minshew. The Steelers make sense, too, given Ben Roethlisberger's injury history and Dalton's knowledge and experience playing in the AFC North division.

Dalton isn't the best free agent QB available, however. Cam Newton, who won an MVP award in 2015, remains unsigned after he was released by the Carolina Panthers last month.

After Dalton and Newton, the quality of unsigned quarterbacks drops off sharply. So, if a team is looking to sign a QB in the near future, one of these two players easily is the best option, and both deserve another chance to be a starter.