The New England Patriots don't have a long-term answer at quarterback as the 2020 NFL season winds down.
Cam Newton has started 11 of 12 games for the Patriots, but he's struggled as a passer throughout the year and can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham also has failed to impress in limited action this season.
Could the team look outside the organization for a new quarterback?
One interesting trade possibility is Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. With the Lions potentially headed for a rebuild after firing head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn late last month, maybe they would be open to moving Stafford and starting over at the QB position.
Should the Patriots pursue that kind of trade? Ex-Patriots safety and current NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison thinks it would make sense for New England.
“I’ll just say this, if I’m the Patriots, I’m looking to make a trade,” Harrison said on NBC Sports’ Safety Blitz with Jac Collinsworth. “I’m looking to make a trade because think about Matthew Stafford on the Patriots if Belichick adds a couple weapons, with his coaching, the young defense. I just think they have a better chance. But yeah, I think it's time for Matthew Stafford to move on.”
The Lions have failed to meet expectations for most of Stafford's career, but those struggles are not entirely his fault. Detroit's defense has rarely been a top unit and the team hasn't been well coached, either. The Lions made only three playoff appearances (with zero wins) in Stafford's first 11 seasons. Detroit has no realistic path to the postseason in 2020 with a 5-8 record entering Week 15.
Stafford has two more seasons left on his contract with an annual salary cap hit over $27 million. He's already made more than $100 million in NFL earnings, so at this stage of his career, winning might be a priority for him.
“A guy like Matthew Stafford who’s made tons of money, he’s financially secure, maybe he can go to the Patriots and say, instead of asking for $30 million a year, ‘Pay me $20 million, pay me $18 million. I’ll take less money to come to a winner, to be able to play on national television, to be able to have coach Belichick as my coach,’” Harrison said.
“That's something to think about. Most players that come to New England are taking pay cuts. I took a pay cut to come to New England, but it was all good.”
Would Stafford even be a good fit for the Patriots? Here's what our own Tom E. Curran wrote about Stafford in a 2021 QB options for the Patriots story published last month.
"The fit? Poor. If he’s released and gets to pick his destination, the Patriots are not an attractive spot with their best wideout being 34-year-old Julian Edelman and no proven tight ends. Also, if Josh McDaniels leaves for a head coaching gig, who’s Stafford working with? A fairly new OC in Jedd Fisch?
"For New England, there are less expensive options with more upside out there. Although if they did make a trade for him, the salaries are so modest he might immediately ask for a new deal."
There are many different options for the Patriots at the quarterback position. They could give Newton another chance next season, they could select a QB in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft or they could make a trade for another veteran.
It's a position they must figure out soon, though. Winning without a good quarterback in the NFL is enormously difficult.