Barring a late-season miracle, the New England Patriots' offseason will begin Jan. 4, giving Bill Belichick extra time to address this team's biggest question: Who will play quarterback in 2021?
The Patriots could re-sign Cam Newton after his one-year contract expires. But Newton's utter lack of effectiveness in the passing game -- one passing touchdown, three interceptions and 272 total passing yards in his last three games -- doesn't bode well for a New England reunion.
NBC Sports' Peter King is among those who believes the Patriots will move on from Newton this offseason -- and that Bill Belichick could turn to another veteran signal-caller to fill his void.
King ran through a few of those veteran options Friday with Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio after the Patriots' 24-3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Here's King's take on the probability of several NFL quarterbacks joining the Patriots in 2021:
Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts: "I don't sense that the Patriots were that much in love with Jacoby Brissett. Plus, if they got Brissett to come back, would they be getting him to come back wondering if he had it in him, or thinking that absolutely he has it in him?"
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers: "It looks like (he's) going to miss, in the span of three years, 21 games. He's just missed too much time. If he's on the street, I can definitely see (Belichick) and (offensive coordinator (Josh) McDaniels -- if he's back (with the Patriots -- being very serious about getting him."
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: "I'm sure Bill Belichick would love to have Dak Prescott ... but I don't think he would want Dak Prescott at $38 or $40 million per year on average. It's just not a good play when you're trying to rebuild your team long-term, in my opinion."
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: "That's an interesting one, because Matthew Stafford probably has five good years left. Bill Belichick probably has five good years left. So, that would actually make some sense to me. But again, the problem is the money you've got to pay him. Do the Patriots want to pay their quarterback 20 percent of the salary cap? I just don't think so."
Alex Smith, Washington Football Team: "Again, I don't think he's a long-term answer. If he's out there on the street, I can see Belichick absolutely taking a shot on him, but I don't think to build your team around in the next three to four years."
King also dismissed Philip Rivers and Gardner Minshew as options for New England and apparently views Garoppolo and Stafford as the front-runners should either QB be available on the open market.
But both quarterbacks would command a significant raise from the $1.1 million base salary Newton is earning this season and would require the Patriots parting with draft assets to complete a trade.
Belichick and Co. also could decide to pursue a QB in the 2021 NFL Draft. But King seemingly agrees with our Tom E. Curran that one year of Newton is all the Patriots needed to see.