Brian Hoyer will always have a home with the New England Patriots, it seems.
The 12-year journeyman quarterback is back for his sixth season in Foxborough after re-signing with the Patriots on a one-year deal Monday.
Hoyer served as a backup to Cam Newton last year and played in just one game, starting in Week 4 after Newton contracted COVID-19. Interestingly, that was the first and only start he’s had with the Patriots.
As with most years he’s played in New England, the veteran Hoyer is not here to compete for a starting job. He’s the classic “coach-on-the-field” type that will function as an extension of Josh McDaniels — speaking as a peer to Cam Newton and a mentor to Mac Jones and Jarrett Stidham.
But Hoyer’s arrival — innocuous as it seems — might also have real effects on the roster and quarterback depth chart for the Patriots in 2021. Here’s how:
Hoyer could be the primary backup — at least at first
Before throwing this idea out as completely crazy, a disclaimer: while Mac Jones is very likely already better than Hoyer, the rookie has not played a single snap against an NFL defense to this point. And even after he sees the Patriots’ defense up close in camp for a few weeks, he might not be ready to play in a game right away.
With that in mind, Hoyer would give the Patriots a dual benefit: an experienced mentor for Jones that could also be trusted to play in regular season games.
Should Newton badly struggle early in the season — say, within the first four weeks — Hoyer might be the Patriots’ first option to relieve him in the middle of a game or for a spot start. That’s exactly how the team played it last year, starting Hoyer over Stidham when Newton missed Week 4 before turning to Stidham in relief situations for the rest of the year.
The reason: give Jones just a little more time to learn the ropes before taking over as “the guy” as a rookie.
In particular, if the Patriots are facing an especially tough defense, like the Buccaneers’ for instance, why not let Hoyer take those lumps than trot the rookie out for a tough matchup in his first game?
Of course, it’s possible Jones proves too good not to be the primary backup — or starter — despite his inexperience. Also, if the Patriots wait to replace Newton until midseason or later, Jones should be plenty ready to play by then.
But Hoyer’s presence at least gives New England another option to help ensure the best possible transition for their hopeful franchise quarterback of the future.
Jarrett Stidham’s roster spot is officially in danger
Whatever hypothetical situations may arise with Jones and Newton, this part is undeniable.
In five games last year, Stidham did little to convince the Patriots to commit to him either as a legitimate starting option or as a promising young backup. The 2019 fourth-round pick out of Auburn completed just 50 percent of his 44 pass attempts for two touchdowns, three interceptions, and a quarterback rating of just 54.7. He also was never given an opportunity to start despite Newton’s late-season problems — a clear sign the team didn’t think he was ready to handle it.
With Jones in the fold, the Patriots have seemingly decided Stidham isn’t worth developing long-term. Hoyer’s signing then provides a far more experienced set of eyes and ears in the quarterback room than Stidham can provide.
On top of all that, the Patriots can even save close to $700,000 by cutting him.
Assuming Hoyer is moderately functional, Stidham’s time in Foxborough might well be over.
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