Exploring the Patriots’ Emergency Quarterback Options


The Patriots are the last quarterback on the roster. Is it time to get moving?

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Bailey Zappe is the first player to ever make his NFL debut as a visitor at Lambeau Field and throw a touchdown pass in that game, according to the “NFL on CBS.” Lambeau Field opened in 1957.

With Mac Jones sustaining a high ankle sprain and Brian Hoyer dealing with a head injury, the Patriots are down to rookie Bailey Zappe, the only healthy quarterback on the roster.

Even the Patriots’ top quarterback option, Jakobi Meyers, has missed the past two weeks with a knee injury.

Heading into last week, the Patriots seemed determined to stick with the first quarterback trio of Jones, Hoyer and Zappe for as long as possible.

But with two of the three injured and the team one injury away from no quarterback at all, Bill Belichick said Monday he is evaluating his options.

Here’s a look at what some of those options might be.

Emergency options

The Patriots don’t want to know what happens if Zappe gets hurt and Hoyer and Meyers are unavailable, ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote on Twitter.

One Patriots player who impressed with his arm during the preseason was the tight Hunter Henry, Reiss tweeted during the game.

Mark Daniels of The Providence Journal mentioned Lynn Bowden as a possible wildcard option. Bowden played quarterback in high school before transferring to receiver in Kentucky.

Risk: Any of these options, including Meyers, should be ready to play out of position against the NFL league in the blink of an eye.

Reward: The Patriots would see how Zappe and Hoyer are doing and don’t have to bring in anyone else.

probability: Could these options work for a series or two, or maybe a quarter at most? Secure. But for a whole game or longer? Unlikely.

Cam Newton Sign

There is a former Patriots starting quarterback who is both a former league MVP and an available free agent.

Of course there are concerns about how much Cam Newton has left in the tank, and the immediate pressure to get him ready would be significant.

But the Patriots need insurance in case the offensive line doesn’t keep Bailey Zappe healthy. And not long ago, Newton fought Mac Jones for the runway.

Risk: Newton had some COVID-related availability issues during his stay in New England. It’s also never easy for a player of his stature to become a backup, and the Patriots should deal with him once Jones gets healthy.

Reward: A well-known commodity that knows the system. Someone who’s been through pretty much every NFL situation. An extra quarterback on the roster at a time when the Patriots desperately need one.

probability: The Patriots seem to prefer not to bring in an outside quarterback, but if forced to do so, Newton should be one of the first calls they make.

Hold on to Zappe and Hoyer

Although he missed most of Sunday’s game, Hoyer is not ruled out for Sunday’s game against Detroit.

If he’s dealing with a concussion, the outlook of playing quarterback a week after a head injury probably wouldn’t look too good after what happened to Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa against the Bengals.

Mac Jones dressed for practice on Friday, but did not participate. His high ankle sprain will reportedly make him miss “several matches.”

If Hoyer is somehow able to play on Sunday, maybe the Patriots can get away with sticking to a combination of him and Zappe without bringing in another quarterback.

Risk: In this scenario, New England is one Bailey Zappe injury away from disaster. Gambling on Hoyer’s health a week after a head injury seems risky.

Reward: The Patriots can stick with a few quarterbacks they trust and who know the system. Zappe did well against a decent Green Bay team, and more snaps for the rookie would only help.

probability: Depends on Hoyer’s health. When there are problems with Hoyer, it’s hard to imagine the patriots rolling the dice with just Zappe.

Choose from the practice team

There is always a practice squad to draw from in these kinds of situations. Other teams’ practice squad players are also available, as long as they are not one of the five designated protected players in any given week.

The Patriots may have an eye on a practice team quarterback who can help and be an extra body for a few weeks while Hoyer and Jones heal.

Risk: Taking a roster spot that the patriots might want to use elsewhere.

Reward: Having someone whose primary position is available if Zappe is injured.

probability: This seems logical. It’s a low-risk option, and if the Patriots get into trouble, they’re covered with someone who at least throws the ball for a living.

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