Patriots: A blockbuster quarterback trade ready to strike?

Patriots

Patriots. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots are not in a great position to land one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft, but recent reports surrounding their preparations for the offseason may hint at a blockbuster draft-day move for a team that has typically avoided them.

Picking 15th in the first round, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Trey Lance all appear to be out of reach for New England, along with presumptive first overall pick Trevor Lawrence. And, with increasing national buzz about Mac Jones as a potential top-10 pick, the Patriots may find themselves picking too late in the opening round to land the Alabama signal-caller.

Despite their awkward position in the draft, the Patriots have been spending a lot of time evaluating the top five quarterbacks in the class. Indeed, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, the Patriots have been “aggressively scouting” each of that quintet.

With Lawrence, it is likely to be nothing more than head coach Bill Belichick – whose meticulous preparation has been pivotal to his incredible success – doing his due diligence on the quarterback who will likely be helming the offense of the AFC rival Jacksonville Jaguars for the next decade.

However, the Patriots’ interest in the quintet below Lawrence is significantly more intriguing given their need to find a solution under center, with the return of Cam Newton in question following an uneven season for New England last year.

A trade up on the minds of Patriots?

If New England is set on the draft to find its next quarterback, then the likelihood is the Patriots will need to trade up. That may well be the case even if Jones is the target.

Trading up in the first round has rarely been a part of Belichick’s draft strategy. He did so in successive years in 2002 and 2003 and again in 2012, that latter move landing them linebacker D’Onta Hightower. It will perhaps take the biggest swing of Belichick’s career for them to get into a spot to land one of Wilson, Fields or Lance.

However, with the Patriots possessing nearly $69 million in salary cap space — per Spotrac — they have the resources to build a supporting cast around a rookie quarterback, giving them the flexibility to potentially part with significant amounts of draft capital to make a substantial move up the board.

With the Buffalo Bills reaching the AFC Championship game and the Miami Dolphins on the rise, the Patriots are in danger of being left behind in the AFC East. Their intense study of this year’s quarterback class could suggest they are ready to swing a deal to help them narrow the gap.