An era has come to an end – Tom Brady left the New England Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl titles. He officially became a Tampa Bay Buccaneer on Friday for another two years. Brady could make the Bucs playoff contenders. Even more so, he leaves a huge void under center in New England.
Now that Brady has departed, there are numerous paths for the QB search to go down. Still having Belichick is an enormous advantage in terms of developing young quarterbacks and even taking the most out of experienced playmakers. Moreover, another option is Jarred Stidham, who is currently on the top of the Patriots depth chart. Could the all-time great coach decide he wants Jimmy Garoppolo back and attempts a trade with SF? The scenarios are too many to digest.
However, one thing is absolutely certain – Belichick isn’t in the business of tanking a year, for Trevor Lawrence or anyone else. The Patriots are likely to try to maintain their competitive nature even with the ending of the winning duo that was Brady-Belichick. This could very well mean two things and both involve a trade. On one hand, they could trade up for a new franchise QB. Likely not Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa, though, as Cincinnati and Miami won’t give up their future like that. Especially when the Dolphins are closer to contending in a new-look AFC East.
On the other hand, there are three veteran names on the market that could be in NE’s sight. Jameis Winston, Cam Newton and Andy Dalton are neither all-time great passers nor top playmakers in the current NFL landscape. Nevertheless, if the Patriots acquire one of those, they can stay close to the NFL elite.
One of the three veteran names has a different style than the rest and that’s Dalton. After nine quite solid years with the Bengals, the team is looking to trade the 32-year-old quarterback and start off fresh with Burrow. He has established himself as an accurate pocket passer. On the contrary, Newton saves his game thanks to his legs and Jameis Winston has played in a deep-threat system in TB all his career. Neither of them fit the style of offense Belichick has been running for the last twenty years.
Dalton, however, wouldn’t have too many problems if he doesn’t experience a career downfall in 2020. He only had a record of 2-11 last year with virtually no help on offense except for a couple of good games by Joe Mixon in the ground game. In addition, the fact that he’s ten years younger than Brady is definitely encouraging.
Dalton also had his second-worst completion percentage of his career – 59.5%. Brady averaged just 1.3 percent more – 60.8%. Julian Edelman is often the person to give Brady leverage in his game but, apart from that, his receiving core wasn’t a lot more talented. First-round pick N’Keal Harry came back from injury at the end of November and Mohamed Sanu wasn’t what the team had hoped for after being acquired from Atlanta. When it comes to running the ball, the Patriots also have the advantage. However, the Sony Michel-led unit was in the middle of the pack, which is disappointing with such a dominant offensive line.
Some of these are among the most important components of the New England system. The Patriots under Belichick have never been big on running the ball. But it does dictate how efficient a quarterback is when playing “small ball”. Of course, you can rarely compare a Brady season with a Dalton season. You can never argue that the Patriots would have been more competitive had Brady stayed with the team, either.
You can make the argument that Belichick would be able to plug in Dalton with considerable success, though. A successful Patriots team with Dalton would probably take a shift in the play selection and a big dose of Sony Michel on the ground. It would also be smart to sign another receiver. Yet, you can see Dalton being successful when his pocket protects him and he moves up the field gradually.
The masses see his career-worst 78.3 passer rating and his 2 wins in 13 starts. It takes more to identify factors, which obviously are very different on the two sides of the AFC coin. One of those is that Dalton was sacked on 6.5 percent of his dropbacks and Brady was sacked on just 4.2%.
His WR corps, meanwhile, had even more downsides than in New England. AJ Green didn’t play a single snap due to an injury. John Ross started off hot with two 100+ yards games but was unnoticeable after. Tyler Boyd was the only reliable option for Dalton. Here he has Edelman as his leading target, Harry healthy for a full year and, possibly, a receiving addition from free agency. Dalton could look to thrive in the Patriots system. He’ll have to do an easier set of tasks, to begin with, and will be comfortable doing that if NE gets upgrades.
Dalton is owed $17,500,000 during the final year of his contract. New England has only $10 million available before they hit the salary cap. Therefore, they’ll need to make some cuts in order to be flexible. OT Joe Thuney, the Pats 2020 franchise player, shouldn’t be a part of a deal. He’ll be a needed OL help, even more so with a rookie QB.
Andy Dalton’s value should be high enough for the Bengals to demand a quality return. He won’t be able to replace Tom Brady, even after one of his worst seasons. He will, however, be the perfect quarterback to keep the team competitive under the Bill Belichick regime.