Lamar Jackson and Bill Belichick.
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images (left), Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images (right)

Lamar to New England? Bill Belichick is Reportedly Shopping Mac Jones, Fueling Speculation

Well, well, well. It appears that the 2023 NFL Draft could get even more exciting with, potentially, another starting quarterback on the market.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, New England Patriots head coach and general manager Bill Belichick has shopped starting quarterback Mac Jones to "multiple teams" throughout the 2023 offseason.

In Florio's report, he refers to "tension" between Jones and Belichick, citing a report from NBC Boston's Tom Curran that Belichick was "pissed" because Jones reportedly reached out to members of the Alabama coaching staff during last season "to get some information as to how to properly run the offense under long-time defensive coach Matt Patricia."

If you'll recall, the Patriots had a bit of a patchwork offensive coaching staff. And, as former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall draft pick Robert Griffin III points out, it could be viewed as a bit shocking for Belichick to shop the third-year signal-caller after playing under an offense led by a defensive-minded coach.

Later, in that same report, Florio noted some teams "mentioned as possible destinations," including the Las Vegas Raiders, Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Commanders. Of course, there's the obvious connection with the Raiders, as Josh McDaniels is the head coach and Jimmy Garoppolo is his starter. Dave Ziegler is also the general manager — he was with the Patriots from 2013-2021 in various roles, including director of player personnel. However, on the same day as this report, the Raiders signed Brian Hoyer, another former Patriot, to a two-year deal to back up Garoppolo.

Next, there's a connection with the Texans and Nick Casiero, their general manager. He was also with the Patriots from 2001-2020 in various roles. 

The Buccaneers and Commanders are logical destinations. The Buccaneers signed Baker Mayfield, but he's hardly stopping the team from addressing the quarterback room. However, the Buccaneers have the No. 19 overall pick, so they'll likely only get a swing at Hendon Hooker and maybe Will Levis.

As for the Commanders, they're gearing up to start Sam Howell, a fifth-round pick from a year ago, with Jacoby Brissett backing him up. To be fair to Howell, he was viewed as the potential No. 1 overall pick if he came out of school the year before he did. 

Regarding trade compensation, the Patriots would likely receive a second-round pick at most, but where does that leave them for a quarterback? 

Let's take a look at some options. 

Note: The college quarterback options assume that Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson will be long unavailable, going inside the top three picks.

Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson warms up before playing the Browns in 2021.

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

RELATED: The Ravens Have Lost All Leverage With Lamar Jackson

The cream of the crop regarding available quarterbacks is Lamar Jackson, who's been given a non-exclusive franchise tag by the Baltimore Ravens. If the Patriots wanted Jackson, it would take two first-round picks and an offer sheet proposed to Jackson that the Ravens are unable to meet. Of course, the Patriots can work out a trade with the Ravens outside of the parameters of the non-exclusive franchise tag, too.

When asked about Jackson previously at the NFL owners meetings in March, Belichick responded with, "I'm not going to talk about players on any other team." You can see the question and answer at the 9:10 mark of the video.

Also — and yes, you're about to read this sentence correctly, I promise — rapper Meek Mill texted Patriots owner Robert Kraft about Jackson, to which Kraft said, "That's Bill's decision."

The Jackson pairing makes a world of sense on paper. But when you dig into the financials and the Patriots' past commitments monetarily to quarterbacks, it leaves more questions than answers. 

While it's unclear what Jackson wants monetarily, let's assume it's around the same as Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watsons' guaranteed money of $230 million.

Now, let's look at how the Patriots have paid quarterbacks dating back to 2010.

  • Tom Brady, 2010$16.5 million
  • Tom Brady, 2011: $19.75 million
  • Tom Brady, 2012: $12 million
  • Tom Brady, 2013: $13 million
  • Tom Brady, 2014: $19 million
  • Tom Brady, 2015: $13 million
  • Tom Brady, 2016: $14.7 million
  • Tom Brady, 2017: $15 million
  • Tom Brady, 2018: $23 million
  • Tom Brady, 2019: $16.5 million
  • Cam Newton, 2020$4 million
  • Mac Jones, 2021 (rookie deal)$9.3 million (includes $8.7 million signing bonus)
  • Mac Jones, 2022 (rookie deal): $1.368 million

So, yeah, paying Jackson $45 million or more on a yearly basis seems like a far cry for the Patriots. According to Over The Cap, they currently have $12.4 million in cap space. 

Bailey Zappe

Mac Jones #10 and Bailey Zappe #4 of the New England Patriots stand on the field prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Fellow Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe had five touchdowns, three interceptions, a 70.7% completion rate and 781 yards over four games, two of them being starts, in 2022.

Zappe was the 137th overall selection (fourth round) in the 2022 NFL Draft by the Patriots. In his two starts in 2022, the Patriots scored 38 against the Cleveland Browns and 29 against the Detroit Lions both of which struggled defensively, to be fair.
At the time of this writing, Zappe is the only other quarterback on the Patriots' roster.

Will Levis

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Commonly considered the No. 4 quarterback in the 2023 class, Levis can slip outside the top 10. That said, he recently had a Top 30 visit with the Las Vegas Raiders, which currently hold the No. 7 overall pick, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

However, there seems to be some buzz that teams around the league hold Tennessee quarterback Hooker in higher regard.

The Patriots hold the No. 14 overall pick. Levis is a player who possesses traits unlike most in the class. Still, his college production could have been better, especially in 2022. In all fairness to Levis, though, his team at Kentucky was atrocious. According to Pro Football Focus, his offensive line ranked 66th in the country in pass blocking.

Suppose Levis is passed up inside the top four picks where the Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts pick; the Raiders at No. 7 are the next logical landing spot. Of course, with Garoppolo under contract, they could opt for someone else, thus letting the Levis fall continue.

Hendon Hooker

Hendon Hooker #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers scores a touchdown against the Missouri Tigers at Neyland Stadium

Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images

When it comes to the more prestigious quarterbacks in the 2023 class, Hooker has the most question marks. He's 25 years old, is coming off of an ACL tear in November, and played for a Tennessee offense that's not even remotely applicable to an NFL offense, let alone the Patriots.

Again, at No. 14 overall, New England could be the last destination for Hooker, who could sit behind Zappe in the event of a Jones trade. Also, let's not overlook Belichick's knack for trading back. Even if Belichick were to trade back and remain in the first round, Hooker is still a real possibility, so long as they remain inside the top 31 selections.
Hooker is 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, has a fantastic deep ball, and improved each year at Tennessee. He could be a perfect project for Belichick.

MORE: Hendon Hooker Could Wind Up Being the Steal of the NFL Draft