It doesn’t appear as though the New England Patriots will carry four quarterbacks during the 2021 season. A day after drafting Alabama’s Mac Jones with the No. 15 pick, the team officially released practice-squad quarterback Jake Dolegala.
The 24-year-old spent much of the 2020 season on the practice squad and was never activated for a game. However, 6’7″ signal-caller was seen as a promising talent later in the season.
Bill Belichick offered praise for Dolegala after the team signed the quarterback to his second stint on the practice squad.
However, with Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, and now Jones under contract, the Patriots didn’t need to maintain Dolegala on their roster.
Quite honestly, we should have seen this coming. During Belichick’s meeting with the press after the first round, the legendary coach didn’t even mention Dolegala’s name as he discussed the quarterbacks on his team.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss captured a telling quote from Belichick’s press conference.
“Cam’s our quarterback. Whatever time Jarrett or Mac are ready to challenge and compete, then we’ll see how that goes.” — Bill Belichick pic.twitter.com/5TmzUU6ZyW
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) April 30, 2021
Belichick Has Already Committed to Cam Newton as His Starter
Before a QB controversy could begin, Belichick made it known, “Cam is our quarterback.” Despite some fans and members of the media calling for the Patriots to go in another direction at quarterback, it appears Belichick is satisfied with the 2015 NFL MVP as his QB1.
The Patriots did a ton of work in the offseason to get Newton more weapons, and there is an expectation that he will improve in his second year in the system. You can expect New England to add at least one wide receiver, perhaps an offensive lineman, and a running back between the fourth and seventh rounds of the draft on Saturday, May 1.
Belichick said Newton would be the starter until someone proves to be better than him. USA Today’s Henry McKenna captured this part of Belichick’s time with the media in the tweet below.
Bill Belichick pressed about what it means that Cam is the Patriots’ quarterback. Will he be the starter? For how long?
“I don’t know. Somebody would have to play better than he does.”
— Henry McKenna (@McKennAnalysis) April 30, 2021
Based on that answer, it’s unclear how much of an edge he will have headed into training camp.
Expect the Patriots’ quarterback situation to be one of the most intriguing storylines of the early part of the NFL season.
Who is No. 2: Stidham or Jones?
Belichick didn’t give any clues that would reveal which of his young quarterbacks sits higher on the depth chart–at least not at this early stage of the process. It would appear Stidham should have some edge, considering he’s headed into his third season with the team. However, Stidham has failed to establish himself as a significant factor in the QB competition.
Quite honestly, had he been more effective with the opportunities he has had, New England wouldn’t have signed Newton to back-to-back one-year deals, and it wouldn’t have drafted Jones at all. Early indications suggest Stidham is attempting to make that elusive impression on the Patriots’ coaching staff this offseason, but it seems like an uphill battle for him.
Barring a major misstep early on by Newton and some unexpected steep learning curve for Jones, I’d be willing to bet Stidham is going to be QB3 in what will probably be his last season with the Patriots.