Patriots could ruin fans' offseason with latest hint at NFL Draft strategy

Could the New England Patriots opt against drafting a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick?

Jan 17, 2024; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo (right) addresses
Jan 17, 2024; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo (right) addresses / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are beginning a new era in 2024. After going 4-13 in the regular season, the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick mutually agreed to part ways. Replacing the head coach who brought the organization six Super Bowl titles is former linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, who had been deemed Belichick's eventual successor in his contract.

By way of their regular season record, the Patriots hold the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. With that pick, they are in a position to take their potential quarterback of the future in either USC's Caleb Williams, North Carolina's Drake Maye, or LSU's Jayden Daniels. The Patriots notably failed to bring in a quality successor for Tom Brady, with Mac Jones severely regressing after a strong rookie season in 2021. A new quarterback would bring excitement to the Patriots fanbase.

But what if they don't?

ESPN's Dan Graziano (subscription required) noted that "people around the league believe" the Patriots could opt to trade out of the No. 3 spot. Additionally, the Patriots would address the quarterback position through free agency.

Patriots believed to be willing to trade the No. 3 pick, address QB need in free agency

"The Patriots also need a quarterback, but there are people around the league who believe they are open to trading the No. 3 selection, moving back in the draft and addressing the quarterback position in free agency. If the Pats do trade that pick -- which could be Daniels or Maye -- the two teams I'd keep an eye on are the Falcons (moving from the No. 8 spot) and the Vikings (moving from the No. 11 spot, assuming they don't bring back Cousins)."

Yes, by trading out of the No. 3 spot, the Patriots would likely receive a gigantic return of draft picks to address the various needs on the roster But passing on potentially Maye, who is deemed one of the best quarterback prospects in recent memory, or Daniels, who is an entertaining signal caller who can make plays with his arm and legs, could be a no-sell for the fans. Oh, and trading out of the No. 3 pick would take the Patriots out of position to draft wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who may be the best overall prospect in the entire class!

If the Patriots were to address the quarterback position through free agency, the top options are Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield.

Cousins is coming off a torn Achilles tendon but is on the mend. There will be a variety of teams in the running for Cousins' services undoubtedly, given his track record as a good quarterback. The Patriots would likely have to outbid other teams to sign Cousins.

Meanwhile, Mayfield is coming off a career year in which he threw for 4,044 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions while completing 64.3 percent of his passes. Mayfield led the Buccaneers to an NFC South championship and a Wild Card Round win over the Philadelphia Eagles. While Mayfield is technically a free agent, the expectation is that the Buccaneers will retain him on a new contract.

The thing is, this report comes before the season even ends. Super Bowl 58 didn't even take place yet. There is so much time remaining until the 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit, Mich. on Apr. 25. We won't know what teams are going to do until that day, or beforehand if a trade is negotiated. It will remain to be seen if the Patriots are going to go down the route of flipping the No. 3 pick and passing on one of the top three quarterbacks.

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