A Patriots-Steelers trade to give Mac Jones a backup on the roster

The New England Patriots are short on QB depth after waiving Bailey Zappe. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a potential solution.

Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers
Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers / Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots made waves on Tuesday with the decision to waive second-year QB Bailey Zappe.

The 24-year-old from Western Kentucky appeared in four games (two starts) last season and completed 65-of-92 passes (70.7 percent) for 781 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions. A fourth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Zappe was expected to back up Mac Jones. Now, he's out the door.

New England will sign Zappe to the practice squad if he clears waivers, but the search for a new backup QB is live. Jones is the only signal caller under a standard contract right now.

Even if the practice squad maneuver works, it's clear the Patriots' confidence in Zappe is waning. After last season, the confidence in Jones is probably waning too. Before camp, Bill Belichick was talking up Zappe as a potential challenger to Jones' QB1 title. It's bleak.


Luckily for the Pats' front office, there are plenty of affordably priced NFL QBs on the market right now. Trey Lance, a former No. 3 pick, was sent to Dallas for a fourth-round pick a few days ago. For New England, the focus should be on the Pittsburgh Steelers' depth chart.

Potential Steelers-Patriots trade to land Mason Rudolph behind Mac Jones in New England

Steelers trade Mason Rudolph to Patriots

The Steelers are fairly loaded at the QB position right now. Both Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph are solid, maybe even above-average backups with very little opportunity to play so long as Kenny Pickett is healthy.

Pittsburgh has one of the brightest young QBs in the NFL. Right now, Trubisky is entrenched as the primary backup. His resume is more extensive than Rudolph's and the Steelers value his close friendship with Pickett.

That makes Rudolph a hot commodity. The Steelers could hang on and prioritize injury insurance — ask the Niners how valuable a third-string QB can be — but odds are Rudolph will draw interest from front offices around the league. No team should have more immediate interest than the Patriots.

Rudolph entered the NFL as a third-round pick in the 2018 draft. He has a career record of 5-4-1 and he has completed 236-of-384 pass attempts for 2,366 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.

He started eight games as a rookie in 2019, going 5-3 in that span. There are impressive chunks of his resume and he's still in his prime at 28 years old. Rudolph has vast experience working with different personalities in the QB room, from Ben Roethlisberger to Kenny Pickett. He'd be a solid vet to help Jones along.

New England doesn't have to reinvent the wheel here, but there's no reason to keep Zappe off the 53-man roster unless there's a genuine crisis of faith. Rudolph is the best affordable option theoretically on the market. Time for Belichick to pick up the phone.

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