BOSTON (CBS) — You may have heard that the New England Patriots will be in the market for a quarterback or two this offseason. That guy who spent two decades winning Super Bowls with the Patriots moved on to win a Super Bowl with another team, and his replacement in 2020 wasn’t all that good.

It’s extremely unlikely that Cam Newton will be back after his woeful season in 2020, so once again, the Patriots will be looking for a quarterback in 2021. Bill Belichick has a few different routes that he can take, but he will probably be adding both a veteran to help in the present and a young QB for the future.

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The Patriots have plenty of other holes to fill up and down the roster, so a giant splash at quarterback is unlikely. But there are a handful of options to bridge the gap between 2021 and whenever the quarterback of the future is found or ready to go.

Free Agents

If the Patriots go the free agency route, none of them are particularly great. But there are options. It looks like it will be a search for the best bad idea that the New England brass can find. Buckle up, cause it’s about to get ugly.

Jacoby Brissett

Jacoby Brissett (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Belichick obviously liked Brissett considering he used a third-round pick on him in 2016. And then he sent him to Indy a year later for an opportunity to start when that Brady guy and Jimmy Garoppolo were both ahead of him on the depth chart.

Brissett was up and down in his four years in Indy. He started 30 games — 15 each in 2017 and 2019 — and led the Colts to an 11-19 record in those games. He only threw 13 picks with 31 touchdown passes, but he also fumbled 15 times, so he’s prone for a few turnovers here and there. Brissett also ran for 11 touchdowns as a Colt.

A reunion with Brissett could be an affordable option, and allow the Patriots to address other glaring needs on the roster.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Ryan Fitzpatrick (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

He’s played for every other team in the AFC East, so why not? He showed in Miami last season that there is still some Fitzmagic left in the tank, even after being replaced by Tua Tagovailoa. He was hurt by  Brian Flores’ QB change, but he didn’t demand a trade and helped Tua during his rookie season. Maybe the Harvard grad comes back to New England to finish off his career.

Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The Saints appear set on hanging on to Winston as Drew Brees’ successor. But if he does become available, maybe Belichick and McDaniels could do something to cut down on all of Winton’s picks.

Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The 35-year-old proved to be a valuable backup for Dallas when Dak Prescott went down early in the season. Dalton played in 11 games and completed a career-best 64.9 percent of his passes for the Cowboys with 11 touchdowns and eight picks.

He’s not going to move the needle. At all. But he may be a safe and cheap option for a veteran QB.

Mitch Trubisky

Mitchell Trubisky (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

He was the second overall pick just four years ago, taken before Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Take this moment to laugh at the Bears.

Despite those rough years in Chicago, there will likely be a few teams vying for his services in free agency. Trubisky can put up big numbers from time to time, but those always came against bad teams. But maybe he just needs a change of scenery to put it all together. That, or he’s a total bust.

Not a great option, but an option, we guess.

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Trade Options

This is where it gets tricky. There are some really good quarterbacks who may get dealt this offseason. But because they’re really good, it’s going to cost a boatload of draft capital. The Patriots have 10 picks this year, but with holes up and down the roster, dealing most of the draft isn’t going to help them in the long run.

Let’s go ahead and rule out Watson, who wants to escape Patriots South in Houston. Not only is his price tag way too high for New England, but chances are he won’t want to leave Houston to come to the place that groomed Jack Easterby. Watson has a no-trade clause, and doesn’t have to go anywhere he doesn’t want to if the Texans are forced to trade their franchise quarterback.

Russell Wilson has voiced some anger at the Seahawks, but he too probably won’t be going anywhere. And if he does, once again, the price tag will be too much for New England’s liking. We’ll throw the same disclaimer out for Carson Wentz, whom the Eagles want a Matthew Stafford-like package for on the trade market. He’s also got a massive salary that he’ll bring wherever he goes, one that doesn’t fit his lackluster resume.

Update: Wentz and his mammoth contract were dealt to the Colts for pennies on the dollar. 

And really, if the Patriots weren’t willing to pay Tom Brady a ton of money, why would they all of a sudden be willing to spend that money on someone else?

But there are a few other trade options that may intrigue the Patriots for a much lower cost.

Derek Carr

Derek Carr (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

He’s no Lamborghini, but Derek Carr is no jalopy either. Carr is a quality quarterback, but Jon Gruden may be looking to upgrade this offseason, because Jon Gruden is always looking to upgrade even if he already has a pretty good option.

Carr would bring a cap hit of $19.5 million, which isn’t too hefty considering his talent level. But he would cost a lot of draft capital, and for a team with a lot of holes to plug, it may be too much for the Patriots.

Perhaps Marcus Mariota — Carr’s backup in Oakland — could be a solid backup plan for New England if they want a Raiders quarterback. He’s not the best option out there, but he could thrive with some stability on the coaching staff under Belichick and McDaniels, considering Mariota has played for four head coaches and five offensive coordinators throughout his six-year career.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

New Englanders are plenty familiar with one James Richard Garoppolo. It’s hard to forget those dashing good looks.

The biggest question with Jimmy G. is whether or not he’ll be available. The 49ers seem set on finding an upgrade at QB, but if they can’t find one, they’ll probably hang on to the guy who helped them get to the Super Bowl just over a year ago.

There’s a lot of money on the line with Garoppolo, who has a $24.1 million base salary next season and a $26.4 million cap hit the year after. The Pats could always re-work his deal to knock that cap hit down a bit, and Jimmy would likely be open to that since Bill made sure he landed in a good spot when he had to trade him away.

Then it’s a matter of his health and productivity. He’s missed two dozen games over the last three seasons, and will turn 30 in the middle of next season. He has an idea of the New England offense though, and the one season that he was healthy, his team made it to the Super Bowl. If Garoppolo becomes available, expect Belichick to make a hard push for the one who got away.

Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

It’s hard to imagine the Jets giving up on Darnold, who is still just 23, and sending him to the franchise’s biggest rival. But crazier things have happened, and the Jets could have a new franchise quarterback thanks to the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft. Whether that pick turns into Watson or Zach Wilson or an offensive lineman remains to be seen.

Darnold has not played a full season due to a wide array of injuries. Yet he’s still somehow managed to throw double digits interceptions in all three years as New York’s quarterback. He took a major step back in 2020, but the Jets were a giant dumpster fire so it’s hard to put total blame on Darnold for his regression.

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He’s also got a pretty affordable contract, with a cap hit of less than $10 million next season before he becomes a free agent. For that, he could be worth the risk. And if he succeeds in a Patriots uniform, that would really stick it to the Jets, which always puts a smile on Belichick’s face.

CBSBoston.com Staff