10 potential options to become Patriots starting QB in 2023 if Jones is moved

Mac Jones, the New England Patriots’ 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, isn’t a lock to be the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2023, according to head coach Bill Belichick. 

Not only could Jones lose his spot as New England’s starter, but he could be wearing a different jersey in 2023, entering his third NFL season. Even though there have been reports that the Patriots see Jones as their future at quarterback, Belichick is angry with Jones, specifically his use of coaching outside of the team amid a dysfunctional season in which longtime defensive coach Matt Patricia was the offensive play-caller in 2022, per NBC Sports. Belichick has reportedly even been the initiator of internal discussions to trade Jones during the offseason, according to ProFootballTalk.

Mac Jones

NE • QB • #10






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With that in mind, here are 10 potential successors to Jones in New England in the event the Patriots follow through and trade him:

Free agency options

Carson Wentz

WAS • QB • #11






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Signing 30-year-old Carson Wentz would be akin to what the Patriots did in 2020 when they signed then-31-year-old Cam Newton: paying an injury-riddled, former top-two overall draft pick for past production. Wentz completed 62.3% of his passes for 1,755 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and an 80.2 passer rating last season. He lost his job in Washington under Ron Rivera, Newton’s former longtime head coach, after a finger injury on his throwing hand caused him to miss time. Backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke came in off the bench and won over the locker room, a common occurrence in Wentz’s career.

This is the move if Belichick and company are looking ahead to the 2024 NFL Draft, which will likely have a quarterback class that includes 2022 Heisman Trophy winner and USC quarterback Caleb Williams, as well as North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye. 

Teddy Bridgewater

MIA • QB • #5






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At 30 years old, Teddy Bridgewater has evolved into the solid, yet unspectacular mentor/backup phase of his career. He threw four touchdowns and four interceptions in five games (two starts) in 2022. Bridgewater tossed one touchdown and one interception while throwing for 161 yards on 12 of 19 passing in a 23-21 Dolphins loss at the Patriots in his last start. He had to leave the game with an injured finger on his throwing hand. Bridgewater would make sense for New England if it drafts someone it thinks should start the year on the bench before being thrown into the deep end against NFL defenses.

Trade candidates

Jared Goff

DET • QB • #16






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Lions head coach Dan Campbell seemed to squash the idea of trading Jared Goff when he downplayed the idea of trading for Lamar Jackson at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix last week.

“Look, Lamar is a heck of a talent,” Campbell said of Jackson, via Pro Football Talk. “Trying to defend that guy has been something else. We played them two years ago. But, man, we’ve got a quarterback. So, I’m like, ‘We’ve got a quarterback, and thank God we got one.”  

Goff caught fire in the Lions’ final nine games of the season, as Detroit won seven of them to narrowly miss out on the playoffs. He threw 15 touchdowns and no interceptions in a span that included a Lions record 324 consecutive passes with an interception. Thanks to that second-half hot streak, Goff’s 29-7 touchdown-interception ratio led the NFL. At 28 years old, he appears to have made another leap in his career alongside offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. 

Jared Goff Lions career




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Even with all that said, Campbell didn’t close the door on drafting a passing prospect who would represent an upgrade over Goff. After all, the Lions have the draft capital, with two picks (sixth and 18th) in the top 20 of the 2023 NFL Draft.

“I would say this, this year, as with most, you’re always looking to upgrade,” Campbell said. “And free agency has given us the ability in areas to, man, we can do whatever we need to do in the draft. We feel pretty good about that. We don’t feel forced to do anything. So with that, I would say, man, it doesn’t matter what the position is. If we can upgrade our team top to bottom, we will do that.”

Should Florida’s Anthony Richardson fall to sixth when the Lions are on the clock, who knows what could happen. That’s probably the only scenario in which Goff changes teams this offseason. 

Ryan Tannehill

TEN • QB • #17






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The soon-to-be 35-year-old Ryan Tannehill took an absolute beating last season. He suffered two injuries to his right ankle in a 17-14 loss against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 15, and his ankle required season-ending surgery to get healthy again. The Titans are moving out of the window of contention, as they lost their final seven games of the season to miss the playoffs at 7-10 in 2022 after starting the year 7-3. The 2021 season in which they were the AFC’s top overall seed feels like a lifetime ago. 

With Derrick Henry entering the final year of his four-year, $50 million contract in 2023, the Titans could look to rip off the band-aid and trade both Tannehill and Henry if the compensation is right. Tennessee would be best served starting fresh with a top-pick quarterback in 2024. 

Trey Lance

SF • QB • #5






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Trey Lance is a mystery box. A broken ankle ended his 2022 season, the first in which he was the 49ers’ designated starter, after just two games. Unfortunately for him, Brock Purdy came off the bench and won his first seven starts, prompting general manager John Lynch to say Purdy is “probably the leader in the in the clubhouse” to be the San Francisco 49ers Week 1 starter in 2023. Even with Purdy’s elbow injury, San Francisco brought in Sam Darnold, the former third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, to compete for the starting quarterback job alongside Lance. 

Buying low and acquiring Lance now could give Belichick a chance to mold a young, top-three-overall-pick talent at quarterback while he’s still on his rookie deal. Sounds like a win-win for both parties.

Draft possibilities 

Will Levis

UK • QB • #7

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Will Levis has one of the strongest arms in the entire 2023 NFL Draft, so if he slides to 14th overall, where the Patriots are picking, he might be worth a look. He needs to fine-tune his short and intermediate passing accuracy, but fundamentals are what Belichick is all about. 

Hendon Hooker

TENN • QB • #5

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Hendon Hooker was on pace to win the 2022 Heisman Trophy before a torn ACL against South Carolina late in the season derailed Tennessee’s hopes and dreams. Hooker operates extremely well when making quick throws, something the Patriots offense was heavy in a season ago. His touch on his deep throws is pristine, and his athleticism provides him a decent ability to throw on the run. Coming off the ACL injury, Hooker could be available in the second round. 

Tanner McKee

STNFRD • QB • #18

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Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee has NFL size at 6-foot-6 and 231 pounds, as well as NFL, pro-style offense familiarity after running an NFL, under-center playbook in college. He has strong power on his throws, but unique throwing mechanics can become a problem when the pocket collapses since he’s not very mobile. McKee could be around on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. 

Max Duggan

TCU • QB • #15

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Max Duggan, the 2022 Heisman Trophy runner-up, had Bill Belichick’s full attention at TCU’s Pro Day on March 30, as the coach got into his trademark sideline stance while closely monitoring each of Duggan’s throws. He has all the intangibles Belichick appreciates, plus the mobility and arm strength to succeed in today’s NFL. Duggan is working on tightening up his throwing motion with renown quarterback coach Jordan Palmer, something that was apparent with his strong deep passing at his pro Day. Duggan could be a Belichick Day 3 special. 

In-house option

Bailey Zappe

NE • QB • #4






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Bailey Zappe, a fourth-round pick by the Patriots in the 2022 NFL Draft, had Patriots fans chanting for him to be Mac Jones’ full-time replacement after completing 73% of his passes for 596 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 111.4 passer rating in his first three games. Two of those were starts, a 29-0 win versus the Lions and a 38-15 win at the Browns. After there was miscommunication about Belichick playing both Jones and Zappe in a 33-14 loss on “Monday Night Football” against the Bears, Jones fully regained his starting spot, leading to Zappe riding the bench the rest of the season. 

If the Patriots don’t want to add any more expenses to the roster or give away draft picks for an upgrade, Zappe could be passable as the starter in 2023 if fully given first-team reps.