Patriots Interested in Former No. 1 Pick QB Amid Kirk Cousins Update: Report - Sport News

Patriots Interested in Former No. 1 Pick QB Amid Kirk Cousins Update: Report

If the New England Patriots use 2024 NFL free agency to find their next starting quarterback, expect Baker Mayfield to be at the top of the list, not Kirk Cousins.

Kirk Cousins is at his best when the whole nation watches | NFL News,  Rankings and Statistics | PFF

Former first-overall draft pick Baker Mayfield “has supporters from within the Patriots’ organization,” according to the Boston Herald’s Doug Kyed. Those relationships stem from Mayfield’s days with the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers.

As Kyed noted, Mayfield “was drafted by a front office that included current Patriots de facto general manager Eliot Wolf and coached by offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and quarterbacks coach T.C. McCartney with the Browns.”

Meanwhile, “Patriots senior personnel advisor Pat Stewart and senior offensive assistant Ben McAdoo spent time with Mayfield with the Panthers, as well.”

This many connections is likely to put Mayfield firmly within the Patriots’ sights ahead of free agency. Cousins is another prized starter on the veteran market, but the Minnesota Vikings’ QB1 has yet to win suitors among the Patriots, who “have not yet shown interest in Cousins.”

Mayfield is likely to command a hefty contract after a successful season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fortunately, the cap-rich Patriots can afford any deal after swelling their coffers by releasing cornerback J.C. Jackson on Friday, March 1.

Patriots in Strong Position to Sign Baker Mayfield

Snagging a proven starting signal-caller in free agency has always been an expensive proposition. Especially when said passer is coming off a 4,000-yard season and a Pro Bowl berth the way Mayfield is in 2024.

The Patriots needn’t worry about Mayfield’s market value. Not when the franchise is projected by to have $77,915,809 worth of space under the salary cap.

Dumping Jackson, a move confirmed by ESPN’s Field Yates, helps, even though the Pats only traded for the cover man back in October. Jackson’s release had long been considered a “formality” after a season blighted by poor performances and “mental health issues” revealed by his agent Neil Schwartz (h/t Yates’ colleague Adam Schefter) in December.

The Patriots have cut CB J.C. Jackson.

There’s now ample room to accommodate Mayfield’s predicted salary of $27.1 million annually for four years. It’s a gaudy price tag, but the presence of Alex Van Pelt as offensive coordinator could make it a bargain.

Van Pelt worked with Mayfield in Cleveland during the 2020 and ’21 campaigns. Mayfield threw 43 touchdowns compared to 21 interceptions on Van Pelt’s watch.

While his performances for the Browns were solid, Mayfield’s career-best season came with the Bucs. He benefited from working with play-caller Dave Canales and All-Pro wide receiver Mike Evans.

Significantly, Mayfield played some of his best football down the stretch to inspire Tampa Bay’s return to the postseason, per Pro Football Focus.

Once there, Mayfield shredded the Philadelphia Eagles with 337 yards and three touchdowns en route to a playoff victory. His 119.8 rating showcased Mayfield’s improved accuracy and willingness to push the ball vertically.

The Patriots need each of those qualities from their next quarterback. Cousins ticks both boxes, but the Mayfield connection is strong.

Kirk Cousins Carries More Risk Than Baker Mayfield

Van Pelt’s experience with Mayfield puts Cousins at a disadvantage if the latter expects to land in New England. Cousins has a better pedigree as a four-time Pro Bowler with seven 4,000-yard seasons to his credit, but he still carries risks for the Patriots.

Risks like being 35-years-old and recovering from a torn Achilles. Add in a career-long familiarity with a Shanahan-style offense the Pats haven’t run, and Cousins would be far from a safe investment.

Reuniting Mayfield with a coordinator he knows well makes more sense if the Patriots opt against drafting their next franchise quarterback. Choosing free agency is a viable strategy if the Pats wanted to trade the third-overall pick to another QB-needy team, say the New York Giants, and stockpile picks to add talent at multiple positions.

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