Bill Belichick spent the No. 15 overall pick on quarterback Mac Jones, the highest the Patriots have ever selected an offensive player in any of his drafts in New England. Even with the investment, Belichick wasn't ready to name Jones the Day 1 starter.
"Cam (Newton)'s our quarterback," he said Thursday night, via The Providence Journal. "Whatever time Jarrett (Stidham) or Mac are ready to challenge and compete, we'll see how that goes. But right now for Mac, he's just got a lot of learning in front of him. I know he's very anxious to get going and get started on it."
The Patriots were long-rumored to be in the QB market, including potential trade-ups. Instead, after the 49ers took Trey Lance at No. 3, Belichick sat tight and landed Jones.
As is his wont, the legendary coach downplayed the pick.
"Mac was available at our pick, and he was a guy we spent a lot of time with. Felt like that was the best pick at that time for us," Belichick said. "Look forward to working with him. He's a smart kid. He's been in a system that's similar to ours. We've had a lot of good conversations with him. I think he'll be able to process the offense. It's obviously going to take a lot of time. See how it goes."
The Patriots re-signed Newton to a one-year contract worth around $5 million, a.k.a. backup money.
Last year with Newton starting 15 games, the Patriots ranked last in the NFL with 10 passing TDs (Newton had eight) and last in TD-INT ratio at 10-14. New England also ranked 30th in passing yards per game at 180.6, the fewest in a season by the Patriots in the Belichick era, per NFL Research.
Most talent evaluators believe Jones will be ready to start from Week 1. Belichick will likely lean on coach-speak about competition all summer. We'll see the truth once training camp and preseason begin.
It's not as if Newton and Jones own the same skill set, so as Josh McDaniels goes about building his offense for the 2021 season, he'll telegraph the club's ultimate plan.
In today's NFL, rookie QBs rarely sit, particularly those drafted in Round 1. A player like Patrick Mahomes waiting a year is the exception, not the rule. Newton might start the year under center, but odds are Jones becomes QB1 before long.