Are we watching Mac Jones' final season as the New England Patriots' starting quarterback?
The 2021 first-round draft pick has been unable to duplicate the success of his rookie campaign, when he led New England to a playoff berth and placed second in NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting. He has struggled mightily so far this season, resulting in the Patriots entering Week 7 with a 1-5 record and three consecutive crushing losses.
Those woes have led some to believe the Patriots, who are on pace to have a top-five pick, should eye one of the intriguing QB prospects set to enter the 2024 NFL Draft in April. The team also will have to decide whether to pick up Jones' fifth-year option by May.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Boston sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
So, how likely is it that Jones will return as the Patriots' starter in 2024? Tom Giles, Andy Hart, and Tom E. Curran shared their thoughts on Wednesday's Early Edition.
"I'd say 35 percent," Giles said. "And part of that also is because Mac Jones probably wants a fresh start somewhere else. And he probably could use one because I don't know that he'll never be an NFL quarterback, I just think that the position he's in now is tough to come back from."
Hart was more optimistic about the chances of Jones getting another shot, but he couldn't help but dream about exciting changes in New England.
"Forty-six percent. I'm close to 50/50, but I'm gonna pick a side here," Hart said. "I think they're gonna draft a quarterback. I think they're gonna be in position. This draft is gonna have seven first-round quarterbacks, and maybe they draft Shedeur Sanders and bring in Deion Sanders as the coach and we have the greatest transformation of a franchise in history. Just push Mac out."
Curran, our Patriots insider, believes it's still too early to give up on the Alabama product. He cited mistakes made by Bill Belichick and Co. over the last two years as the reason for Jones' downfall.
"Eighty-seven percent likelihood," Curran said. "Did we watch the rookie year for the kid? He went 10-7. He was the Offensive Rookie of the Year until the very end when Ja'Marr Chase passed him. What has happened since? They gave away his best wideout, they extended a wideout who can't help in DeVante Parker. They brought in Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. They have an offensive line that can't block.
"He's on a rookie contract. There's a good player in there somewhere. You don't throw the baby out with the bath water and start over with some second-round pick from Slippery Rock that you think might be a dual-threat quarterback just for the hell of it, and have the team now maligned. I guarantee you if they bring a quarterback in next year, and they could actually fix the offensive line, Mac Jones will eat the kid's lunch and he will be unbenchable because Mac Jones will shine when there's a position where you can't hit him. If it's full contact and you can rush to the quarterback, it'll look one way. But I don't think Mac Jones is gonna be very easy to dislodge. He will be back on his rookie contract to finish it out because these two years have been trash."
🔊 Next Pats: Why Robert Kraft should push Bill Belichick to SELL at the trade deadline | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube
Hart likens the Patriots' situation with Jones to what the New York Giants recently experienced with Daniel Jones.
"I also think what the Giants have gone through could be a cautionary tale for them, where they didn't pick up the fifth-year option, (Daniel) Jones is back, then he's OK and you're like, 'Do I keep him? Do I not keep him?' and give him $140 million," Hart said. "Maybe just skip all of that and just go to the next young rookie contract quarterback."
The Patriots have plenty to consider over the next few months. In the meantime, Jones is expected to continue as the team's starting quarterback with Malik Cunningham, Bailey Zappe, and Will Grier behind him on the depth chart. He'll look to begin turning his season around this Sunday at home against the Buffalo Bills.