FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Weis loves Mac: The last thing former New England offensive coordinator Charlie Weis wants to do is preach to the Patriots about what they should do at quarterback this offseason. In his trademark blunt way, he characterized it this way: “I don’t want to be one of those people telling them how they are dumbasses if they don’t do that.”
With that context, Weis, who coached in the team’s first three Super Bowl championships, is high on Alabama’s Mac Jones as a great fit.
“What are the two most important components of a star quarterback? They have the ‘it’ factor. And they’re accurate. That’s who he was,” Weis said.
Weis, who was a central figure in Tom Brady‘s development in the early years of the QB’s career, initially shared his viewpoint during an interview on his Sirius XM NFL Radio program with co-host Bill Lekas. He was asked to expound on it in a follow-up conversation with ESPN.com.
One of the knocks on Jones is he was surrounded by an all-star level cast at Alabama, but Weis sees that as more of a positive factor.
“You talk about being around good players. Yeah, he was around good players. But playing on a team with a bunch of stars, who is the leader of the offense?” Weis said. “He also had to make all those throws. I think the kid is an excellent quarterback. He has less holes than just about anybody.”
The Patriots pick No. 15 in the 2021 NFL draft, and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has them picking Jones in his latest mock draft. Fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had Jones going earlier than that in his second mock.
Jones’ athleticism isn’t at the same level as other top prospects. But Weis, who highlighted how Jones has been coached by Nick Saban, one of Bill Belichick’s closest friends, believes his positive attributes outweigh potential concern.
“If you’re looking for a guy that’s going to be running for 30 yards on a regular basis, that’s not your guy. But he can move in the pocket, and from the pocket, and run the ball when he absolutely needs to.
“When you talk about Trevor Lawrence, what makes him so special is that he can do everything Mac Jones can and he’s athletic. [Justin] Fields, really good player. Zach Wilson, really good player. The kid from North Dakota State [Trey Lance], really good player.
“But this guy, [Jones], he’s the one making all the plays. All he does is win and throw completions.”
“He went in the second round because everyone said, ‘He doesn’t take any snaps under center and his arm is not strong enough.’ All he did was play great at Purdue, and complete almost every pass,” Weis said. “How has that worked out?”
Mike Reiss boldly predicts a reunion between the Patriots and 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
2. Tag time: Tuesday marks the opening of a 15-day window for teams to assign the franchise tag, and if the Patriots plan to think big in NFL free agency with their abundant cap space, that stretch will be telling for potential targets at their greatest non-QB positions of need. Here are the players I’m watching closest in those spots:
Titans general manager Jon Robinson hinted this past week Smith is not a candidate for the tag.
3. Medical checks: Patriots players are scattered across the country at this point of the offseason, but a handful of them rehabbing from injuries were back at Gillette Stadium last week for medical check-ups. The group included cornerback Stephon Gilmore (quad) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee), among others.
4. Silent treatment: Many NFL teams have their head coach and/or general manager hold media availabilities at this time, saying it’s a way for them to communicate with their fans. They usually happen at the NFL combine, but this year are taking place virtually, with Robinson (Titans) and Kevin Colbert (Steelers) recently doing so. Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots have traditionally passed with non-in-house media.
5. Draft nugget: Is there really such a thing as a franchise quarterback? On ESPN’s First Draft podcast, Kiper noted there were 22 quarterbacks selected in the first round from 2009 to 2016 and none remains on his original team. The final domino? Carson Wentz, who the Eagles agreed to trade to the Colts on Thursday.
6. QB suitors: How might the Lions’ trade of Matthew Stafford have a trickle-down effect on the Patriots? By acquiring Jared Goff, it likely takes Detroit out of the QB market at pick No. 7, making them a potential candidate for teams looking to trade up and get ahead of QB-hungry Carolina at No. 8 and also Denver (No. 9). Too early for draft strategy talk? Maybe, but in an offseason of compelling potential QB movement, every morsel piques my interest.
7. Cam context: In a recent interview on sports radio WEEI, I shared my viewpoint that the door isn’t closed on Cam Newton‘s return to the Patriots, which sparked further discussion. Two follow-up thoughts: Until the Patriots find an answer, they aren’t in position to be closing any doors — and while it likely isn’t the Patriots’ top choice and a longer-odds scenario, the possibility of pairing Newton with another QB is different than bringing him back as the clear-cut No. 1.
8. Wynn decision: A sneaky-important decision for the Patriots is coming up with 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn, as they must determine whether to pick up his fully-guaranteed fifth-year option for 2022 by May 3 of this year. Franchise left tackles are hard to find, and Wynn could still fit in that category. But given his injury history (18 of 48 games played), they would be taking a leap of faith he can reverse that trend.
9. Field upgrade: The last time the FieldTurf playing surface at Gillette Stadium was replaced or upgraded was in 2017. Plans are in the works for a new field this offseason — with the old field already removed and a new one to be installed before the start of the New England Revolution’s season.
10. Did You Know: Urban Meyer’s initial staff in Jacksonville includes 26 assistant coaches. Belichick’s Patriots staff, traditionally one of the NFL’s smallest, had 19 last season.