I mean, sure, devoid of any consideration of logistics or roster construction, the notion is enticing. Jackson, when healthy, might be the most dazzling player in the league. He is just 26 years old, has a 45-16 record as a starter (QB wins are a dubious measure, but a .738 winning percentage counts for something), and he won the Most Valuable Player award in 2019 when he led the league in touchdown passes (36, to just 6 interceptions), threw for 3,127 yards, and ran for another 1,206 yards and 7 touchdowns.
He was as close to unstoppable as it gets, as the Patriots found out in Week 9 of that season. In the Ravens’ 37-20 victory, Jackson completed 17 of 23 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown, ran for another 73 yards and two scores, and pretty much singlehandedly dealt the Patriots their first loss after an 8-0 start.
Who wouldn’t want a player like that?
Well, that question comes with a complicated answer. In part because of injuries that are hardly surprising given his style of play, Jackson hasn’t quite been that player since. He has fewer touchdown passes in the 24 games he has played over the past two seasons (33) than he had in that fabulous MVP season. He missed the last five games plus the playoff loss to the Bengals this season with a knee injury. It’s fair to wonder whether we’ve already seen the best of him.
But that’s not the main reason the Patriots should stay away. They cannot afford the costs, plural. Jackson is seeking a new contract, and the parameters will have to be in neighborhood of the Browns’ shameful Deshaun Watson deal (five years, fully guaranteed $230 million, with a $44.965 million signing bonus) and the Cardinals’ already regrettable Kyler Murray extension (five years, $230.5 million, beginning in 2024).
Beyond that, they absolutely cannot sacrifice the draft capital it would take to acquire Jackson. Consider: The Broncos traded their 2022 and 2023 first-round picks, 2022 and ‘23 second-round picks, a ‘22 fifth-rounder, plus tight end Noah Fant, quarterback Drew Lock, and defensive end Shelby Harris to the Seahawks last March for now-34-year-old quarterback Russell Wilson and a ‘22 fourth-rounder.
And the Browns — the idiot Browns — sent the Texans three first-round picks (2022, ‘23, ‘24), a ‘23 third-rounder, and a fourth in ‘24 for Watson (who was accused by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct) and a ‘24 fifth-rounder.
Now imagine what the asking price for Jackson would be. The Patriots have too many holes on their roster to pay so steeply in salary and draft picks for a quarterback right now.
▪ It does not make sense for the Patriots to bring back Tom Brady.
It’s a nice sentiment, sure, and a sweet little opportunity for closure. But there’s roughly an equal chance of Tom Tupa returning to the Patriots as a quarterback, and he’s 56 years old and switched to punting decades ago.
Brady will be 46 next season. He’s probably in, oh, his last decade as an NFL quarterback — all right, fine, he probably has two years left, at the most. (It was impossible not to notice the lack of velocity on some of his fastballs in the playoff loss to Dallas.)
He’s looking to add to that Lombardi Trophy count, and even if all fences are mended with Bill Belichick, there is still some building to do before the Patriots are a contender again. (Can you imagine how much Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Jonnu Smith would have enraged Brady this season?)
This was the best fit of player, coach, and franchise in NFL history for a couple of decades. It isn’t right now. Besides, it would be a cruel twist if Brady returned here for one last go, only to have it be the year that his skills finally eroded to the point of incapability.
I hope he ends up a 49er, playing for his boyhood team in front of his family. That’s where it really all began for him, and it’s where it should end.
▪ It does make sense for the Patriots to stick with Mac Jones.
Jones went from a promising rookie season — are you really going to make me cite his Pro Bowl appearance again? — to an outright debacle of a sophomore year for one reason more than any other: The coaching staff failed him.
Belichick trusted Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, two valuable members of his coaching staff in the past, to oversee the offense. They proved stunningly inept, to the point that the exasperated-on-his-good-days Jones went from being a crucial asset to a question mark. The Patriots owe him — yes, owe him — a third season to find out whether he can build on what he was as a rookie.
The Patriots don’t need a new quarterback, not yet. They need to nail that No. 14 overall pick, put together another strong draft, and hire an offensive coordinator who can, you know, coordinate an offense. Do those things, and then the real answers about Jones will be revealed.