NFL: Patriots targeting right QB to lead team in ‘right direction’

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INDIANAPOLIS — Holding the No. 3 pick in April’s draft and $78 million in cap space, the New England Patriots are optimistic about their options in their first offseason this century without Bill Belichick.

Director of scouting Eliot Wolf, the club’s de facto general manager, and new head coach Jerod Mayo will continue putting the pieces in place for a rebuild at this week’s NFL Scouting Combine.

“This is a new program, and we’re heading in the right direction. It’s a new era,” Wolf said at the podium on Tuesday. “We have leadership with Jerod Mayo, that is going to be tremendous. He’s just an unbelievable leader and developer of people. And I think that as we move forward with the new offense and defense, it’s going to be pretty special and exciting here.”

After posting their worst record (4-13) since 1992 last season with quarterbacks Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe, Wolf confirmed that the team will meet with the top three signal-callers in the draft class: USC’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye and LSU’s Jayden Daniels.

“I think it’s a really good year for quarterbacks,” Wolf said. “It’s a really good year at a lot of positions. Like any position we’re going to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, determine who fits for us. We’re pretty early in the process here. Like, I haven’t met any of these guys. Jerod hasn’t met any of these guys. So as we continue through the process here, we’ll determine what’s best for the team. One thing about the quarterbacks in this draft specifically that I’m excited about is that they all look like they’re really tough guys, which is obviously great at any position, but the quarterback position especially.”

The Boston Herald reported that the Patriots will meet with most of the quarterbacks available this week through formal and informal interviews.

Jones, 25, has not progressed since his Pro Bowl rookie season as a 2021 first-round pick. He threw 23 interceptions and 24 touchdown passes during the 2022-23 campaigns. Zappe, 24, completed just 59.9 percent of his throws last season with more picks (nine) than TDs (six).

Wolf was asked about what he is looking for in a franchise quarterback — for a franchise spoiled by two decades of dominance from Tom Brady.

“First of all being someone that can elevate his teammates,” Wolf said. “Someone that your teammates want to play for. I think that’s an extremely underrated thing that people don’t really talk about that much. Leadership’s important and obviously physical talent. We wouldn’t be talking about these guys if they weren’t physically talented.”

Wolf, 41, said all options — including a trade — are on the table with the No. 3 pick. He said the responsibility for the first-round pick will be his.

The Patriots also need help at wide receiver, tight end and offensive tackle. The draft class is deep with wideouts and tackles.

“I think it depends on who we’re talking about and what holes we end up having,” Wolf said. “There’s a lot of time between now and the start of the season to patch those holes in. And hopefully we’re going to do more than patch them. We’re going to try to get the best players that we can and we’ll see what happens at the quarterback position.”

–Field Level Media

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