Mac Jones could be on the move. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have reportedly shopped Jones as a trade candidate this offseason, just two years after selecting him in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, per a report from Pro Football Talk.
If the Patriots ultimately trade Jones, where are his best landing spots around the league?
Patriots Could Trade Mac Jones
New England made Jones the 15th overall pick in 2021, then released veteran quarterback Cam Newton before the regular season, clearing the way for the Alabama rookie to take over under center. Jones ranked 16th in QBR during his first pro campaign, helping the Patriots to a 10-7 record and a Wild Card berth.
Things didn’t go as well last year. Jones threw just 14 touchdowns against 11 interceptions and fell to 28th in QBR, while he was briefly benched in favor of fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe. Admittedly, Jones was forced to work within an offense led by Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, coaches whose experience had largely come on defense or special teams.
Belichick has refused to commit to Jones as the Patriots’ starting quarterback this offseason. Speaking with the media last week, Belichick vaguely said, “everyone will get a chance to play.”
“If they earn an opportunity to play based on what they do in practice and all that, then they’ll get an opportunity to play,” Belichick said. “Certainly, the veteran players that have been on the team before, if they’re still on the team, they’ll all get an opportunity to play.”
PFT’s report mentioned four teams as potential landing spots for Jones. Let’s run through each of them and see if any club stands out as a fit.
Las Vegas Raiders
Heading into the offseason, Las Vegas would have appeared as the most obvious destination for Jones. Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler was in the Patriots’ front office when New England drafted Jones, while head coach Josh McDaniels helped develop Jones into the team’s starting quarterback.
Now? Things are a little more complicated. Although the Raiders have moved on from Derek Carr, they’ve replaced him with another McDaniels disciple in Jimmy Garoppolo. The former 49ers starter received a three-year, $72.75 million contract that contains $33.75 in fully guaranteed money.
Garoppolo looks like Las Vegas’ locked-in starter, but there could be a way for him to co-exist with Jones — at least, financially. The Raiders could move on from Garoppolo after this season. Even if he earned his workout and per-game roster bonuses, Las Vegas would only be on the hook for $35.5 million over one year.
Meanwhile, Jones’ salary is a drop in the bucket. He’ll earn less than $4 million in combined salary over the next two years, meaning he won’t even be paid at a low-end backup level.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported in early March that there was “chatter” regarding a potential Jones-to-Vegas trade, so this news isn’t coming out of the blue. But while the money on a trade could work, it’s hard to imagine how the Raiders would manage having Garoppolo and Jones on the roster simultaneously.
Would Las Vegas stage a quarterback competition? Would Garoppolo get veteran’s deference? Or would the longer-term option in Jones get the first look under center?
McDaniels has already dealt with plenty of locker-room dissension, both with the Raiders and in his previous stint as the Denver Broncos’ head coach. It seems unlikely that he’d want to add more possible acrimony to his sideline, but that’s what a theoretical trade for Jones could engender.
Like the Raiders, the Texans have a Patriots connection that would make Houston a realistic landing spot for Jones. Texans general manager Nick Caserio was New England’s de facto GM when the Pats selected Jones, so he’d likely at least be intrigued by the idea of acquiring his former draft pick.
However, Houston holds the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, putting them in a position to land a franchise quarterback. Jones has shown some promise in the NFL, but he doesn’t have the upside that C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, or Anthony Richardson could offer the Texans.
Houston has conducted a slow rebuild, so adding a young QB on a four-year contract with a fifth-year option will give the team the runway it needs to supplement its roster. Meanwhile, Jones is cheap, but the Texans would have to decide on his fifth-year option by next May.
Belichick may have shopped Jones to the Texans based on his connection with Caserio, but Houston is taking the long view. A rookie quarterback makes far more sense than taking a shot on Jones.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers’ roster is probably too talented for a tank, even after Tom Brady’s retirement, and a weak NFC South means Tampa Bay could theoretically compete for a playoff spot next season. It seems unlikely that they’ll bottom out and put themselves in a position to land a top-five pick with eyes on a quarterback.
Jones would give the Bucs an opportunity to land a signal-caller with a first-round pedigree, and he’d likely immediately start over Kyle Trask and Baker Mayfield. We don’t really know how talented Trask — chosen 49 picks after Jones in 2021 — is. But neither he nor Mayfield, who signed for one year and $4 million, would present much of an obstacle for Jones.
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht wasn’t in New England when Jones was drafted, but he has had several stints in the Patriots’ front office, which could make trade talks easier. Licht could view a potential Jones acquisition as a creative way to fill Tampa Bay’s quarterback void without ever having to truly rebuild.
Depending on the compensation, the Buccaneers make the most sense of any of the Jones landing spots mentioned by PFT.
The Commanders could have been a prime destination for Jones earlier this offseason, when Washington’s only option at quarterback was 2022 fifth-rounder Sam Howell. While the Commanders have been adamant that Howell will be the club’s QB1 through its offseason programs, Jones could have thrown a wrench into those plans.
But now that Washington has signed veteran Jacoby Brissett to a one-year, $8 million deal, the idea of acquiring Jones is probably off the table. Brissett was outstanding as the Cleveland Browns’ starter in 2022 and could conceivably wrest the Commanders’ starting job away from Howell, who played well in the preseason but made just one regular-season start.
Washington seems to be biding its time until owner Dan Snyder sells the franchise. The Commanders haven’t made much noise or committed much money this offseason, aside from re-signing defensive tackle Daron Payne. If they were to upset the apple cart by making a significant move, it would likely have to be for a player with more alluring upside than Jones.