Why Brian Hoyer could still be Patriots’ backup QB behind Mac Jones despite being cut

Mac Jones is the only quarterback on the Patriots roster after the team cut veterans Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer ahead of Tuesday’s 53-man roster deadline. Don’t expect that to be the case for long. 

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels confirmed that the team will sign a backup quarterback when asked about the vacancy behind Jones.

“I would expect that would be the case in the next few days,” he said of adding another quarterback.

That’s hardly a surprise, but it does raise a question; who will be the quarterback New England pursues to back up Jones? Well, it could actually be one of the players that they released: Brian Hoyer.

Why Brian Hoyer could return to the Patriots

Brian Hoyer’s release could be a procedural one by the Patriots. Why? Because of how the NFL’s Injured Reserve rules work.

If a player is placed on IR before being on the 53-man roster, they cannot be activated at any point during the season. As such, if teams want to place a player on IR but leave open the option to return, they must make the initial 53-man roster. From there, they can be transferred to IR. Another roster spot opens up once that transaction happens.

The Patriots have a couple of players that are banged-up currently — most notably, N’Keal Harry. So, the team could place Harry (or another player) on IR to open up a spot for another quarterback. That could be Hoyer.

The Patriots have, effectively, had an open-door policy with Hoyer over the years. He has had four separate stints with the team and has been in New England for parts of the last four seasons. In 2019, the team cut him in favor of Jarrett Stidham being Tom Brady’s backup, but Bill Belichick didn’t rule out Hoyer returning during that season.

“I think Brian is a good player, and it’s a long season, so we’ll see what happens,” Belichick said at the time.

However, Hoyer got scooped up by the Colts, who needed a backup to Jacoby Brissett after Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement.

Still, the fact that the Patriots brought Hoyer back in 2020 and 2021 and had an interest in a 2019 return after initial roster cuts indicates the team trusts him.

Why isn’t Jarrett Stidham the Patriots backup QB?

Stidham has been placed on the PUP list to begin the season. He is dealing with a back injury that required surgery in late July. 

Players can only be placed on the PUP list at the beginning of training camp and don’t count toward a team’s roster total. They are eligible to be activated during the regular season despite not being a part of the team’s official 53-man roster, unlike players place on IR before the season. PUP list players just have to miss a minimum of six games before being eligible to return.

So, Stidham will be out for at least six weeks of action. He could return to the Patriots later in the season, but New England will need another option to begin the year.

Which other backup quarterbacks could the Patriots pursue?

A total of 23 quarterbacks were released as a part of final roster cuts, excluding Hoyer and Cam Newton. There are plenty of options for the Patriots to consider in that group, though the list is mostly comprised of young, unproven options.

Here’s a look at the newly available quarterbacks and their former teams:

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