Should the Patriots Trade Brian Hoyer?

A number of analysts and bloggers have raised the prospects of the Patriots trading backup QB Brian Hoyer. While the current lock prevents teams from trading players, it’s worth considering what kind of value the Patriots would be looking for in order to move Hoyer and what teams might be willing to swing a deal.

What value would it take for the Patriots to trade Hoyer?

The draft pick value of recently traded quarterbacks varies wildly. Established starters like Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler brought their original teams a strong return, while others have been traded for mid-round picks. Of the QBs traded in the past four or five years, Hoyer’s situation most closely resembles that of Charlie Whitehurst. Whitehurst was an untested backup for the Chargers who showed promise in limited playing time and preseason action. The Chargers got a third round pick and moved up in the second round (this value is in the same ballpark as the deals that sent Matt Cassel and Matt Schaub to different teams in recent years).

I’m not sure the Patriots could get quite as much value out of Hoyer. To seriously consider a deal, New England would probably need to get a late second or early third. That is likely the maximum that any team would be willing to give up.

What teams might be interested in Hoyer?

The most quarterback-needy teams are the Cardinals, Bills, 49ers, Seahawks, Vikings, Panthers and Jaguars. You could probably add the Redskins, Dolphins and Bengals into that bunch since their incumbent QBs are on shaky ground. Of those teams, the least likely to trade for Hoyer would probably be the Seahawks and Redskins since they recently gave up some valuable draft stock for QBs. The Panthers have no second round pick and may have too many holes to be filled to consider giving up any more picks. It is unlikely, though not impossible, that the Pats would trade a young QB within the division, so the Bills and Dolphins would be longshots.

There are around five or six quarterbacks from the current draft class (Newton, Gabbert, Locker, Ponder, Mallett, Kaepernick) who could be drafted in the first two or three rounds. All of these players have a number of question marks as potential starters. The teams that are built to win now (Arizona, San Francisco, Minnesota, and, to a lesser extent, Washington) could easily consider Hoyer a safer bet than the second tier of rookies.

What could prevent the Patriots from trading Hoyer?

Other than the lockout, the biggest hurdle to trading Hoyer might be the lack of options to back up Brady. While most teams typically carry three quarterbacks, the Patriots thought enough of Hoyer to carry just two all season. The Patriots signed second-year Tennessee product Jonathan Crompton to a futures contract earlier this year after giving him a year on the practice squad, but he could hardly be counted on if Brady sustained a serious injury.

The other big issue could be the new collective bargaining agreement. Under the old CBA, players with three or fewer years of service with an expiring contract are restricted free agents. If the new CBA has a similar provision, the Patriots could keep Hoyer through 2011, give him a second-round tender and try to trade him in 2012. That would also give the team an opportunity to see what they have in Crompton before getting rid of Hoyer.

The lockout creates even serious complications. Unless there is a labor deal before the draft, the Pats would have to get a 2012 draft pick, which would skew the value a bit. They also would not know Hoyer’s fate prior to this year’s draft, so they couldn’t draft a replacement without potentially wasting a pick. If the new CBA isn’t reached until mid-summer or later, QB-needy teams would need to fill that position in the draft to avoid being stuck without a signal-caller. A late CBA agreement would also make teams wary of trading for a new QB who wouldn’t have time to get acclimated to a new system.

My Conclusion

In a normal offseason, it is likely Hoyer would generate enough interest for the Patriots to receive a few reasonable offers. However, due to the lockout, the chances of Hoyer getting traded this offseason are probably no better than 50-1.