Patriots notebook: Robert Kraft realizes team needs to draft Tom Brady QB insurance


ORLANDO, Fla. — After clearing the heir, the Patriots should be expected to target another quarterback next month in the draft.

Owner Robert Kraft did little yesterday to dismiss the idea the Patriots would be seeking out a younger model, which really shouldn’t be all that surprising. They traded Jimmy Garoppolo last season and are under a time crunch to develop Tom Brady’s successor.

Obviously, the draft’s unpredictability adds a shred of uncertainty to the Patriots’ quarterbacking plans, but they’ll likely pounce if the right player is available.

“I’m going to put my fan hat on,” Kraft said of the team’s draft plans. “Obviously, at some point, we have to (draft a quarterback). Not just that, but think what happened in ’08 in the first quarter against Kansas City, Tom goes out (with a torn ACL). How many people would have said that Matt Cassel would have led us to an 11-5 season?”

Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, who has won 16 of his 37 career starts, is under contract for a couple more seasons, so the Patriots don’t have to force anything in the draft. Hoyer’s presence also gives the Pats the luxury of seeking out a developmental prospect, someone they could view with more long-term value if given additional time to grow in the system.

But ultimately, the Patriots want to find another Garoppolo, and it’d be a surprise if they didn’t take their shot in a few weeks — not just for the future but also for the present if that scenario presents itself.

“Once again, I put my faith and confidence in Bill (Belichick),” Kraft said. “He knows his responsibilities. Anything can happen, even if Tom comes in in tip-top shape. Part of why the networks pay us the funding they do, and the reason this is the best entertainment product in America is you don’t know. One play can change a whole season, one play with one person.

“To do a good job of managing an NFL franchise, we’ve always said understanding quality depth management. That’s our business: quality depth management. Knowing that we have a salary cap, how do you balance that and have the depth you need? I think you can see it in part. Bill has a great knowledge base on special teams and has been able to stress that. I think we’ve always had very, let’s say in the top 25 percent of special teams, but that’s the bottom third of our roster, too, that God forbid if players get injured, he can bring those players in to play.”

Josh fan club

Kraft described Josh McDaniels as the best offensive coordinator in the NFL, a day after Belichick said the same thing.

Suffice to say, the two most important decision makers in the building were excited to keep McDaniels away from the Colts.

“It’s very important,” Kraft said. “I can’t tell you how happy I am that he is coming back. I think he is the best offensive coordinator and has shown that when he’s been with us. He has a great football intellect. We’re really happy he decided to stay with us.”

Fleming to Dallas

Former Patriots tackle Cameron Fleming signed a one-year contract worth up to $3.5 million with the Cowboys. A source indicated the Pats didn’t have an offer on the table.

The Patriots have already re-signed tackle LaAdrian Waddle and added Matt Tobin to compete for a job. Tony Garcia announced last week that he has been medically cleared after blood clots in his lungs derailed his rookie season. Cole Croston is another option at the left tackle position that has been vacated in Nate Solder’s departure, and Andrew Jelks is more of a long shot. Marcus Cannon is expected to remain on the right side.

For another time

As social activism remains in focus, Kraft was asked if the league had defined its focus on the national anthem. Of course, players around the league continued to take a knee last season to raise awareness for various forms of social injustices.

The NFL and the players have worked for months to seek a common ground on the anthem and a number of other related matters, and Kraft said that will be on the agenda in two months when the ownership groups meet again.

“It is a sensitive, complicated issue, and we’re going to deal with it at our May meeting,” Kraft said. “I think that’s the time for me to speak out on it.”



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