Patriots' Bill Belichick says not drafting QB 'wasn't by design'

The New England Patriots passed on Jordan Love with the 23rd pick, and then did the same with every other quarterback in the NFL draft, creating a clearer path for Jarrett Stidham to serve as Tom Brady's successor in 2020.

Stidham, who was Brady's backup last season after the Patriots selected him in the fourth round, might have been the biggest beneficiary from New England's quarterbackless approach. Still, coach Bill Belichick isn't handing him the job just yet.

"Jarrett had a good year last year. He improved a lot. We'll see where that takes him," Belichick said Saturday night.

Belichick also expressed confidence in veteran Brian Hoyer, who has started 38 games over his 11-year career. Hoyer signed with the Patriots in March after being released by the Indianapolis Colts, and this will be his third stint with the franchise.

Hoyer had been Brady's backup from 2009 through 2011, and then for half of 2017 and all of 2018. The Patriots released him at the end of the 2019 preseason, giving the No. 2 job to Stidham, but would have entertained re-signing him later in the season if the Colts hadn't snatched him up.

Meanwhile, the Patriots filled out the depth chart by agreeing to contracts with Louisiana Tech's J'Mar Smith and Michigan State's Brian Lewerke as undrafted free agents. Belichick confirmed the team was talking with Smith but noted a contract has yet to be signed. Agent Mike McCartney announced Lewerke's agreement on Sunday.

Smith was the 2019 Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, finishing 236-of-367 for 2,977 yards, with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions.

The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Lewerke was considered a late-round projection for NFL teams. He was a team captain in 2019. Over 38 career starts at Michigan State, Lewerke was 721-of-1,249 for 8,293 yards, with 47 touchdowns and 32 interceptions.

As for the draft, Belichick said the Patriots were balancing other needs as they considered their quarterback options.

"If we feel like we find the right situation, we'll certainly draft them. We've drafted them in multiple years, multiple points in the draft," he said. "Didn't work out the last three days. That wasn't by design. We just tried to do the best we could with what we had this weekend."