Patriots release veteran QB: What this means for the roster status of Bailey Zappe and Joe Milton


The New England Patriots quarterback room has been turned upside down throughout the offseason. Of course, the headliners include the trading of Mac Jones to the Jaguars and the arrival of Drake Maye via the third overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. That said, there have been alterations that this new regime, led by head coach Jerod Mayo and de facto GM Eliot Wolf, continue to make with this position group. That latest comes on Monday with the team releasing veteran Nathan Rourke. 

Rourke had a brief tenure with New England after being claimed by the club in December following a stint with Jacksonville. He was inactive for two games before dressing as a backup in the regular-season finale. Rourke was initially drafted by the CFL’s BC Lions in 2020 following a collegiate career at Ohio. He spent two years with the Lions before making the jump to the NFL last year with the Jaguars. 

Given Rourke’s status as a fringe NFL player, the Patriots moving on from him was an expected step, especially after coming out of the draft with two quarterbacks. Even now, New England has a total of four quarterbacks on the offseason’s 90-man roster, which will likely be whittled down again by the time the club needs to get to a season-opening 53-man unit. As things stand, the QB room in Foxborough is made up of Maye, Jacoby Brissett, Bailey Zappe and rookie Joe Milton. 

With Maye and Brissett looked at as roster locks, the stage is now set for what could prove to be a training camp battle between veteran Zappe and Milton. The inside edge will likely be given to Milton, who was taken in the sixth round (193 overall) out of Tennessee. He presents the Patriots with a cost-controlled asset at the position over the next four seasons and a developmental quarterback with a tremendous arm. His general skill set also seems to align with Maye’s, which also could bode well for his chance to be a backup in short order. 

As for Zappe, he’s a holdover from the previous regime under Bill Belichick. He’s been given opportunities to start throughout his first two years in the league and the recent results have been lukewarm. In six starts last season, Zappe was 2-4 and completed 59.9% of his passes with more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (six). The Patriots had also already shown a willingness to cut bait with Zappe as they released him during final roster cuts last summer only to bring him back a short time later. The 25-year-old is in the final year of his contract before hitting restricted free agency. With those factors in mind, it would seem like the Patriots would opt for the project in Milton over Zappe if Mayo ultimately decides to have three quarterbacks on the regular-season roster.  

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