Bedard: Patriots will have a lot of competition solving their biggest 2021 need at QB

(Olindo Longo for BSJ)

FOXBOROUGH — You can get into all the hemming and hawing about Adam Schefter's report/opinion/discussion regarding Cam Newton's future with the Patriots, but the sentiment was correct:

Maybe Schefter didn't exactly say it the way he or someone else intended that information to be conveyed — "I don't think that's what Adam said," Bill Belichick said when a question paraphrased the report — but the guts were correct.

Both sides are expected to go in different directions this offseason. Is there some way, a chance, that it could lead them back together? Sure, but that's not going to be Plan A, B or C for either side. Newton will want to start again. The Patriots will want someone a little more conducive to their system — quick decision-making, precision, adept at changing plays at the line of scrimmage. Belichick has enormous respect for Newton and the cache he brings among the NFL's players. If he's without a home, Belichick could give him as a mentor or placeholder for a young player. Doubtful Newton would want that, he might retire, but never say never.

In the end, it doesn't really matter. The Patriots will head into the offseason looking for another option at quarterback, be that via trade, free agency or the draft. You've heard a lot of the names. Jimmy Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford, Sam Darnold, Philip Rivers, Gardner Minshew, Carson Wentz, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor. In the draft, there's Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Kyle Trask, Mac Jones ... All names we'll be studying closely this offseason.

Everyone has their dream pick. Everyone has their wishlist.

But what I don't think many comprehend is how crowded the field will be for teams looking for a quarterback. A year ago — when the Patriots used their cap space on Joe Thuney instead of a QB like Marcus Mariota — there were more quarterbacks than there were starting opportunities. This year looks to be the opposite. We count upwards of 16 teams that could be on the prowl, from an immediate starter to an heir apparent/competition.

For example, one team no one is talking about, the Panthers, will be very aggressive on the quarterback front, according to league sources. The belief was that the three-year, $63-million contract Teddy Bridgewater signed in the spring wedded the Panthers to him. That is not correct (and you can add Bridgewater to the names of QBs available).

The Panthers pick eighth in the draft. The Patriots are locked into the 15th spot, without a ton of ammunition to move up, if they wanted to do that.

So you can add the Panthers to the list of teams ahead of the Patriots that could be looking to draft a quarterback. Those teams, plus the ones to look out for in regards to veteran options: