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Patriots exec Eliot Wolf: Determining when Drake Maye starts to be 'collaborative approach'

All signs point to quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels, the top two picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, starting immediately for the Bears and Commanders, respectively.

The wait for No. 3 overall pick Drake Maye, however, could be longer.

The New England Patriots don't appear to be counting on Maye to be their starting QB from the outset this fall, willing to take a more patient approach in his development. But when Maye, who agreed to terms on his rookie contact Tuesday, per NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo, might eventually start is a fair question to ponder, along with how that decision will be made.

Following minicamp two weeks ago, first-year head coach Jerod Mayo indicated that Maye had “a lot to work on,” suggesting that the talented rookie remains in the developmental stage until further notice.

The Patriots' Eliot Wolf, who recently was named the club's executive vice president of player personnel, said the approach to deciding Maye's readiness will be a collaborative one, which figures to include Mayo.

"I think those will be some important conversations for us to have," Wolf told Kay Adams on Tuesday's edition of Up & Adams. "Right now, it's Jacoby Brissett. He's taking the first reps, and we're excited about what he's shown not only off the field but on the field with his throwing ability. Drake Maye, let's be honest, we've had him for three weeks now. There's a long way to go to for all of our rookies and all of our players as we adapt to this new scheme that coach (Alex) Van Pelt is implementing offensively.

"So we'll have those conversations as they arise. I'm sure it's gonna be a collaborative approach as it's been so far with really all the big decisions that we've made. All four of the quarterbacks that we have on the roster right now are working hard and ready to go."

Brissett is in his second tenure with the Patriots after they selected him in Round 3 of the 2016 draft. He's started 48 NFL games since then, including two 15-start seasons with the Colts and 11 starts for the Browns in 2022. Last season with Washington, Brissett completed 18 of 23 passes (78.3%) for 224 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in three appearances.

Brissett also is a good example of any rookie QB -- not just first-rounders -- needing to be ready right away. As a rookie in 2016, he was thrust into the No. 2 role behind provisional starter Jimmy Garoppolo while Tom Brady was suspended for the season's first four games. When Garoppolo was injured in Week 2 that season, Brissett became an unexpected rookie starter in Weeks 3 and 4.

The Patriots also turned to rookie Mac Jones in the 2021 season as the Week 1 starter under former head coach Bill Belichick. Jones had a solid rookie season, leading the Patriots to the playoffs, but regressed thereafter and was traded this offseason to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Wolf was asked by Adams if Jones' situation in New England had any bearing on Maye's developmental path.

"I would say again every situation is different," Wolf said. "The main thing that we've been able to take away is being able to support not only Drake, but every quarterback we have, just throw every level of support that we possibly can at the quarterbacks. Those are things, whether it's coaching, whether it's something off the field, whether it's virtual reality, whatever the case may be, just really having the willingness to support whoever the quarterback is in every facet that we possibly can."

Wolf also said he's not necessarily in favor of thrusting Maye into the lineup or keeping him under wraps. In a perfect world, Maye's development will speak for itself and give the Patriots' brass a picture of when the time will be right to start.

"I wouldn't say there's a specific Eliot Wolf philosophy (on developing quarterbacks)," Wolf said. "I think every person and player is different, so I think you have to be true to what you're seeing and listen to the coaches and really understand who's ready, who's not ready. Again, like I said, in this particular situation Drake's been with us for about three weeks. So we'll kind of see how it goes here. Maybe he'll be ready, maybe he won't."

There's also the matter of the team at large. Even with the one playoff appearance, the franchise has been in decline since Brady left after the 2019 season. After last year's 4-13 campaign, it might be difficult to imagine the Patriots leaping back into contention this season.

Whether New England can contend this season also could have a bearing on when Maye gets the ball. But Wolf wasn't ready to make any 2024 season predictions in May.

"Are the Patriots a playoff team? Listen, we're not really playoffs or bust," Wolf said. "I would say we're just looking for progress."

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