The Teddy Bridgewater sweepstakes is underway, or so it seems.

The quarterback is still a member of the New York Jets, but with rookie Sam Darnold expected to be the starter for the season opener and 39-year-old veteran Josh McCown (and his $10 million contract) the more logical backup, the thinking is the Jets might deal Bridgewater.

It makes sense. He’s an asset and he would bring a healthy return, especially seeing what desperate teams handed over for quarterbacks in the past. Only two years ago, the Vikings surrendered a first-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick to the Eagles for Sam Bradford after then-starter Bridgewater suffered his career-threatening knee injury during practice.

Already, the rumor mill has been churning. Early in the week, there were reports at least two teams had expressed interest in Bridgewater, who has looked good in the preseason after missing most of the last two years.

Who wouldn’t want a 25-year-old quarterback with Bridgewater’s upside? The list of potential suitors for the former first-round pick should grow considerably with time, and yes, that list would include the Patriots.

The Patriots are in a significant hole when it comes to their future quarterback.

They traded their successor for Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, to San Francisco for a second-round pick. They moved Jacoby Brissett to the Colts before that.

They had plenty of pick capital in this year’s draft, but didn’t move up the board for any of the top prospects. Instead, they selected Danny Etling in the seventh round, and he doesn’t look like the answer.

So as far as an heir, the cupboard is bare. And if anyone thinks the Jets will just gift wrap an heir for their AFC East rivals, they’re delusional.

The Patriots’ only shot is if Bridgewater reaches free agency next year, or if they find a way to go through a third party.

“There’s no way I can see the Jets flipping Bridgewater to New England,” said ESPN analyst Damien Woody, who played for both the Patriots and the Jets. “There’s no way they’d help out a rival in the division, much less the Patriots. I don’t see that happening, at all. They’re going to flip Bridgewater at some point, but it won’t be to anyone in the division.”

Even Belichick acknowledged Wednesday that while the Patriots have good relationships with all the teams in the league, they don’t do a lot of transactions “in the AFC East.”

There’s also little chance of the Jets cutting Bridgewater when rosters are pared to 53 on Sept. 1. He’s too valuable, plus they have the cap space to keep Darnold, Bridgewater and McCown.

According to the New York Daily News, Bridgewater is on a one-year, $6 million deal that includes $9 million in performance incentives, but the money he could potentially earn by completing those incentives would count toward the 2019 salary cap.

“Quarterback is the most valuable commodity on the team. You’d rather keep all three. Quarterbacks go down, that’s when trades happen,” said Woody. “There’s no need to pull the trigger now. This quarterback situation in the league, someone’s going to get hurt, unfortunately. And, that’s how these things happen.”

All the Patriots can do is sit and wait, or hope the trade price is too high for Bridgewater and he hits free agency. As it is, based on the contract sweetener they just gave Brady, the Patriots are going year to year with him.

That doesn’t erase the obvious: They still don’t have the next guy in place to take the baton from Brady when he finally makes his exit or if he gets hurt.

“Tom has been healthy, but they’re playing with house money,” said Woody. “He’s 41, god forbid, something happens, and he gets hurt. You got to play with Brian Hoyer? That’s a scary proposition.”

Well, it was scary with Garoppolo, too, until he showed he could handle it. When Brady served his four-game suspension at the beginning of the 2016 season, Garoppolo showed enough in the first two games to inspire a legion of believers before an injury derailed him.

Moving to the present, Hoyer is best described as a serviceable backup. He knows the Patriots offense. He’s fine in a pinch. And if Brady got hurt for the year, they might get by with Hoyer and still make it to the postseason. It’s just hard to have any confidence past that point. When Hoyer was in Houston, he threw four interceptions and had five turnovers against the Chiefs in his lone playoff game. Not his finest moment, to say the least.

Would Bridgewater be any better? He has yet to perform in the postseason, but he’s young, highly skilled and still has a promising future ahead of him. It’s more a matter of acquiring someone like him, or trying to find another Garoppolo in the draft.

Other teams with aging NFL quarterbacks took the plunge in this year’s draft. The Steelers appear to have snagged the heir for 36-year-old Ben Roethlisberger, drafting Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. Joe Flacco is 33, but the Ravens grabbed a potential successor with Lamar Jackson at No. 32, taking the former Louisville quarterback one spot after the Patriots took running back Sony Michel.

Next year’s draft class isn’t expected to have as many top quarterback prospects as 2018, when five (Baker Mayfield, Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Jackson) went in the first round.

NFL Network analyst Charles Davis put it in perspective.

“Right now, people are looking at this group and measuring it versus the one we just had and finding it wanting a little bit,” he said. “But I’m not at the stage of, they’re definitely not (as good). Let’s see the season play out … I just want to pump the brakes both ways on it. Let these kids play the season out. There’s a little more talent out there than they’re given credit for. But they’ll have to play their way into that situation.”

As it is, the Patriots are going to need to address this situation before too long. How they go about doing it, whether by trade, free agency, draft, is anyone’s guess.

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