NFL road rockier for Nathan Rourke after New England Patriots draft Drake Maye

Graphic: 3DownNation (Photos: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson | AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The New England Patriots have found their new franchise quarterback and his name isn’t Nathan Rourke.

University of North Carolina pivot Drake Maye was the team’s selection with the third overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and is expected to take over the top job next season. The move makes Rourke the fourth quarterback on the roster and the one with the least amount of financial investment in him.

Maye is projected to receive a four-year contract worth $35.7 million USD with a signing bonus of $22.8 million USD, according to Spotrac. He will fill the void left by former first-round selection Mac Jones, who was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars in March in exchange for a sixth-round pick.

The Patriots already went out and acquired 31-year-old backup Jacoby Brissett in free agency, paying him $7.89 million USD to be a veteran mentor on a one-year deal. $5 million USD of that contract was guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus.

The team also has former fourth-round pivot Bailey Zappe entering the final year of his contract. He will make $985,000 USD next year and has made eight starts over the past two seasons.

Rourke was re-signed on March 1 as an exclusive rights free agent and is scheduled to make $915,000 USD next year, the league minimum for a player with one accrued season. Based on the team’s investment, he is positioned to compete with Zappe for the third-string role.

The 25-year-old was claimed off waivers by New England on December 18 last season after he was waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars, dressing for the final three games. He was promoted to be the team’s primary backup in the regular-season finale but did not see game action. He earned $519,668 USD in his first NFL season.

Rourke signed with the Jaguars last offseason after an extensive NFL workout tour. During three preseason games with Jacksonville, he completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 348 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions while rushing 14 times for 39 yards and one touchdown. The Canadian pivot was waived following training camp but landed on the team’s practice roster, twice earning elevation to the active roster for three games total with the Jags.

During the 2022 CFL season, Rourke completed 78.7 percent of his passes for 3,349 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while starting for the B.C. Lions. He ran 39 times for 304 yards (7.8 per carry) and seven touchdowns during 10 regular season games, nine starts. The Ohio University graduate won the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian award despite missing half the season with a Lisfranc injury.

New England has undergone significant changes this offseason, parting ways with legendary head coach Bill Belichick after a 4-13 campaign. Jerod Mayo, the brother of former CFL linebacker Deron Mayo, has since taken over as head coach.

He will now hitch his reputation to Maye, who threw for 8,018 yards, 63 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions in 30 career games with the Tar Heels. In the process, he has made Rourke’s path to the field significantly longer.