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Sunday, February 16, 2014
Draft & free agency: Quarterback

By Mike Reiss

With free agency to begin March 11, and the draft from May 8-10, one thing NFL teams generally do at this time is marry the two to better assess the best approach to filling potential needs.

For example, if a team knows it's a deep draft for top-quality offensive tackles (2014 is such), it might be less inclined to be as aggressive at that position in free agency. With this in mind, our plan is to look at each position in the coming days through a similar lens.

Next on the list: Quarterback

Draft: Unlike 2012 when Andrew Luck was as close to a sure thing as a franchise quarterback at the top of the draft, none of this year's top three prospects -- Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles -- are viewed to be in that category. Still, all seem likely to be first-round picks. All three are underclassmen, which adds some risk to the evaluation as there isn't as large of a body of work to evaluate. Teams that lean toward seniors will also have plenty of options, such as Fresno State's Derek Carr and Alabama's AJ McCarron.

Free agency: The market for a top backup who has some successful starting experience is in the $3-4 million per year range and Chad Henne (Jaguars) is at the top of this year's list. Both sides seem to have mutual interest in his return so it's possible he doesn't make it to the open market. Matt Cassel falls into the same category (he voided his contract with Minnesota and is a free agent) and Chicago's Josh McCown proved in 2013 that he is worthy of similar consideration. Detroit's Shaun Hill, Green Bay's Matt Flynn, San Francisco's Colt McCoy, Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson, St. Louis' Brady Quinn and Tennessee's Rusty Smith are other options at the position from more of a pure backup perspective. Michael Vick is the wild-card of the entire crop.

Patriots perspective: With just two quarterbacks presently on the roster, and with No. 2 option Ryan Mallett entering the final year of his contract, the Patriots will add at least one more signal-caller this offseason. A younger developmental type, either through the draft or free agency, would seem most likely. If it's the draft, it would be a surprise if it happens before the third round. Plenty of options in both areas.