New England Patriots: Ryan Mallett
Sure-fire locks: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo
Near lock: Ryan Mallett
The question is a follow-up on Bill Belichick's remarks that the Patriots aren't really that interested in trading No. 2 quarterback Ryan Mallett. With the team drafting Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round (62nd overall), and with Tom Brady entrenched as the starter, it sets up a scenario in which the club will likely carry three quarterbacks in 2014.
With this in mind, here is a look at the team's history at the quarterback position under Belichick:
2013: 2 (Brady/Mallett)
2012: 2 (Brady/Mallett)
2011: 3 (Brady/Brian Hoyer/Mallett)
2010: 2 (Brady/Hoyer)
2009: 2 (Brady/Hoyer)
2008: 3 (Brady/Cassel/Kevin O'Connell)
2007: 3 (Brady/Cassel/Matt Gutierrez)
2006: 2/3 (Brady/Matt Cassel -- Testaverde/mid-year)
2005: 3 (Brady/Cassel/Doug Flutie)
2004: 3 (Brady/Rohan Davey/Jim Miller)
2003: 3 (Brady/Davey/Damon Huard)
2002: 3 (Brady/Davey/Huard)
2001: 3 (Drew Bledsoe/Brady/Huard)
2000: 4 (Bledsoe/John Friesz/Michael Bishop/Brady)
Bill Belichick's remarks to Sirius XM NFL Radio on backup quarterback Ryan Mallett sparked a discussion on ESPN's "NFL Insiders" show Friday.
Host Suzy Kolber asked ESPN senior analyst Chris Mortensen and former Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney for their analysis on the situation.
Mortensen detailed his thoughts, which he framed as "informed speculation," by saying that if second-round draft choice Jimmy Garoppolo "comes along and does quite well in OTAs and well into training camp, if somebody has a quarterback need or quarterback injury and they come calling and the Patriots feel good about Garoppolo, maybe Mallett is in play."
Kolber then asked Hurney how much teams really know about Mallett because he hasn't played much in the regular season from 2011-13.
"He was regarded highly enough as a quarterback coming out [in 2011], and I think the position creates interest in itself," Hurney answered. "I said this statement [from Belichick] is like if you ever go to dinner and a person says, 'I don't want dessert' so you order a chocolate cake and a big piece of chocolate cake comes out and all of a sudden you look and the other person is eating half of it. I think, if the chocolate cake looks good enough for Bill Belichick, they would be interested in trading Ryan Mallett."
Hurney then pitched his "perfect scenario" with the Houston Texans, while noting that any team trading for Mallett would need to extend his contract, which expires after the 2014 season.
"If I was the Texans, I would see if they were interested in Andre Johnson and say we would take a draft pick and throw Ryan Mallett in. So even if Ryan Mallett does not work out, you have the draft pick. [They're] rebuilding, really shooting for Year 3. Andre Johnson is 32 years old, doesn't have anyone proven throwing him the ball, so take that shot -- you get the draft pick, and if Ryan Mallett works out, you extend him and have your quarterback of the future."
“That’s not really something we’re that interested in,” Belichick said, when asked if the team fielded any trade calls about Mallett from other teams. “Ryan has done a good job for us. Fortunately for our team, maybe unfortunately for Ryan, he hasn’t really had any playing time in the last three years. But he’s improved tremendously as a quarterback and as a football player, and we have a lot of confidence in him. But at the same time, he’s in the last year of a contract, and Jimmy [Garoppolo] was again a player we had with a high grade on. At that position, I just don’t think you can afford to pass up a player that you think has that kind of value.
"We feel like we have a good quarterback situation. I think there are a lot of teams in the league that maybe don’t feel that good about that position, and that’s not a good position to not feel good about. We feel very good about the players we have at that spot.”
Belichick’s interview was with the “Movin’ the Chains” program with hosts Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan. When Kirwan touched on the importance of adding young quarterbacks every few years, and how it’s an ever-evolving process, Belichick agreed.
“We’ve certainly seen teams not take that approach, and I’d say in some cases the results have been pretty disastrous,” Belichick said. “I don’t think that’s a position that you can ever have too much depth at. Certainly too much is better than not enough. Again, we’ll put those players out there and let them compete and see how it goes. But I think all three of them are quality players at that position."
1. First-round draft choice Dominique Easley and the increasing value of the penetrating defensive lineman.
2. Quarterback chatter: Jimmy Garoppolo/2014 vs. Ryan Mallett/2011.
3. Should the Patriots have given more consideration to signing undrafted Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla?
4. Rob Ninkovich and if he's been as productive as a 4-3 defensive end as he was as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
5. Following up on 2013 seventh-round draft choice Michael Buchanan as a possible option to add important pass-rushing depth.
6. Patriots running backs, from Stevan Ridley, to Stephen Houston, to James White and the departure of LeGarrette Blount.
Tim, I'm keeping this on the radar as well. After not drafting a tight end, Keller makes a lot of sense if the health checks out and a contract agreement can be reached. Perhaps with the Patriots set to enter a new phase of their offseason progression this upcoming week, with veterans joining rookies, it sparks some movement.
BamaPat (Mobile, Alabama): Mike, my issue with draft/free agency is our WRs. You and others have argued to let the youngsters develop before bringing in veterans. So here's the scenario: The rookie WRs from last year don't take the big step this year. Pats move on and draft rookies in 2015 draft. You and other media members give them two years to develop and they don't. Now you have a nearly 40-year-old QB wiith a rebuilding WR corps again. Your strategy is a good one with a QB in his prime; not with a QB turning 37 this year. That's a bad gamble. At some point you need to pull the trigger and bolster our WRs.
Fair enough, BamaPat. I just didn't see any sure-fire, easy-to-grab answers on the free-agent market and it's not like they haven't tried in that area. Emmanuel Sanders, signed to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent last year, could have helped. They tried with Reggie Wayne in the past and got rebuffed. So I don't think it's necessarily a lack of effort. In the end, this is the way it's unfolded, and I think at some point you have to invest in the development of these youngsters while layering the position with some experience (e.g. Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell). In the end, this is what it comes down to for me: If Aaron Dobson doesn't become a top guy, it will be a big disappointment.
Jack, Boyce is a smart player but he said a couple of times last year that the mental aspect of football was a big jump from Texas Christian. He also came out after his junior season and that often requires an extra year of development at the position. I'd expect Boyce to compete for the kickoff return job while also vying for a role as a No. 3-5 option on the depth chart.
Hector (Providence, Rhode Island): Hey Mike, who would you see as early candidates for a new contract amongst the RB corps? We've got Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen going into their final years. With Stephen Houston and James White coming in to provide competition (and potentially a roster spot), who do you see the Pats keeping after this season?
Hector, I'd lean toward Vereen at this point, but the key for him is similar to Edelman at this time last year. It's about staying healthy for a full season. If he does that, I'd think the Patriots would put him at the top of the list.
Marko (Back Bay): Are we all writing off Ryan Mallett too soon? Is it possible the team carries 3 QB's -- including Mallett next season?
Marko, I think they'll carry three this year, just as they did in 2011 with Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Mallett. But next year, when Mallett is an unrestricted free agent, it seems safe to assume he will want to pursue a starting job elsewhere.
1. Ryan Mallett and a potential trade. The league-owned NFL Network pumped a possible trade of Mallett to the Texans multiple times during its three-day broadcast of the draft. Because of the draft's popularity, and the NFL Network's large platform, it was a story that created a natural trickle-down effect to reporters who cover a team and added another layer of work. We couldn't substantiate anything in regards to Mallett from a Patriots-specific or Texans-specific standpoint, to the point that it was our belief the sides had hardly talked about the possibility, if at all. Yet the NFL Network reports were so strong, and persistent to the point that it was mentioned again on NFL Network the day after the draft, that we figured maybe we just didn't have good information on the topic. The Patriots' team-operated website picked up the NFL Network report as well. Now comes this tweet from the well-connected John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:
Texans will not be trading for Ryan Mallet.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) May 13, 2014
That same day, Mallett tweeted the following:
2. Seahawks' interest in Easley. The Patriots might have scooped the Seahawks by picking defensive lineman Dominique Easley in the first round (No. 29). One story that built momentum quickly after the draft was that the Seahawks quickly traded down after Easley was off the board, and a live feed in their draft room showed a reaction that could have been viewed as disappointment. But ESPN.com NFL insider Mike Sando, who covered the Seahawks for more than a decade, cast some doubt on that turn of events.
Don't think #Seahawks were going to take the DT at 32. They were eager to move back. Said so repeatedly before draft.— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@SandoESPN) May 13, 2014
3. Dreaming of Andre Johnson. With Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson saying he is unsure about his return to the team, the Twitter inbox filled up with questions about the possibility of the Patriots making a run at him. That would be a dream-like scenario for the team and one I'd rate as a longshot at this point. The primary thought is if the Texans get to the point that they do consider trading Johnson (a big "if"), it would be better business for them to do so with an NFC team (keep Johnson out of the conference). One additional thought not related to the Patriots in this situation: If Johnson has done his homework on new head coach Bill O'Brien, it's hard to imagine why he wouldn't want to play in his offense. It's receiver-friendly, for sure.
Texans general manager Rick Smith was asked Friday if there have been any talks between the teams. There have not, according to Smith.
Rick Smith says the #Texans have not had any conversations with the New England Patriots about trading Ryan Mallett.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) May 9, 2014
This doesn't mean the sides couldn't strike up a dialogue at some point, but the belief here remains that Mallett has more value to the Patriots as a No. 2/insurance policy than what the club could possibly receive in return (projected by me as a late-round draft pick).
Mallett is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2014 season, and if he has a big preseason the Patriots could benefit next offseason in the form of a high compensatory draft choice should Mallett sign a larger contract elsewhere.
Evan (NJ): Hi Mike, in the AFC Championship Game last year, our pass rush was nearly nonexistent. I think we definitely need to sign a strong pass rusher to give Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich some relief. Do you see the draft or free agency as being the better option?
Evan, I do think we'll see an addition at defensive end behind Jones and Ninkovich, as the team has explored veteran Will Smith as one possibility. But another point to consider is how a pass rush comes from more places than just the defensive end spot. A better interior push will also be a factor and the team should upgrade in that area if Armond Armstead emerges as a contributor. I could also see Jamie Collins being more of a factor in this area. Better coverage also helps the rush and the Patriots look pretty solid in the secondary right now.
James (England): If, as you suggested, linebacker Ryan Shazier is an option in the first round, do you project him as playing inside or outside?
James, I think Shazier is best suited off the line, so it would depend on what defense the team is in. Part of my thinking with Shazier is that 70 percent of defense is played in sub anyway and he could ultimately be a big part of that. Also, there is a pretty notable dropoff after the top three linebackers of Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins and more quality depth is needed.
Joe (Waltham): Mike, do you think the Patriots draft a QB in this draft? Obviously the visits of Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater were nothing more than educating themselves more on the draft board, but if someone like AJ McCarron falls to the bottom of the 2nd or even the 3rd, do you think they consider it?
Yes, Joe, I think that is a distinct possibility. A late second-round pick seems a bit rich to me for a quarterback but I think anything after that is in play. Just as Ryan Mallett was a third-round pick in 2011, it wouldn't surprise me if the team picked a quarterback that early this year if the right prospect is there (e.g. Pittsburgh's Tom Savage).
Earl (Marlborough, Mass.): I thought that Will Svitek filled in pretty admirably for injuries early on in the season, and he has versatility. What is his likelihood of return as depth on OL?
Earl, Svitek helped the Patriots through an early stretch of injuries in the preseason but by the end of the season, it was notable to me that rookie Josh Kline was thrust into action over him. Part of that could have been due to Svitek battling an injury. My sense is that the plan would be to turn that guard position over to a younger (less expensive) player like Kline or Chris Barker, knowing that the team goes three deep at tackle with Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon.
Carlos (Maine): Mike, why is it just assumed that Ryan Mallett is gone next year?
Carlos, Mallett enters the final year of his contract in 2014 and thus is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at this time next year. With Tom Brady entrenched as the starter here, and signed through 2017, it makes sense to think that Mallett will likely want to pursue a better chance to start elsewhere. The door should never be slammed shut on Mallett's return, but I'd think the odds wouldn't favor it at this point.
“You look at Bridgewater, he could slide. After pick No. 8 [Minnesota], there is no team except Cleveland at 26 -- and if they take a quarterback at 4 they’re not taking one at 26 -- that would consider a quarterback. Maybe Tennessee [No. 11] possibly. These quarterbacks, if they get past [No.] 8, could drop.
“You heard what Mike Zimmer had to say about Manziel. You know Bridgewater’s stock has dropped since his pro day. Derek Carr, some like him, some don’t. So you really have to do all your due diligence, figure it all out, try to bring everybody in.
“At quarterback, if one of those guys was available and they slid -- a lot of mixed opinion on Manziel. [Blake] Bortles is more of a consensus now in the top 8. If one of those three, and probably Bridgewater would be the one -- I can’t see Manziel sliding out of the top 8 -- he could get down into the 20s. It’s happened before, with Brady Quinn. A lot of people thought [Andy] Dalton would go in the 20s and he didn’t. You look at Boomer Esiason in ’84 -- thought he could go in the early to mid first round and he went in the second round. You can go way back in time and this has happened before.”
A few thoughts:
Fascinating prospect. Manziel is one of the most unique prospects to come out of the draft in recent years. When a prospect is that far out of the traditional box, spending extra time with him can help a club gain a better understanding of why that is the case. Such a visit could also help the Patriots get a better feel for Manziel's value in the event he is unexpectedly on the board at No. 29 and there is trade interest. There is also the line of thinking that you might end up facing him down the line and such a visit could provide some form of insight in best preparing for that possibility, or that Manziel might have interesting things to say about other prospects of interest to the club.
Part of the draft process, but still a bit unusual. The Patriots don't do this every year with top quarterbacks. In fact, when Bill Belichick was talking about Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in 2012 prior to a game against Indianapolis, he specifically said, "Our scouting staff scouted him but I personally didn't do a lot of work on Luck. We weren't going to draft a quarterback in the first round and there was no chance he was going to be anywhere close to where our draft position was going to be. That wasn't a guy that I spent a lot of time studying other than looking at some of their other players and of course from the [conference], watching him against some of the defensive players that Stanford played."
So what makes Manziel's situation different than Luck's?
In the end, we'd put our chips closest to the idea that the Patriots would like to come away with a developmental quarterback in the draft to account for the likely departure of Mallett after the 2014 season. It almost certainly won't be Manziel, Bortles or Bridgewater, but when stacking the draft board and quarterback position specifically, having the best feel for it from top to bottom perhaps takes on added importance given the hope to address the position at some point in the draft.
2. Talib and the Redskins: Comprehensive thoughts here from ESPN.com NFL Nation Redskins reporter John Keim on the Redskins’ interest in Talib.
3. Cornerback market as it relates to Talib: Big bucks have been dished out to free-agent cornerbacks Brent Grimes in Miami (4 years, $32 million, $16 million guaranteed) and Sam Shields in Green Bay (4 years, $39 million, $12.5 million signing bonus), which reflects a significant uptick in the market at the position compared to 2013. I think it’s fair to say those pacts strengthen Talib’s negotiating position, while at the same time putting more pressure on agents for top cornerbacks like Talib, Vontae Davis and Alterraun Verner to deliver a similar/better deal when their current teams might be offering less. One thing about the deals for Grimes and Shields -- they were handed out by their current team, not a team that wasn't as familiar with them.
4. Griffen and Bryant off the board: Two “projected targets” in our “free-agent fit” series -- defensive tackle Red Bryant (Jaguars) and defensive end Everson Griffen (Vikings) -- have reportedly reached agreements. Griffen reportedly received $20 million in bonuses/guarantees, which reflects his status as a rising player, and if I knew the market would be that high I wouldn’t have made the connection to the Patriots.
5. Mallett's status in the spotlight: The Texans have reportedly talked about the possibility of trading for Ryan Mallett, but those talks aren’t expected to turn into any action, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Mallett enters the final year of his contract in 2014. McClain details some of the quarterback options for the Texans, and we would add our own spin on it: If Oakland truly is interested in Matt Schaub, how about a straight-up trade of Schaub for Matt McGloin? Could be a win-win scenario, as Oakland gets a veteran quarterback who might best help win games in 2014 as Dennis Allen (head coach) and Reggie McKenzie (general manager) are on the hot seat, while O'Brien gets a quarterback he worked with at Penn State and knows well to serve as a bridge until the Texans, in Year 1 of the building process, figure out the best long-term answer (assuming it isn't McGloin himself).
Players under contract for 2014: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett
Level of need: Moderate-to-low
Projected top targets: Colt McCoy (49ers), Brady Quinn (Rams), Rusty Smith (Titans)
Why McCoy fits: He previously played under current Patriots assistant Brian Daboll in Cleveland (2010), and thus has a background in a Patriots-type offense. He would add an experienced third option (21 career starts) behind the two signal-callers entrenched in the top spots on the depth chart.
Why Quinn fits: Similar to McCoy, he has experience in a Patriots-type system from having been on a Brian Daboll-coordinated unit in Cleveland (2009) and Kansas City (2012), and a Josh McDaniels-coached team in Denver (2010). If the Patriots are considering the addition of a third quarterback, it makes sense to look toward a player coaches are familiar with.
Why Smith fits: More of a developmental option, Smith (1 career start) spent the last four years with the Titans, who selected him in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. At 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds, he has a solid physical makeup and was looked at closely in the pre-draft process by the Patriots.
Other names of note: Derek Anderson (Panthers), Jimmy Clausen (Panthers), Kellen Clemens (Rams), Matt Flynn (Packers), Josh Freeman (Vikings), Rex Grossman (Redskins), Shaun Hill (Lions), Tarvaris Jackson (Seahawks), Josh McCown (Bears), Luke McCown (Saints), Dan Orlovsky (Buccaneers), Curtis Painter (Giants), Michael Vick (Eagles), Seneca Wallace (Packers), Charlie Whitehurst (Chargers)
Franchise tag: none
Market conditions: A top backup quarterback is commanding about $4 million per season, as reflected by the agreement between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chad Henne. That is also around the range that Matt Cassel landed in his two-year deal with the Vikings. The Patriots would be looking at more of a cheaper, No. 3 alternative.
Questions to answer at the position: Will Brady show any signs of decline? Might there be any type of trade market for Mallett, who enters the final year of his contract? Will the Patriots draft a prospect, similar to what they did with Mallett in 2011?
As explained by former New England Patriots vice president of player personnel and current Atlanta Falcons assistant GM Scott Pioli, hand size is a notable measurement for quarterbacks, as larger hands help a quarterback grip the ball more firmly.
"We asked him to come to New England in inclement weather and try to throw the football and control the football; where you have someone like Tom Brady, who has an enormous hand," he recalled.
"You look at the pictures of Tommy holding a football, part of his accuracy is based on his hand size," he explained. "So things like that, in terms of measurements, they have value.”
Ryan Mallett, as it turns out, had the largest hands among the quarterbacks at the 2011 combine at 10 and 3/4 inches.
With Mallett entering the final year of his contract, this could be the offseason the Patriots add another arm to the pipeline.
Understanding how hand size can play into the quarterback evaluation, below is a sampling of some of the notable hand sizes among this year's combine quarterbacks.
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (10 7/8)
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois and Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M (8 7/8)
Others of note
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (9 7/8)
Blake Bortles, Central Florida (9 3/8)
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (9 1/4)
Tajh Boyd, Clemson (9 5/8)
Derek Carr, Fresno State (9 1/8)
AJ McCarron, Alabama (10)
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois (9 1/4)
Aaron Murray, Georgia (9 1/8)
We won’t be far behind them, as ESPNBoston.com is scheduled to touch down in Indy Wednesday evening.
With the event looming, here’s the rundown of what we’re hoping to learn this year.
1. Who measures up? Ultimately, the combine is known most for the physical testing and drills that will take place from the 22nd to the 25th. We’ll keep a close eye on standout performers, players who struggle, fast risers, fast fallers, and anything else in between. The combine is just a part of the process in evaluating draft prospects, but it can provide extremely important information. One area that the New England Patriots were able to reinforce about top choice Jamie Collins last year was his explosiveness. He set the record for best broad jump in combine history at 11 feet 7 inches.
3. Offseason update. Teams are not required to, but nearly every NFL team provides either its head coach or general manager for a question-and-answer period in the media room during the combine. The Patriots announced that they won't be talking, but in case that changes, it’ll be interesting to hear what either Bill Belichick or Nick Caserio say about the team’s current state.
4. League-wide Patriots perception. Even if Belichick and Caserio don't speak, we’ll pick the brain of the available personnel for their take on areas that the Patriots can improve upon and other franchise-related thoughts.
5. Game of tag? Speaking of franchise, the combine falls in the middle of the current franchise-tag window, and we’ll continue to keep a close eye on any possible movement on that front, both for the Patriots and around the league.
6. Quarterback crop. Quarterback obviously isn’t a top need for the Patriots, though Ryan Mallett does enter the final year of his contract this season. But the position typically headlines the event, with several prominent prospects this year. We’ll look forward to hearing from some of the top players such as Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, and also to see which players opt to throw at the combine.
7. Other notable prospects. During last year’s combine, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o drew what some believed was the largest audience for a player interview in combine history. There are prospects this year who are expected to draw robust crowds, with Manziel and Missouri defensive end Michael Sam topping the list. Sam recently announced he is gay.
8. Players with local ties. We'll aim to track down some of the local area players, as there is a host of combine invitees from New England schools, as well as four players who hail from Massachusetts.
9. Expecting the unexpected. You never know what is going to happen at the combine, which is one reason it’s a particularly unique event. On our way to Lucas Oil Stadium during the first day of the event last year, team ESPNBoston.com crossed paths with former Patriots long-snapper Lonie Paxton, who was in town to promote a product line. We’re counting on more of the same unexpectedness this year.