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Recent flirtations with Locker and Mallett may suggest New England is exploring the possibility of finding an eventual successor in this draft to reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Tom Brady, who will turn 34 in August. Brady is signed through the 2014 season and will be 37 at the end of his contract.
The Patriots also could use this research to look into trade possibilities with other teams more desperate for a quarterback. This year the Patriots have the No. 17 and No. 28 picks in the first round, as well as the No. 33 overall pick at the top of the second round. This gives New England a lot of flexibility.In an appearance on Sirius NFL Radio on Monday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the team has received many inquiries on its first three selections. "We've definitely been contacted by teams below us, offering [us] to move back, and [teams] seeing if we want to move up into a better position," he said. "Of course, that usually doesn't get finalized until draft day, but there definitely seems to be a lot of interest in our draft picks. As you know, we're not afraid to trade them."
Mallett is arguably the best pure passer in this draft. He threw for 3,869 yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season with the Razorbacks.
The Patriots do not have a proven quarterback on their roster behind Brady. Backup Brian Hoyer joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and has thrown for just 247 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his career.
James Walker covers the NFL for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.