The first three weeks of the Patriots preseason have been, for the most part, uneventful.
There are only a couple of position battles still to be decided, the most intriguing being the duel between Ryan Mallett and rookie Jimmy Garoppolo for the backup quarterback spot. Garoppolo has impressed many with his accuracy and poise in the pocket, two attributes often attested to current starter Tom Brady. Mallett has been underwhelming, to say the least. Everyone knows he has a huge arm, but his lack of accuracy and poor decisions make fans cringe. At the start of training camp, analysts claimed Mallett was fully groomed and ready to become a starting QB in his fourth NFL season. He certainly hasn’t proved them right yet.
The obvious and most popular opinion in New England is to trade Mallett and slot in Garoppolo as the #2 QB, knowing that if Brady goes down the season is likely done anyways. Not so fast. Mallett’s lack of regular season experience has turned off potential trade partners. Remember, this is a guy with as many interceptions as completions in his regular season career. For a team willing to give up a reasonable draft pick, they’d need to be in dire need of a quarterback.
The most logical choice would seem to be the St. Louis Rams, who just lost former #1 pick and franchise quarterback Sam Bradford for the season. Bradford missed much of last year, as well, so the organization is surely having second thoughts on him. The deal makes sense because the Rams have a monstrous front four led by Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Their back seven is young but showed flashes of brilliance last season, highlighted by a 38-8 romp of Indianapolis on the road. The offense is headed by emerging sophomore running back Zac Stacy, leaving the QB and his receivers as the only thing holding St. Louis back from being a legitimate playoff team.
Mallett’s lack of experience may not be the only reason teams have been reluctant to trade for him. Rumors say that the Patriots are reportedly asking for a high draft pick in exchange. This seems fair, as the majority of current starting NFL QBs have been drafted in the first round (19/32, including Bradford). The Rams figure to be out of the playoffs this year, regardless of who becomes the quarterback. This means that their first round pick would be somewhere in the top 20, likely in the 12-16 range. One can’t blame St. Louis if it decides not to give up that pick.
Instead, the Patriots could ask for a second rounder, giving them a pick (hopefully) in the late first, mid-second and late second round. Evaluating the trade is pretty simple: the Rams get their QB for 2014 and a legitimate contender to a shaky Sam Bradford, while the Pats have an opportunity to draft another starting-caliber player, perhaps at tight end or safety. The loss will be essentially nothing if all goes right, as Brady will play for around three more years, giving plenty of time for Garoppolo to properly become his heir.
Of course, there are other teams who could use help slinging the pigskin. The Texans were the team it appeared Mallett was likely going to end up on prior to training camp. They have a very talented team that’s currently surrounding the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum. Yeah, maybe they should consider an upgrade.
One other dark horse team that could throw around the idea of trading for Mallett is the Pats’ current rival Denver. Yes, they have Peyton Manning. But for how much longer? A year? Two? The Broncos are in all-out win now mode with no decent QB for the future. Sorry, Brock Osweiler. Because of Denver’s current state, it doesn’t make sense that they would be concerned about giving up a high draft pick. That might just be the perfect trade for Mallett, who would be blessed with an awesome receiving core and a running back who is projected to be a beast in Montee Ball.
These trades all seem realistic, and Bill Belichick will assuredly find the most value possible out of “Big Tex” Ryan Mallett.