The New England Patriots still have second-string quarterback Ryan Mallett, but that could all change for the better if Mallett can put all that purported progression together into one big preseason. Mallett showed more poise last preseason season after an offseason that wasn’t shortened due to the locket, but it still didn’t seem like he had the accuracy he needed. Dubbed a statue by critics, Mallett will likely remain a Drew Bledsoe-clone in the pocket. However, the key isn’t mobility; it’s sensing pressure and staying calm in the pocket. It seemed like Mallett got the hang of that last preseason, but now is the time for Mallett to show off the kind of accuracy and decision-making that can make him a legitimate starting quarterback in this league.
The two most important traits a quarterback can have are accuracy and decision-making, and I’m sure most Patriots fans will attest to the importance of those two skills, given the fact that Tom Brady has been the best in the NFL at both for some time. Whether he is still the best QB in the league is up for some debate, but let’s not make this about Brady. But the interesting thing with Mallett is that, if he wants to be a starting quarterback, he won’t get his chance at starting in New England due to Brady. The Patriots legend is still going to play until about another five seasons, and that constitutes an eternity for a quarterback heading into this third season.
What Mallett needs to do is at least capture lightning in a bottle this preseason and, if it helps, trade some of that gunslinging for accuracy. I presume that Mallett’s goal is to start for somebody, and that’s going to happen if he proves he is worth a second-round pick in trade value. I doubt the Pats are going to drop their asking price on Mallett to below a second-round pick, because they did draft him in the third round and have invested a few years worth in him as a quality backup. The Patriots organization is high on Mallett, but the key is trying to get other teams to be as high on Mallett.
Honestly, the best interests of Mallett and the Patriots are the same. The Patriots want Mallett to show off his ability and growth as much as possible so that they can deal him for a high draft pick. Mallett says he wants to remain a Patriot and I believe him, but I would think that he’d rather be a starting quarterback of his own instead of stuck in proverbial no-man’s land behind Brady for another handful of seasons. The only way Mallett starts in New England is if Brady is injured, so he is by definition a backup and contingency plan here.
If the Pats do end up trading Ryan Mallett, then it’s going to happen in the offseason for that reason. If they trade Mallett and- God forbid- Brady goes down, then all that is left is Tim Tebow. I don’t hate Tebow or anything, but I would be more than a little leery to have Tebow as the lone backup, especially if the Patriots don’t know what they have in him.
Ideally, Mallett shows a ton of progression this season in the accuracy and decision-making departments, because that would look great in combination with his insane arm strength. I would love to hold onto Mallett, but it is probably best for the Patriots to pump up his value and deal him next offseason for at least a second-round pick. If he shows up enough, then Mallett could even fetch a higher price for the Pats, and he would also be able to have a big chance at capturing a starting gig. Life after Mallett for the Patriots might include Tim Tebow in the equation, but I would think the Pats would want to draft quarterbacks and try to develop them as backups or for trade value in the process.
Mallett represents a win-win situation for the Patriots. They seem to feel more than comfortable with him as the backup, so a ho-hum preseason would just mean a stable backup situation for this team. A big preseason would likely mean significant assets heading back to the Patriots via a trade in the offseason, and having a talented young quarterback is a valuable trade piece to have. I wonder if the Patriots will make this a cycle if they do trade Mallett, but the one thing that is clear to me is that the Pats are only going to deal Mallett for a high price; they aren’t going to lose a top backup option for less.