Could the Cleveland Browns Be in the Market for Ryan Mallett?

Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 23:  Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the New England Patriots warms up before the start of the Patriots game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Browns have hired Michael Lombardi away from the NFL Network and made him their new director of player personnel (essentially making him the GM). 

This will be Lombardi's second stint in Cleveland after he served as Bill Belichick's director of player personnel from 1992 through 1995. And that Belichick connection is already leading to speculation.

One of the worst-kept secrets of the offseason was Cleveland's interest in Lombardi, which has given the media plenty of time to speculate on potential moves Lombardi would make. Considering Lombardi's criticism of the Browns' selection of Brandon Weeden (he called it a "panicked disaster"), his documented interest in Ryan Mallett, and the Belichick connection, it's no surprise that Mallett-to-the-Browns ideas have already surfaced. 

What is surprising, however, is the speculated asking price below: 

Mallett to the Browns will probably heat up. Browns will have to give up number 6 overall pick this year, plus more. No clue what else.

— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) January 18, 2013

If the Browns were to part with the sixth overall selection, it would be an unprecedented haul for a former third-round pick with a grand total of four pass attempts (including one interception) in two seasons as Tom Brady's backup. 

For some perspective on what it should take to acquire Mallett, let's take a look at a few recent trades involving similar quarterbacks: 

  • In 2011, the Cardinals acquired Kevin Kolb, a former second-round pick with seven career starts under his belt, from the Eagles in exchange for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick. 
  • In 2007, the Texans acquired Matt Schaub, a former third-round pick with two career starts, from the Falcons in exchange for two second-round picks and swap of first-round picks (the Falcons moved up from 10 to eight).

So how does this apply to Mallett? For starters, both Kolb and Schaub had considerably more experience and were highly thought of around the league. Prior to the trades, it was a virtual certainty that a team would be willing to put together a package to acquire the quarterbacks. Both were widely regarded as future starters who were ready to finally step into that role. Mallet, on the other hand, has no meaningful experience at the NFL level which should keep his asking price significantly lower compared to both Kolb and Schaub. 

Additionally, there's the tricky question of Mallett's off-field issues. While he has presumably stayed out of trouble during his two years in New England, reports of drug use and other off-field incidents played a significant role in causing his fall to the third round of the draft. And for that reason, a number of potential suitors would likely shy away from a trade for the same reason they steered clear in 2011.

So if the Patriots wish to move Mallett, they're dealing with a limited market. Only a handful of teams are interested in acquiring a quarterback every year, and of those teams, a portion of them may not be interested in investing in Mallett as a starter based on his limited experience and/or the off-field issues.

With the market in mind, it is difficult to envision the Browns needing to offer a package including the sixth overall selection to acquire Mallett. A more realistic trade would be to send the sixth pick to New England in exchange for their first-round selection (29-32 depending on the playoff results) and Mallett.