As most New England Patriots fans know by now, New England is entering the draft with just five picks this year.
While it is quite likely that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will trade down at some point to acquire more picks, he does have one ace up his sleeve: backup quarterback Ryan Mallett.
The primary knock on Mallett at the time was rather nebulous "character concerns"; Pro Football Weekly described him as "immature," "not a respected leader," warning that his "character needs to be evaluated very closely."
What the Patriots saw was a strong-armed quarterback who was a dedicated film junkie. In a post-draft interview with ESPN, Belichick said of Mallett that, "He's very into football. You can't wear him out."
Mallett has had little chance to show what he can do; he's only attempted a handful of passes in the last two years during the regular season. But, in a draft where there are few, if any, quarterbacks without major question marks, Mallett seems like a reasonable alternative for a team looking for the classic "dropback" quarterback. (Mallett's size and feet—he's even larger than Tom Brady, and not much faster—isn't well suited to a team looking for a quarterback similar to Robert Griffin III or Johnny Manziel.)
Mallett's biggest problem, though, is the extension that Tom Brady received earlier this year. Since Mallett only has two years left on his contract, it's hard to envision a scenario in which Mallett beats out a healthy Brady for the starter's job. (For Patriots fans, scenarios involving an injured Brady are even more difficult to contemplate.)
Should the Pats trade Mallett? Will they?
On the other hand, MassLive.com columnist Nick Underhill has written that the fact that Mallett has two years left on his contract is a stumbling block to his being traded. Because the new CBA prohibits teams from re-negotiating rookie contracts for three years, some teams may be scared off.
To me, this seems illogical. I would think that the ability to get Mallett for at least one year of bargain-basement price (he's scheduled to make about $640,000 in 2013) would make him more enticing. After all, a team would have a year's "test drive" before having to pony up a multi-million dollar extension.
According to the Boston Globe's Greg Bedard, multiple teams have called the Patriots in the last few days about a potential trade for Mallett. He suggests that the Patriots are looking for either a second-round pick in this year's draft or a first-round pick in 2014. (For what it's worth, the Cleveland Browns, the team most often mentioned as a trade partner, enters this year's draft without a second-rounder.)
If the Patriots trade Mallett, then it's unlikely that anyone backing up Brady in 2013 will have as much experience in the Patriots' system as Mallett does. So, all in all, it boils down to this: Will any team make an offer good enough to convince Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft to part with Mallett?
By Friday night, we'll have our answer.