The New England Patriots have proven over the years to be savvy players on the NFL trade market. They've shown that once again after deciding to trade backup quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Houston Texans only days before the start of the 2014 regular season.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com first reported news of the agreement Sunday:
Ryan Mallett has been traded to the #Texans, source says— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 31, 2014
The Patriots later confirmed the trade on their Twitter account:
Paul Perillo of Patriots Football Weekly reported on the Patriots' return for Mallett:
Pick for Mallett looks like a conditional choice that will be a 7th unless he plays 40% of the snaps for Houston, which would make it a 6th— Paul Perillo (@pfwpaul) August 31, 2014
And the Mallett draft choice is for 2016— Paul Perillo (@pfwpaul) August 31, 2014
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports other teams were also in trade discussions for Mallett:
The Patriots had trade discussions with the Texans, Cowboys and Bills, per source.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) August 31, 2014
Mallett had been the subject of trade talks for some time, which caused Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News to express relief at the end of the saga:
Ben Volin of The Boston Globe stated what the trade meant regarding who will back up Tom Brady this season:
Jimmy Garoppolo wins the #Patriots backup QB job— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) August 31, 2014
Following the move, the Texans released backup quarterback Case Keenum to make room for Mallett (via Adam Caplan of ESPN):
#Texans have informed QB Case Keenum that they will waive him (in order to make room for Mallett), source said.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) August 31, 2014
The trade makes sense for the Texans, who currently have Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Savage on the roster at quarterback. The former certainly doesn't appear to be Houston's long-term answer at the position, so adding someone like Mallett, who is young and has some upside, is a logical move.
Mallett also has familiarity with Texans head coach Bill O'Brien, who was the Patriots' offensive coordinator during his rookie season.
The 26-year-old signal-caller became available after the strong preseason play of rookie Jimmy Garoppolo, who the Pats selected in the second round of this year's draft. The Eastern Illinois product shined in the preseason, and it became evident that Mallett, who will become a free agent after the 2014 season, was expendable.
New England picked Mallett in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft. In his career, he has appeared in only four games and has attempted just four passes, completing one for 17 yards while also throwing an interception.
Thus, as Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus notes, we really don't know what Mallett is capable of at this point:
Mallett was rumored to be a first-round pick in 2011. Fell to the third. Considered raw. Hasn't had a real shot to play yet.— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) May 8, 2014
Now, the Pats have received some compensation for him and still have a quality backup for Brady.
Houston could give Mallett a shot this year as a low-risk option if Fitzpatrick proves to be a bust. If he doesn't work out, his contract is up after the year regardless. But if he does, the Texans could catch lightning in a bottle and find some long-term stability under center.
Clearly, O'Brien sees potential in him. At 6'6" and 245 pounds—and with a big arm—he certainly looks the part. He'll have solid receivers to work with in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, as well as a talented running back in Arian Foster, who is hoping for a bounce-back campaign after an injury-riddled 2013 season.
Mallett also has three years of knowledge and wisdom gained from sitting behind Brady, perhaps the best mentor a young player could ask for upon entering the league. Though he hasn't had many reps, he certainly had the benefit of learning from one of the NFL's greats and played under one of the most revered head coaches in the game.
There will be growing pains, but we should find out pretty quickly if Mallett is a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. It's possible the Texans are getting a franchise signal-caller out of this deal, but in all likelihood, Mallett may just wind up being a one-year player and potential bust.