There are teams facing questions. And then there are teams facing decisions. The Patriots face decisions. They don’t have to puzzle over who will do what for them in 2014. They know their quarterback and head coach. They know who their best defensive and offensive players will be. They have starting-caliber players at every spot. They know – before Memorial Day even arrives – that winning fewer than 10 games and missing the playoffs is a virtual impossibility. So with that in mind, we look at a brief list of decisions that need to be reached. One of those decisions has to do with Tom Brady's backup.
DROPPING HAMMER ON MALLETT?
The sand is dropping out of Ryan Mallett's hourglass.
After three years having the exclusive privilege of backing up Tom Brady, there's a new clipboard carrier in town.
Name's Garoppolo. Jimmy Garoppolo. But since the draft came and went without Mallett being moved (despite the dalliance with Houston), there's no urgency to move Mallett until Garoppolo proves himself trustworthy.
And there won't be much urgency from other clubs until they have their quarterback situations sorted out. So Mallett is likely here for the foreseeable future.
Could he be with the team through camp and into the season. Depends on three things.
First, does Garoppolo show the dependability and grasp Brian Hoyer did when Hoyer was the lone backup as an undrafted rookie from Michigan State?
The talent gap between what Hoyer faced in the Big Ten and Garoppolo did at Eastern Illinois is sizable though. If Garoppolo doesn't show that readiness, then the Patriots stated reason for taking him that highly - so the position won't hold the team's fortunes hostage - has to be respected. So Mallett would have to be kept.
If. If there's no other roster crunch positions which there often are with the specialization-happy Patriots. Then the team will face a decision to keep, say, three quarterbacks or six linebackers.
Finally, Mallett's fortunes are tied to the rest of the league. If a team comes up quarterback hungry, they may still look to swing a deal with the Patriots for a late-round pick. While the fact he's on borrowed time could make teams decide they'll wait until Mallett's released before making a play, the best way to ensure landing him is simple. Make a deal.
Check out the box on the right for the other questions.