This is the fifth in a series of position-by-position looks at the Patriots heading into free agency. Today's position: Quarterbacks.Who's on the roster?Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan MallettPatriots need level?1. Position overview?If you want a quarterback for the next five years, you might say Aaron Rodgers is the guy. If you want a guy for 2012? Tom Brady. If a surefire Hall of Famer could be underrated, Brady is it. Five Super Bowl appearances in 10 seasons as a starter and people insisted he needed a Super Bowl win in February to "validate" his career and position as one of the five best to ever play the position? Right. Hoyer is the capable backup. He's a restricted free agent. Mallett is the rifleman in waiting. Who's out there?Who cares? Although I understand Peyton Manning is available. Okay, let's say Hoyer gets a nice deal and the Pats decline to match. Here are some backup options. Chad Henne, Dolphins: I really don't think he's that bad at all. Josh McCown, Bears: Again, competent backup who can run a team if worse comes to worst. Shaun Hill, Lions: See the McCown skinny. Other names of note?Not really. Free agent forecast?The Patriots won't be in on any free-agent quarterbacks unless Hoyer gets signed somewhere, and even then . . . They have their backup and their developmental guy. I'm personally interested to see what happens with Mallett down the road.
The NFL and NFLPA began conferring Monday, presumably to lay the foundation for a settlement before they meet with Judge Richard Berman.