LANDOVER, Md. – I don’t think the Patriots want to cut Ryan Mallett.
First, they respect the way he’s done his business here and like him as an employee. Second, they love value and releasing him at the end of the month while getting nothing back in return is anathema to them.
But I think we all know the Patriots are going to have a hard time keeping him when it comes to select the final 53.
The end of this team’s roster is filled with players who either have valuable specialty skills or are still ascending. Jimmy Garoppolo’s not going anywhere. And the Patriots probably won’t have room for two guys to watch Tom Brady rip it up.
So do they cut him? Keep him? Trade him?
The team needs as much info as it can gather and starting Mallett Thursday night gives them an unobstructed view of what he can do. And it gives the rest of the league a long look at how Mallett operates throwing to starters and not rookie backups who sound like they stepped out of a Dr. Seuss book and into the Patriots huddle (Wilson Van Hooser?)
What happens at FedEx Field and next week against the Eagles with both Mallett and Garoppolo is critical.
If Mallett’s inconsistent, teams looking for quarterback help will feel less urgency to propose a deal since the likelihood of Mallett being cut will, presumably, rise. Why give up a draft pick for a guy who’s going to be released?
But if Mallett plays well, the Patriots can keep priming the pump for a deal. Mike Mayock’s comments earlier this week seemed like an overt effort at doing just that. The gushing praise of Mallett’s Monday performance from Mayock, an NFL Network analyst and buddy of Bill Belichick came out of nowhere. If it wasn’t a favor, it came at the perfect time for the Patriots and for Mallett because he’s now carrying the Mayock stamp of approval as an NFL starter into the preseason.
But it’s not just about how Mallett looks. Garoppolo and he are intertwined.
If Diamond Jimmy shows no signs of being able to run the offense capably over these two games, the Patriots will have to weigh retaining Mallett.
Think about it: Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner or Mallett for the last spot with an inept Garoppolo a heartbeat from running the team? You keep Mallett.
For Garoppolo, running the offense goes far beyond passing stats. Getting the team in and out of the huddle, communicating with the offensive line, backs and receivers, making the correct calls, making the right post-snap reads and understanding situations are the subtle but critical things the Patriots will be evaluating when the second-round rookie is in there.
All this means that, when it comes to the most important position on the field, this is anything but a meaningless game.