There were some raised eyebrows when the Patriots used a second-round pick on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo back in May's NFL Draft. Not so much because future Hall of Famer Tom Brady remains the unquestioned starter but because Ryan Mallett, once a third-round pick, is also still on the roster.
But Mallett, who was mentioned in trade rumors this offseason, is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the assumption is that, one way or the other, he won't be in New England a year from now -- if not before then.
Whether that means the Patriots will try to trade Mallett in the coming weeks and months, or if they will release him outright is another matter. But for now, the coaching staff has to be impressed with how well Garoppolo's played through training camp and two preseason games.
Against the Eagles Friday, it was Garoppolo and not Mallett who served at Brady's backup. His first drive ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass to James Develin. A drive later, Garoppolo hooked up with Brandon LaFell for a four-yard score. By the time his night was over, the rookie was 6 of 12 for 72 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a passer rating of 108.3.
“There is plenty of stuff to correct,” Garoppolo said after the game. “I’m a still a rookie, still learning as we go. There are always going to be things to correct and button up. But overall a good game, and good to get a W.”
But after an uneven showing in the first preseason game against the Redskins, Mallett played well too. He replaced Garoppolo as the No. 3 quarterback, but completed 7 of 11 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
“You get to play in the game. That’s all that matters,” Mallett said.” I just want to go out there and try to get better as a player. I feel like I did tonight. I have to just keep building on it.”
And that's the thing; the Pats and Bill Belichick could decide to keep three quarterbacks on the roster -- at least for the time being. Not only as insurance against (God forbid) losing Brady to injury, but because as the season progresses and starters get injured, the price on young, healthy, high-upside quarterbacks will be at a premium.