By Sam Ingro
The rumors involving the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots QB Ryan Mallett have been passed around since Vice President of Player Personnel Michael Lombardi joined the front office.
The connections are well past obvious, as Lombardi and Patriots coach Bill Belichick have been close friends since working together in Cleveland in the early nineties. On a more recent level, Lombardi has assisted Belichick with game plans and scouting decisions, so their friendship extends far into the NFL realm.
Lombardi has not made it a secret that he coveted Mallett at the top of his draft board in 2011, claiming that he was a sure-fire first round pick, and urged the Dolphins to make the selection. Combined with his assessment of the Brandon Weeden selection being a “panicked disaster,” the writing on the wall for Weeden appears to be looming overhead.
The circumstances only seem to be growing more and more opportune as the offseason unfolds. This week, the Patriots extended their franchise QB Tom Brady into the 2017 season, making the likelihood of Mallett starting any time in the next four seasons practically non-existant. With the Patriots only having five picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, the time could be right for Belichick to pull the trigger on a deal.
Ironically, the last Patriot to start at QB for New England that was not named Brady is speculated to become a free agent soon. The Kansas City Chiefs, after reaching a deal with the San Francisco 49ers for Alex Smith, will likely release Matt Cassell.
The chances that Cassell will start for a team in 2013 are very slim, so the Patriots could take the opportunity to sign their former backup, and hope he flourishes in the offense like last time. His experience and familiarity with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could present an enticing reunion that Belichick may not be able to turn down; thus making Mallett expendable.
The catch is the draft pick. It was reported by the Boston Globe that the Patriots would move Mallett “in a heartbeat” for a second round pick, something the Browns do not possess after selecting Josh Gordon in the 2012 Supplemental Draft. Whether the Patriots would be willing to cut their losses and reacquire only the third-round pick that they used to select Mallett or not is debatable.
Perhaps a friend-discount to Lombardi could be taken into account, otherwise a 2014 second-round pick is not out of the question. The decision comes down to whether the Browns feel that the 30-year old Weeden is an upgrade over the 24-year old Mallett or not, and something tells this writer, they just might think so.
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