Bill Belichick has proven time and time again that he's not afraid to be unconventional when it comes to constructing his roster. In the past he's kept as many as five running backs and as few as three. He's had four quarterbacks and just two. Linebackers have ranged from six to 10.
So when it comes to filling out his 53, Belichick isn't bound by any rules.
Earlier this month he selected quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round, virtually guaranteeing the rookie out of Eastern Illinois a spot on the 2014 Patriots. With Tom Brady obviously entrenched as the starter, the question becomes – will Ryan Mallett stick around for another year as the backup?
In recent seasons Mallett has served as Brady's lone understudy. Back in 2011, Mallett's rookie year, the third-round pick out of Arkansas joined Brian Hoyer on the roster, marking the last time Belichick has kept three quarterbacks on his roster.
But the fact that Mallett was a wide-eyed rookie wasn't the sole factor in that decision. Just two years earlier Hoyer served as the lone backup during his rookie season, and he earned that distinction after making the club as an undrafted rookie that summer.
Trade rumors involving Mallett have swirled for quite some time, and Garoppolo's arrival only caused those to intensify. But Belichick hasn't pulled the trigger on any deal, and recently told Sirius-XM NFL Radio's "Movin' the Chains" program that he was "not interested" in trading Mallett.
So it would appear that all three will be heading to training camp in July and the fight for No. 2 would begin. Our question is less about the backup job itself as it is about the precious roster spots.
This week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Should the Patriots keep three quarterbacks on the roster?
PFW's Erik Scalavino says ...
In public comments, Belichick has made quite clear he has no intention of parting with Mallett. He's certainly not going to part with Garoppolo anytime soon. So, if we are to take Belichick at his word about Mallett, it stands to reason that New England will be guaranteed to have three quarterbacks on its 53-man roster this fall.
And I think it's the right move.
Garoppolo may be the heir apparent to Brady, whose contract expires at the end of 2017, when the franchise QB will be 40 years old. Then again, the rookie from Division I-AA Eastern Illinois may not be ready at all for the big-time world of NFL football – at least not right away.
I don't think it will take long for the wide-eyed rookie to adjust to the NFL. But it might take a little longer than the Patriots would like. For that reason, it seems Belichick is intent on hedging his bet with Garoppolo by being so outspoken about Mallett's status with the club. And I agree. The Patriots should and will keep three QBs on the roster this year.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
I've never felt the need for three quarterbacks when your starter is an established star. If there were a possibility of the starter being yanked for poor play – something that obviously will not happen to Tom Brady – then perhaps I'd feel differently. But since Brady would only leave the field due to injury, I don't want to waste a spot on a third quarterback.
Belichick felt Garoppolo was worth drafting in the second round. He said the team placed a high value on him, so much so that he felt he couldn't pass on him. Therefore he should have the ability to serve as the backup quarterback without keeping Mallett around as a safety net.
The roster spot could be better used on a player who has a chance of contributing on the field in game action. Let Garoppolo develop as Brady's successor and find someone who can help the team win as a spot with less depth. If you can get something for Mallett, even better, but either way I'd go with two.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.