What the Ryan Mallett trade means for Houston and New England
Several months after rumors of a possible Ryan Mallett-to-Houston trade began swirling, the Patriots and Texans finally completed that trade Sunday. The cost for Houston to acquire Mallett: Reportedly, a conditional 2016 seventh-round pick -- a price tag that indicates rather obviously that Mallett was on the verge of being released by the Patriots, three years removed from being drafted.
• Jimmy Garoppolo won the Patriots' backup QB job: The most obvious storyline. Garoppolo wasted little time impressing the Patriots during his debut preseason, leapfrogging Mallett to take over for Brady in a win over Philadelphia and seeing a full game's worth of action last week against the Giants. The No. 62 overall pick in this year's draft, Garoppolo finished the preseason 46-for-79 through the air for 618 yards, five touchdowns and one interception; Mallett was just 14-for-26 for 161 yards and one TD.
• Case Keenum is the odd man out in Houston: No surprise here, either -- Houston just signed expected starter Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason and then drafted Tom Savage, whose size and arm strength fit the mold wanted by new head coach/noted QB guru Bill O'Brien. The Texans were carrying three quarterbacks prior to swinging the deal for Mallett, but they certainly are not going to take four into the regular season.
Keenum, 0-8 as a starter last season despite briefly injecting some life into Houston's offense, may land in Baltimore. That's where ex-Texans coach Gary Kubiak now runs the offense and where a shaky backup QB situation exists in the form of Tyrod Taylor.
• Houston's QB derby may be on: "He's a guy that earned the job," O'Brien said of Fitzpatrick upon naming him the team's starting QB back in mid-June. While that may be true, the competition was not exactly fierce from Keenum or Savage. Fitzpatrick was adequate enough in the preseason (25-for-43, 232 yards, one TD, two INTs and three scoring drives under his watch).
Mallett's arrival changes the landscape a bit. Even though the now-former Patriot was downright putrid at times this preseason, like in an appearance at Washington, he has been groomed behind Brady for the past three seasons. Despite popular belief, being Brady's backup alone does not guarantee future NFL success but there remains a little mystique tied to the gig. O'Brien, of course, was a New England assistant from 2007-11 and the offensive coordinator for his final season. His system in Houston will look familiar to Mallett, and the two worked together during that '11 campaign.
The biggest hurdle to Mallett unseating Fitzpatrick might be time. Houston's season-opener is a mere week away, meaning there will be very few practice snaps available for Mallett with the first-team offense and no exhibition contests. Any climbing up the depth chart that Mallett intends to do will have to occur inside a very small window and with limited exposure to his new teammates.
• Mallett's future beyond 2014-15 is still uncertain ... for now: Barring any sort of contract extension, Mallett is still set to become a free agent at the end of the 2014-15 season. Currently, he has eight regular-season NFL passes and no starts on his resume. Houston will not feel at all tied to him by this trade, thanks to the extremely low cost of acquiring him. And O'Brien may decide that he already has his developmental QB of the future in Savage.
Does Mallett get a legitimate shot at the starting gig right away? Will he be in the mix for 2015? Those answers are TBD.
• Houston's eye may yet be on the 2015 draft: When the Texans passed on a quarterback in favor of Jadeveon Clowney and then repeated the strategy in Rounds 2 (Xavier Su'a-Filo) and 3 (C.J. Fiedorowicz/Louis Nix), conventional wisdom said that the franchise would have to reassess its lot come next year's draft. Even with Savage and Mallett on board, that still could be the plan of attack.
Let's say the Texans flop again this year, with one or both of Mallett and Savage getting a crack at playing time. The same scenario, more or less, played out in Houston last season with Matt Schaub, Keenum and T.J. Yates seeing action. Fitzpatrick, 32 come November, would be a tough QB-of-the-future sell. If the Mallett-Savage duo fail to show much progress, then what?
Well, the '15 draft is shaping up to include quite a few intriguing quarterbacks, led by the likes of Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Could Houston really pass all of them up again if the 2014 season does not go according to plan?