In three seasons, Brian Hoyer has appeared in parts of 13 games, going 27 for 43 for 286 yards, a touchdown and an interception. (Getty Images)
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Every year, there are one or two restricted free agents in the NFL that seem like prime candidates to break through the league's apparent under-the-table, handshake agreement to leave RFAs alone.
This offseason, Brian Hoyer was one of those guys.
The Patriots slapped a second-round tender on Hoyer, who signed with New England as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and has spent the past three seasons holding a clipboard while Tom Brady ran the show. But, with greater and greater frequency, teams have tried to find their new QBs by eyeing backups around the league -- just as Arizona did with ex-Eagle Kevin Kolb, Seattle recently did with ex-Packer Matt Flynn, and Kansas City did (to some extent) by plucking Matt Cassel from New England after he filled in for an injured Brady in 2008.
Hoyer could be the next in line there, and the Patriots might be willing to listen if another team comes calling.
The Patriots like Mallett, but how much? If they believe he can be a suitable backup for Tom Brady this season, they might get aggressive in terms of trying to move Brian Hoyer, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. If a quarterback goes down elsewhere, the Patriots should be more inclined to flip Hoyer for a pick if they believe in Mallett.
Hoyer's trade value came up just prior to the draft, too, when Patriots director of player personnel Nick Cesario told the NFL Network's Ian Rapaport that New England would listen if teams called about Hoyer or Mallett.
While Mallett's presence gives New England a safety net behind Hoyer, the main reason the Patriots may explore a trade market is that Hoyer, 26, will be an unrestricted free agent after next season. While he may decide to wait it out in New England in hopes that he can take over when Brady, now 34, calls it quits, it's very possible that a better situation and more money will await him elsewhere.
In that case, the Patriots risk losing a big chip without getting more than a compensatory draft pick or two -- a route that the Packers recently took by letting Flynn walk.
The flip side of that discussion is that it's hard to determine what Hoyer's exact value is, given that he's thrown all of 43 career NFL passes and has never seen meaningful time. The rest of the league already balked at the second-round price tag when Hoyer was out there as a restricted free agent, but would a third- or fourth-round pick be enough to pry Brady's backup loose?
For the sake of discussion, Tim Tebow was sent from Denver to the Jets for a fourth-rounder this offseason, then the Jets subsequently dealt Drew Stanton to Indianapolis for a sixth-round selection. Hoyer, by all accounts, has a higher upside than either of those players as a pure, pro-style quarterback.
As Howe wrote, the Patriots' best opportunity to get something of value for Hoyer -- if that's the route they choose to go down -- may come if an injury befalls a current starting QB at some point in the next few months. Outside of that, there are not that many teams in dire need of quarterback help, unless a Minnesota or Arizona opts to go a different direction.