There's no avoiding this conversation as we head to the final roster cuts: Should the Patriots designate a roster spot for quarterback Ryan Mallett?
Mallett was a third round pick in 2011 and this upcoming season is the final year under his current contract. His selection was met with questions from all sides; why take a quarterback? Will his value increase with the Patriots? Will this be a waste of a pick?
Mallett has made four regular season pass attempts and hasn't shown the expected growth during the off-seasons. While he should have moved past the off-the-field concerns, his on-the-field issues haven't been addressed. He still lacks consistent touch on short passes. His cannon of an arm can't throw rainbows down the field. He can throw lasers for 150 yards, probably, but he hasn't improved his arm's savviness.
Still, his playing style just hasn't meshed with the Patriots offensive style. Where Tom Brady masters quick throws to allow receivers to continue into the open field, Mallett can't control when the ball reaches his receiver. The ball explodes from his hand and it's just not a match for the offense.
If Mallett is moved to a different offense- one that's more vertical, one that lets him feature his deep-play ability, perhaps he'll have a spot in the league. It's just unfortunate that he hasn't been able to showcase his strengths within the confines of the Patriots offense.
But here comes to debate. Should the Patriots keep Mallett around, even if Jimmy Garoppolo is the clear better option in the offense?
It's not hard to come up with reasons to keep Mallett around for his final season. We saw last night that Garoppolo still has a long way to go before he'll be ready to be featured in an NFL offense. The decision making is not fully baked, nor is his comfort with the speeds of the NFL defenses. Garoppolo might be a great back-up option in 2015, but 2014 is a different story.
Additionally, the Patriots could benefit from a potential compensatory selection should they keep Mallett for the rest of the season. If the team trades Mallett for anything, it would likely be for greater than a 6th round pick- and that's only if they value the draft pick more than they value the roster spot.
The reasoning behind the 6th round designation comes with an expected contract for free agent Mallett. A contract for a top back-up, or a player competing for a starting position, at quarterback would come it at roughly $3-4 million per season. While the compensatory pick also includes on-field production, a contract of that value would normally yield a 6th round pick.
However, is it worth keeping a quarterback, albeit a more experienced figure, if he just isn't a fit for the offense? Is that added value of experience worth more than a roster spot, or a compensatory selection?
When looking at whether the Patriots should hold onto Mallett, here are the main factors:
1) Is his value above Garoppolo worth a roster spot?
2) Is the roster spot worth considering the compensatory calculus?
3) Is an offered draft pick worth more than his value?
It's a round-robin of bullet points that Jimmy Garoppolo could have superseded with an otherworldly performance against the Giants. Because Garoppolo showed promise, but not readiness, we're still having the discussion around Mallett.