One of the biggest stories coming out of the draft has been the Patriots taking Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round. Obviously, using such a high pick on a quarterback means that the organization is preparing for life after Tom Brady. It also spells trouble for Ryan Mallett, New England’s current backup. Drafted out of Arkansas in 2011, Mallett was first seen as a potential successor to Tom Terrific. However, Mallett hasn’t shown enough in his preseason playing time to prove that he can step up and be the guy if needed.
The Houston Texans are rumored to be interested in the embattled backup. While Mallett-trade-talk usually swirls up this time every offseason, there are plenty of factors that suggest it might actually happen this year. Former Pats quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien is Houston’s new head coach. O’Brien worked closely with Mallett during his time in New England and the Texans need all the quarterback help they can get. Houston drafted Pitt’s Tom Savage, brought in veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, and kept two young flash-in-the-pan successes in Case Keenum and T.J. Yates, but they still own one of the more depressing stables of signal callers in the league. While Mallett is anything but a proven commodity, more is absolutely merrier for the Texans at this point. Having that history and familiarity with the new boss also helps him out.
What makes this potential trade so interesting is what the Patriots might get in return. Word out of Houston is that star receiver Andre Johnson is not happy with the direction of the team. Johnson has publicly voiced frustration after 2013’s abysmal 2-14 campaign. After 11 years with the Texans that yielded just three winning seasons, a change of scenery could do Johnson some good. While he isn’t a spring chicken at the age of 32, Johnson is a Pro-Bowl caliber pass-catcher who just put together consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons in 2012 and 2013. He also has over 900 receptions and 12,000 yards for his career. New England needs a big, dominant playmaker at receiver. Julian Edelman was a pleasant surprise last year and rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson showed promise, but adding a consistent veteran like Johnson to a group of young guys could be the push the Pats need to get over that Super Bowl hump.
Although this trade is only gossip right now, it seems like a win-win. Bill O’Brien gets deeper at a position of need and can ease into his new job with a familiar face at quarterback. The Patriots would add proven talent to an already talented, if slightly inexperienced, bunch of receivers. The only real question is how awkward that phone call may be between Belichick and O’Brien, given Belichick’s coldness to former colleagues (Mangini, McDaniels? Looking at you guys). At least they won’t have to shake hands until next year at the earliest.