The 49ers’ decision to move Alex Smith has set this offseason’s trade market for quarterbacks, and that’s key for the Patriots and Ryan Mallett.
Even though two sources indicated Tuesday the Patriots aren’t actively trying to trade Mallett, the possibility makes too much sense to ignore, especially this early in the offseason process. Plus, there is a minuscule difference between actively shopping and stumbling into a great offer.
There were long odds for Mallett to be Tom Brady’s heir apparent to the Patriots’ throne even before the franchise quarterback’s contract extension. Mallett’s contract expires after 2014, which means he’d have to turn down a chance to compete elsewhere for a starting job to re-sign with the Pats.

If Mallett is indeed good enough to start for another team, it would be alarming for him to balk at the chance. Now that Brady is signed through 2017, barring some disastrous circumstances, it’s conceivable that his eventual replacement is still in high school.
Plus, the Patriots spent a third-round pick on Mallett in 2011, even though they were happy with backup Brian Hoyer. The immediate speculation was the Pats saw value in a quarterback who was once viewed as a high first-round pick, and if Mallett developed while keeping his reputation clean away from the field, the team could flip him for a better pick. The Pats could use an additional selection in April, as two of their five picks are in the last round.
Now seems like as good of a time as any, particularly while surveying a weak crop of quarterbacks in free agency and the draft. The Chiefs’ acquisition of Smith yesterday continues to prove that, as they sent away a 2013 second-round pick and a conditional mid-round selection in 2014. This was for a player with a 38-36-1 record and a career completion percentage of 59.3, which has actually spiked in two seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh.
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