Posted by Scout Inc.'s Matt Williamson
After receiving the New England Patriots franchise tag, quarterback Matt Cassel was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. There he was reunited with former Patriots general manager Scott Pioli and obviously is out of the picture on New England's quarterback depth chart.
In order to ship super replacement Cassel out of town, the Patriots must be very confident in Tom Brady's recovery from his serious knee injury. But where does that leave the depth behind Brady?
In the 2008 draft, New England selected the relatively unknown Kevin O'Connell. He's a very physically impressive --but terribly raw -- passer from San Diego State. In many ways, O'Connell is fresh clay for Bill Belichick and his staff to mold, which sounds incredibly similar to Cassel. Being around Brady in meeting rooms and watching the Patriots' coaching staff bring Cassel along step-by-step last year, O'Connell will benefit from that experience.
My bet is that the second-year signal-caller will seem like a new man when camp opens and he gets the opportunity to show what he can do during the preseason. With Brady on the mend, the Pats will have plenty of preseason snaps to distribute and O'Connell should relish that opportunity. The 2009 preseason will be an outstanding time to learn.
Matt Gutierrez is the other quarterback presently on the roster and he isn't to be dismissed, either. In fact, it shocked many that he wasn't kept on the roster over Cassel when cuts were made going into last season. He was impressive during the 2008 preseason and it is entirely feasible that New England is comfortable with the three present quarterbacks that they have right now.
If they feel like another arm is needed, it probably will come in the form of someone with regular season experience. There are a handful of former first-round picks on the open market right now and Belichick might try to resurrect the career of one of a physically gifted signal-caller like J.P. Losman, Rex Grossman, Kyle Boller, Byron Leftwich, Joey Harrington or Patrick Ramsey.
However, with the exception of Leftwich and maybe Ramsey, a recurring issue with this group is overall inconsistency. Each player tends to make improper reads and is turnover prone. Those traits will not be tolerated by Belichick. He might not want to teach these inconsistent and mistake-prone dogs new tricks.
The Patriots need eager, intelligent quarterbacks who value the football. They need arms strong enough to beat the New England fall winds and deliver passes deep Randy Moss. Belichick has shown that he likes to develop his own quarterbacks and the two youngsters on the roster fit the desired requirements.
Don't be surprised if either O'Connell or Gutierrez earn the job as Brady's backup. They just might surprise you. It has happened before.