Matt Cassel, Ryan Mallett & QB salaries

Wednesday's news that former New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel was opting out of his contract with the Minnesota Vikings, potentially leaving $3.7 million on the table (including a $500,000 bonus), caught the eye.

It highlights the general marketplace for a top backup quarterback, which is about $3.5-4 million per season. That is the range in which Matt Hasselbeck (Colts) and Kyle Orton (Cowboys) fall, and projects to be where the Jaguars and valuable backup Chad Henne are likely to be negotiating as free agency approaches.

When considering this marketplace, and the Patriots' recent financial history at the position, it increases the odds that the team will strongly consider adding a developmental quarterback in 2014.

Consider what the Patriots have spent, base-salary-wise, at the backup quarterback spot over the past six years:

2009: $310,000 (Brian Hoyer)

2010: $395,000 (Hoyer)

2011: $480,000 + $375,000 (Hoyer/Ryan Mallett)

2012: $508,992 (Mallett)

2013: $642,984 (Mallett)

2014: $776,976 (Mallett)

The team ultimately moved away from Hoyer in 2012 when he had a restricted free-agent tender of $1.9 million.

As for Mallett, he enters the final year of his contract in 2014, and if he continues his development, he could position himself for a deal that aligns with the current marketplace for top backup quarterbacks, if not more. With Tom Brady signed through 2017 and still playing at a high level, one could easily envision Mallett elsewhere in 2015.

That is why, in the ever-evolving team-building process, it wouldn't be surprising if the Patriots select a quarterback in the middle to late rounds of the 2014 draft.