Should Pats begin search for Brady's heir?

The New England Patriots have the reigning league MVP and unanimous All-Pro selection at quarterback.

Do they need to find his replacement?

Boston Herald reporter Ian R. Rapoport has been exploring that question the past couple days and trying to determine what Bill Belichick has in mind for a Tom Brady exit plan.

The Patriots' recent visits with Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett and Washington quarterback Jake Locker have stimulated speculation. Brady will be 34 years old before the next season begins.

The Patriots have the flexibility to draft a quarterback because they own two picks in each of the first three rounds.

"You have a constant vigil to try to maintain continuity at that position because it is the premier position," Bill Parcells said. "It's vital. [Peyton Manning and Brady] seem to be very durable players.

"But anytime you get into your mid-30s, you have to start thinking about it because you go out there one Sunday and it can be over pretty quickly."

Belichick told Rapoport that interviewing quarterbacks is part of pre-draft research.

"You need to know the whole board," Belichick said. "That's part of what has helped us in making trades and maneuvering on draft day, understanding what we think is the value on the board as it relates to us and our perception of what it is in the league. It's just doing your homework."

Some might say it's still too soon to draft Brady's eventual replacement. He's at the top of his game, just signed a monster contract extension and can play another five years.

"The time is right if there’s the right talent," former 49ers president Carmen Policy said. "Now's the time to start watching and looking for it. I don't care how good a player he is. The older you get, the more subject you are to injury. So it's time."

The Patriots could use a premium draft asset on a quarterback, invest years in his development and never have the chance to use him before he becomes a free agent. Of course, the Patriots could use him as insurance for a few years and then trade him like they did with Matt Cassel.