Mallett and NFL backup QBs

Earlier this offseason, the Patriots extended the contract of quarterback Tom Brady for three more seasons, locking him up through 2017 on a fully guaranteed deal. As the team's most valuable player and one of the league's elite signal-callers, the deal was an important step in fortifying the quarterback position for years to come.

But the Patriots aren't just set at quarterback at the starting level, as they also have an intriguing backup in Ryan Mallett, who has made critical strides in recent seasons (and offseasons).

In a piece on NFL.com's Around the League blog, Marc Sessler ranks the NFL's 32 backup quarterbacks, breaking them down into a number of categories. Mallett falls into the third tier (the "support group") as the 11th-best overall backup. Writes Sessler of Mallett: "Mallett is a league-wide mystery: Tall as a summer oak and seemingly under gag order in New England. Tom Brady's backup was the subject of trade rumors all spring, and I'm convinced he'll start elsewhere in 2014."

Meanwhile, Mallett isn't the only Patriots back-up to make the list, as Tim Tebow, the team's presumptive third-stringer, also checks in. Sessler denotes Tebow under the "wild card" category (the only player in this group). "Don't expect the Patriots to line him up at tight end. If he can't cut it as a third-string passer -- or if Bill Belichick views three arms as a luxury -- Tebow's history. I'm in the minority, but I still think Timmy can play in the right situation," Sessler writes.

As was recently noted by Mike Reiss, the Patriots have kept three quarterbacks on the active roster just once in the past four years, but have had at least three quarterbacks on the roster in 10 of Bill Belichick's 14 years as the head coach overall.

To see the list in its entirety, CLICK HERE.