Checking the locks: Patriots QBs

As part of this slow time on the NFL calendar, when we'll be taking a break to recharge for the 2014 season, we introduce the pre-produced "checking the locks" series in which we analyze the players on the Patriots' roster who are "locks" to stick. Today, it's quarterbacks.

Sure-fire locks: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo

Near lock: Ryan Mallett

ANALYSIS: The last time the Patriots kept three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster was 2011, Mallett's rookie year when he was the No. 3 option behind Brady and Brian Hoyer. There is a strong chance the team goes with three again this year, with Garoppolo as the No. 3 before he elevates to the No. 2 spot next year when Mallett is an unrestricted free agent and likely with another club. The only thing that changes that is if Garoppolo shows he's capable of handling more at this early stage and another team decides Mallett is worth pursuing in a trade that makes sense for the Patriots. That seems unlikely, but it's why Mallett wouldn't be considered a sure-fire lock at this time. Here's a snapshot look at how many quarterbacks the Patriots have kept on the roster in Bill Belichick's coaching tenure.