What Manziel, Bridgewater visits tell us

Smart NFL teams are often thinking a few steps ahead, and that's the biggest takeaway from the Patriots hosting quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater on pre-draft visits Wednesday.

The Patriots don't always bring top quarterbacks in for visits, as Bill Belichick reminded us in 2012 with Andrew Luck.

But this year is different because ...

There is a greater need for a backup: The Patriots' lone backup, Ryan Mallett, becomes a free agent after the 2014 season, which puts the team in the mix to draft a developmental quarterback. We've previously ranked it as the team's No. 7 need.

Backup quarterback market: The current financial market for a veteran backup quarterback with starting experience is around $4 million per season. The Patriots aren’t inclined to be in that market with Tom Brady already accounting for a significant chunk of salary-cap space, hence the focus on drafting and/or developing younger (less expensive) quarterbacks over the last decade with Matt Cassel (2005), Kevin O'Connell (2008), Brian Hoyer (2009) and Mallett (2011). The Patriots haven't drafted a quarterback since Mallett three years ago. It's just about time.

Why take the time with Manziel, Bridgewater and Blake Bortles? As the Patriots take time with the top quarterbacks in the draft, either with in-house visits or on-campus workouts, it’s natural to wonder if the Pats would consider selecting one if he unexpectedly slides down the board. But the feeling here is that the visits are more part of a thorough scouting process. The Patriots want to get the best overall feel for the 2014 quarterback class, so when they’re considering more likely post-Round 1 targets, such as Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage, they have the most accurate frame of reference possible. That’s just good scouting.