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Ravens show interest in keeping Ryan Mallett but mull other options

The Baltimore Ravens talked to Ryan Mallett about returning to be their backup quarterback but they understand that there are plenty of veteran backups hitting free agency as well, coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday.

Mallett, 28, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 9 after spending the past 15 months with the Ravens. He led an upset of the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015 before being limited to six passes last season behind a healthy Joe Flacco.

More important, Mallett was never a distraction in Baltimore. It was two years ago when Mallett was cut by the Houston Texans for being late for meetings and missing a team charter flight.

"We want Ryan back and there are other veteran guys out there," Harbaugh said at the NFL combine.

While the market for starting quarterbacks is thin, there are plenty of options at the backup spot.

Brian Hoyer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown and Matt Barkley are considered the top backups available. But they might want to go to a team where they would have a better chance to play than behind the usually durable Flacco.

The next tier would include Nick Foles (if he's released by the Kansas City Chiefs), Case Keenum and Geno Smith. After that, it's Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert, Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel and Matt McGloin.

The wild card is Colin Kaepernick, who is planning to opt out of the final season of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday. Kaepernick's connection with the Ravens is that he was drafted by Harbaugh's brother, Jim.

Kaepernick's national anthem protest overshadowed his best statistical season since 2013. He threw for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions for a 90.7 passer rating.

"We need a quality backup quarterback," Harbaugh said.

In addition to free agency, Harbaugh didn't rule out taking a quarterback in the draft. The Ravens, though, have selected only one quarterback in the past five drafts. Baltimore took Keith Wenning in the sixth round in 2014, and he never made the 53-man roster.