By Eric Schmidt

For several weeks this offseason, New England Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett has been the subject of massive trade speculation. The Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the center of those offseason rumors, but much of that speculation was fueled on the possible reunion of Matt Cassel to the Patriots if Mallett was traded off. Now it appears once again that Mallett’s name is in play as the NFL world heads into the first-round of the NFL Draft this evening.

According to Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe, the Patriots might be fielding offers for Mallett this weekend. The Patriots, a team usually known for stockpiling picks, enters the draft without a selection in the fourth, fifth or sixth-round this year. In his column, Bedard suggests that a second-round selection this season or a first-round pick in 2014 would solidify a possible trade.

Mallett has two years under his belt in the Patriots system but has never started a game. NFL fans might be getting all caught up in the Matt Cassel syndrome from last decade and believe that Mallett might simply join a team and become an instant starter simply because be plays under head coach Bill Belichick.

I understand that some teams are desperate for a starting quarterback, but a first or second-round selection for an unproven commodity?

The team that has most often been linked to Mallett is the Cleveland Browns. Browns general manager Michael Lombardi worked under Belichick and urged him to draft Mallett in 2011. Cleveland does not have a second-round selection this year, and I’d caution them about surrendering their first-round pick in 2014 for basically an unproven commodity.

Yes, this year’s draft class doesn’t have the glitz and glamor that last year’s quarterback class had, but a franchise cannot continue to give up top draft picks and compete. Draft choices are a roll of the dice, but Mallett is just that. Simply by backing up Tom Brady, Mallett is no guarantee. Matt Cassel is now backing up Christian Ponder in Minnesota.

If the Browns are the team potentially interested, they should roll with the signal callers they have on the roster this year. It’s a completely new front office and coaching staff. Michael Lombardi should be careful not to pull the trigger on an ill-advised trade so early in his new career. If he fails, he’ll either be back on the NFL Network or pumping gas at one of Jimmy Haslam’s Pilot gas stations within a few years after failed deals.

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