BOSTON (CBS) - Top quarterback draft prospects Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel were in town visiting the Patriots yesterday, which led to widespread speculation (and panic) about the amount of time Tom Brady has left to play at an elite level in the NFL, and the all-important "succession plan."
The fact that New England brought in these players at all (something they've never done before) is telling, proving the process to find "the next guy" is already underway.
However, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe doesn't think that'll manifest itself for another couple of years.
"It's a tricky one. Obviously Tom Brady has meant so much to your franchise, so do you want to be the guy that tells him, 'Hey we're drafting your successor now'? Brady thinks he can play well into his 40's, and so far he's not shown any signs of slippage. I thought last year he was as good as ever pretty much, so I still think it's a little too early to be drafting his successor.
"Assuming Brady stays healthy, which at his age is a very big assumption, I think you start looking at [replacements] in the 2016 draft."
Many, including some on this very station, are comparing this "replacing a legend" scenario to the Packers with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
Obviously you'd rather the Patriots move seamlessly into a new era of quarterback the way the Packers were able to, as opposed to the way in which the Miami Dolphins are still trying to find the next Dan Marino.
Favre-to-Rodgers and Brady-to-[insert name here] is a fun sports radio topic, but Volin believes it's not a perfect comparison.
"I keep hearing Aaron Rodgers, but the biggest difference is that the collective bargaining agreement has changed since Rodgers came out. The Packers were able to sign him to a six-year deal, so they could squat on him, develop him and still have him for another three years. Now with this new CBA all rookies are four year contracts, so if you draft a guy now he's gonna be sitting on the bench for probably three of his first four years at least.
"I think they're at least a year or two away from doing that. If they do draft a quarterback it'll be like [Ryan] Mallett -- Brady's backup."
So while the Patriots won't be trading TB12 to Houston in exchange for their first overall pick, Volin explains why the visits of Bridgewater and Manziel will prove to be beneficial in the future.
"It's just Bill Belichick being Bill Belichick; doing his due diligence on this new wave of starting quarterbacks. Bridgewater, Manziel and Blake Bortles are gonna be starting next year somewhere. The Patriots do face Oakland and Minnesota in 2014, two top 10 teams in the draft in need of quarterbacks. They met with Bortles down in Orlando at the owners meetings, so they met with all the top guys.
"They're just trying to get a baseline evaluation for scouting these guys because they're gonna play them at some point."
On Manziel, Volin's take is that he makes everything so much harder on himself by taking off running instead of throwing to his first read, who may be wide open on some occasions. Even though he's not a great pocket passer, Manziel is "such a tantalizing prospect" that there's no way he falls outside of the top 12 -- let alone the 29th pick where the Patriots are.
With free agency quieting in recent weeks and the draft fast approaching, the Patriots are sitting pretty with some of their offseason acquisitions by "loading up" for another Super Bowl. By shoring up their needs in the secondary (Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner) and wide receiver (Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell), the Pats can hone in on other positions in the draft with that 29th pick.
With those positions locked up, Volin thinks the Patriots will beef up their defensive front and get either a defensive tackle or pass rusher with their first round pick. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are both good players, but with playing over 90% of the snaps that comes with diminishing returns. The Patriots could use another rotational guy at defensive end and some more muscle at the d-tackle spot.
Listen below for the full discussion:
Still Too Early To Be Drafting Brady's Successor
MORE PATRIOTS COVERAGE FROM CBS BOSTON
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