FOXBOROUGH - When the Patriots drafted San Diego State quarterback Kevin O'Connell at the end of the third round last weekend, some eyebrows were raised.
Just three years ago, the Patriots found starting-caliber players in the third round in cornerback Ellis Hobbs (84th overall) and offensive tackle Nick Kaczur (100th), so why would a team with Tom Brady pluck a signal-caller with the 94th overall selection?
Owner Robert Kraft explained the thinking yesterday.
"This is a game where you never know on one snap what can happen - what happened with Drew [ Bledsoe] and Tom is a perfect example - so having insurance at key parts of any business is good business," he said after a red-carpet event at Gillette Stadium promoting "Showcase Live!" at Patriot Place.
"As far as when they picked, who they picked, I have a lot of confidence and trust in Bill [ Belichick] and Scott [ Pioli] and their understanding of value and what's in the marketplace. And also their understanding of our staff and what's happening - we just don't do things for this year. We're thinking about this year, two years, three years, five years.
"You have to look at a decision like that in totality, not as an isolated decision."
The Patriots now have four quarterbacks on the roster, with Brady, No. 2 Matt Cassel, third-stringer Matt Gutierrez, and O'Connell.
Scale it back?As for the team's first-round draft choice, Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo, Kraft had a favorable first impression.
"He seems like a wonderful young man and someone who can fit in our system well," said Kraft. "Bill had told me his objective here was to get younger and faster on defense, and it looks like that's what has been done."
The 10th overall selection in the draft, Mayo could receive a contract with as much as $13 million in bonuses and guarantees. The rising pay scale for top-10 picks remains a concern among owners.
"That's one of the inefficiencies in the system," Kraft said. "It's kind of nuts that you pay draft picks in the top 10 as if they were free agent veterans on their second contract and have been to a Pro Bowl.
"We've suggested to the Labor Committee and the commissioner that we scale that back and take that money and give it to the veterans. We're still going to spend the money, [but] we think it's a misallocation of resources and actually can cause problems in your locker room when a young guy who has never played a down is getting paid more than some of your vested veterans.
"On the other hand, we don't plan to be picking in the top 10, unless it's through doing good trades. Maybe it's good we let it continue that way for our competition."
Backing him upWhen Mayo walks into the Patriots' locker room, he can expect one veteran to welcome him warmly. "I'm excited to work with him, to have him come in," said Tedy Bruschi. He touched on how he plans to balance mentoring Mayo with the realization that the two are competing for playing time. "We run a 3-4, there are two inside linebacker spots, and we've always had a rotation," he said. "There are a lot of snaps to be played, a lot of running backs to be stopped, and a lot of work to go around." . . . The Patriots waived cornerback Tim Mixon, who spent most of last season on the practice squad. The team also released veteran linebacker T.J. Slaughter. Both were long shots to make the roster.
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org