Why did the Patriots cut backup QB Brian Hoyer? Well…

Now, Ryan Mallett is the Patriots backup QB

A quick explanation during a busy cut-down day on one interesting move…

The Patriots pulled off a mild surprise when they released backup QB Brian Hoyer earlier today. That means 2011 third-round pick and uber-talented Ryan Mallett is the backup to QB Tom Brady. (I wrote all about him here in this blog series)

So, why did this happen?

A few things… Mallett had begun taking the No. 2 reps before the Patriots played the Eagles in preseason, a sure sign he was progressing. While he started the fourth preseason game, I’m told the original plan was to start Hoyer to showcase him for teams that were interested.

In case teams faced QB injuries, the Patriots wanted Hoyer to get a good look.

That ended up changing, but that was the plan. The Patriots were set to pay Hoyer his RFA tender of $1.9 million if he was a backup. But since he wasn’t the backup — instead, he became the No. 3 guy — that was a poor value. They tried hard to trade him, but found no takers at that salary. Perhaps the Kevin Kolbs of the world soured the NFL on finding a backup in a good system and then taking him into your system.

There is a lot of intrigue in the QB situations of Cleveland and Philadelphia, and New England was a distance third. In the end, the Patriots simply decided they couldn’t do any better and cut Hoyer. Crazy, because Hoyer was instrumental in the development of Mallett, the third-rounder from Arkansas.

Mallett didn’t have a great rookie year, and the Patriots were concerned. Then, he showed up after his offseason in Arkansas at 10 percent body fat. Mallett had worked, and the Pats noticed. He’s already won employee of the week a few times, impressing them to no end. In games, the Patriots have actually hid Mallett, calling screen pass after screen pass so as not to show off his arm. [Edited at 2:10 p.m.: The Patriots could also have been working with Mallett on his screen game. But I was told they simply didn’t want to show the deep pass.]

Now, the world still won’t see it… unless Brady gets hurt. In that case, Mallett is the guy.

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