The Patriots traded quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Houston Texans on Sunday, a league source confirmed.
In return, New England received a conditional draft pick in 2016, according to reports.
The trade is not very surprising – the Texans, now coached by former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, tried to acquire Mallett during the draft earlier this year, but the two sides could not agree to terms.
Now, perhaps, staring at the reality of having Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starter, O’Brien wanted to pull the trigger. One league source familiar with Fitzpatrick said earlier this year the former Harvard signal-caller is nothing more than a second- or third-string player at the position.
The deal may have also been more appealing for New England after seeing how much rookie second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo improved over the last few weeks, growing in leaps and bounds since the Patriots’ first preseason game, against Washington.
Mallett has been the subject of trade speculation throughout training camp, and was kept on the roster through Saturday’s final cutdown to 53 players.
Prior to news of the trade emerging Sunday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick explained why he kept three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster on Saturday, the final cut-down before the regular season.
“Fortunately, we have three good players at that position, three players we have a lot of confidence in. I’m sure there are some teams in the league that don’t have that feeling about that position. They may not have one, I don’t know. I’ve been in that position before and it’s not a good place to be. We’re fortunate we have three good players there. It’s a good situation,” he said.
Mallett, who was drafted in 2011 out of Arkansas, has only appeared in four regular-season games in three seasons, completing one of four passes for 17 yards. He played in the Patriots’ first three preseason games this summer before Garoppolo was given the start in the fourth and final game and played the entire game.
Mallett connected on 14 of 26 passes in the preseason for 161 yards and one touchdown.
Houston also has rookie Tom Savage on its roster at quarterback.
The Patriots also claimed defensive linemen Bruce Gaston and Kelcy Quarles, who had been released by Arizona and the New York Giants, off waivers on Sunday. They also released linebacker Chris White.
Clarification: The type of draft pick the Patriots received has been updated from an earlier version of this story.