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Patriots Have Shown a Strong Interest in Quarterbacks

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Both Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, left, and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater have had contact with the Patriots. Brian SPurlock / USA TODAY Sports

The NFL draft is 20 days away.

If you’re like me, you’ve been watching with intensity which players the Patriots have blessed with their interest.

Each team in the NFL gets 30 out-of-town visits, and that’s what’s been the buzz of late, but there are also numerous pro days to attend, local athletes to evaluate, and that’s all in addition to the information teams have on hand because of the NFL Scouting Combine.

So while we were monitoring the visits, the totality and accuracy of which we’ll never truly know, we noticed a trend developing. And no, this is not your average Scarlet Knight connection. (Although there’s a surprising lack of those guys associated with the Patriots.)

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In 62 reported visits/workouts/Pro Days for the Patriots since the Senior Bowl, according to WalterFootball.com, the Patriots have made contact with 10 quarterbacks and 10 defensive backs, the most of the group. Nine have been defensive linemen. Eight have been linebackers. Seven have been wide receivers. And then there have been six tight ends, running backs and offensive linemen each. With so many QBs and DBs on the list, there’s credence to the theory that the Patriots are going after another backup quarterback for Tom Brady and aren’t finished with their work in the secondary.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. The Denver Broncos’ passing attack made mince meat of the Patriots in the AFC Championship and the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive blueprint — tall corners, capable defensive line — seems to be the motivation du jour. Brady, who will be 37 in August — insert obligatory groan — is not getting any younger. So Bill Belichick and company are working the short game and the long game, which is what you want your franchise to do.

Adding Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, as well as another secondary piece, addresses the immediate concern back deep. Addressing the quarterback situation, as usual, is sticky because Brady has already outplayed many of his colleagues into his late 30s. There’s also the notion to consider that the Patriots are simply performing their due diligence on future opposing players. That has to be taken into consideration. But long-term planning, with the number of players receiving interest via workouts or meetings, doesn’t appear to be off the agenda either.

Who are the quarterbacks?

Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater
Eastern Illinois’s Jimmy Garoppolo
Ohio State’s Kenny Guiton
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel
Alabama’s A.J. McCarron
LSU’s Zach Mettenberger
Georgia’s Aaron Murray
South Carolina’s Connor Shaw
Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas
Ball State’s Keith Wenning

Who are the defensive backs?

Liberty’s Walt Aikens
Middle Tennessee State’s Justin Gilstrap
Memphis’s Lonnie Ballentine
Washington State’s Deone Bucannon
Arizona State’s Alden Darby
Boston College’s Albert Louis-Jean
Arizona’s Shaquille Richardson
Middle Tennessee State’s Sammy Seamster
Minnesota’s Brock Vereen

Over the next 20 days, we’re going to explore the pros and cons of each player, as well as some of the others at key positions, in preparation for the NFL draft. Stay tuned.

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In the former WR department

Both former leading X wide receivers for the Patriots, Brandon Lloyd and Chad Ochocinco Johnson, have new jobs. This, after a year or more out of football.

Lloyd, who caught 74 passes for 911 yards and four touchdowns for the Patriots in 2012, signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers earlier this week. It’s a return to Lloyd’s NFL start with the 49ers, which drafted him in the fourth round in 2003. At best, he’s the third best receiver on the roster.

And then there’s Johnson, who signed yesterday with the Montreal Alouettes on a two-year pact with the Canadian Football League team. It’s long drop for Johnson, whose career was derailed in Miami after getting into a domestic dispute with his then-wife.

Now, according to the Alouettes, he just wants to play.

Oh, and Donald Jones — (yes, not nearly as notable as the prior two) — is now playing minor league baseball. Good for him. Good for all of them.

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Tweet of the week

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What’s to come

Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater, following captains Rob Ninkovich and Logan Mankins, will speak with the media on Tuesday, April 22.

For us, it’s a straight shoot to the draft. But for now, only 139 days until the NFL season kicks off. Get your popcorn ready. No, wait…

Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry and on Google+.


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