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NFL draft: Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater will meet with Patriots, per reports

Eric Edholm
Shutdown Corner

NFL teams meet with hundreds of prospects throughout the pre-draft process, so news of one team meeting with two players shouldn't cause much of a ripple in the big picture. 

But when it's the New England Patriots and Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, it's a little different.

According to reports from ESPN Boston and NFL Network, Manziel is in New England to meet with the Patriots for one of the team's 30 allotted visits to the team facility. In addition, one more of those visits will be used — on the same day no less — with Bridgewater, per NFL Network.

Fascinating, eh?

Teams often will meet with players — even those they might not be in a position to draft — at All-Star games, the NFL combine and at the players' pro days because there are fewer restrictions on the number of prospects they can talk to there. But each team is allowed to meet with only 30 prospects (not including those from nearby colleges, which do not count toward that number) at its own facility, so they tend to reserve those for the players in which they are most interested. 

So why would the Patriots, who still have Tom Brady, even as he turns 37 this summer, expecting to start for the next few seasons and signed through the 2017 season, use two of those spots on Manziel and Bridgewater?

Well, for one, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is always thinking two and three steps ahead.

Belichick might see Manziel's unique qualities and want to meet with him to see if Johnny Football is the kind of player he might one day want to work with. The coach might also notice that Bridgewater, who was the unquestioned favorite for the No. 1 pick for much of the college season, has undergone something of a draft stock assassination since his mediocre pro day and could undergo an Aaron Rodgers-esque slide on May 8.

Brady won't play forever, and it will take a certain kind of player to follow him in Foxborough. Belichick understands that. Both Manziel and Bridgewater are confident players (in different ways) with intriguing skills, on-field leadership qualities and moxie. They might just fill the bill ... someday.

Coaches — the good ones, anyway — always are thinking about next year, and the year beyond. Belichick met with Tim Tebow in Boston before the 2010 NFL draft, and it's clear that Belichick thought enough of Tebow as a college player to want to see what he was made of up close and personally.

Had Tebow slipped in the draft that year (and he certainly wasn't for everyone), then who knows? Maybe the Patriots might have drafted him. Last summer, they brought him in to try to make the team. It didn't work out, but it was well worth the look-see.

That's the thing with Manziel and Bridgewater: They very well could be high draft picks this year, perhaps even top-10 picks. But that doesn't guarantee they'll be successes with whatever team drafts them. Mark Sanchez was the fifth pick in the draft in 2009 and could have been had for a song this offseason. Sam Bradford was the only QB picked ahead of Tebow in 2010 and he's on thin ice in St. Louis.

In the short term, could the Patriots use another quarterback? Yes. Brady might only have 3-4 seasons left, and backup Ryan Mallett is entering the final year of his deal. There is no other quarterback on the roster. The Patriots almost certainly will draft one, or add an undrafted rookie to the mix.

What are the chances high that Manziel or Bridgewater will be drafted by the Patriots this year? Not high. They pick 29th in the first round, and even if one of them slips unexpectedly, it would be unlikely they'd be in a position to take him there. But you never know.

And in three or four years from now, who knows? Maybe either Manziel or Bridgewater is the kind of guy Belichick sees something truly special in and wants to get to know for down the road. Or maybe Belichick just likes messing with people. Whatever his approach, his compass typically is pointed in the right direction.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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