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Jeremiah: Zach Mettenberger good fit for Patriots, Cardinals

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If you're one of the rare clubs that goes into the 2014 NFL Draft without a glaring need at quarterback, chances are you have a great young signal-caller or a veteran who you know can take you deep into the playoffs.

Count the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots in the latter group. While both clubs are looking forward to a long playoff run this season with the talent they've surrounded their quarterbacks with, neither Tom Brady nor Carson Palmer is getting any younger.

Brady will turn 37 before the season starts, and Palmer will be 35 in December -- not exactly ancient for NFL starting quarterbacks, but it's getting up there. Both have plenty left in the tank, but it's clearly time time for both teams to start thinking about the future heading into the draft.

One developmental quarterback both franchises could have their eye on in the middle rounds? Perhaps it's LSU's Zach Mettenberger.

"I look at the Arizona Cardinals as a potential good fit there," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Monday on "Path to the Draft." "Carson Palmer is not going to play forever. They'll love what they have in Mettenberger as a pocket passer, someone who can push the ball vertically down the field. That fits in that Bruce Arians offense.

"Let him sit and develop for a year or two before taking over the starting gig."

Good quarterback play is essential to teams hoping to make a dent in the playoffs. In the Cardinals' case, they know all to well what it's like not to have a Palmer, Kurt Warner or Jake Plummer under center. We know a few Cardinals fans who probably still have nightmares about the John Skelton/Kevin Kolb/Ryan Lindley/Brian Hoyer derby in 2012, for example. Certainly, Ken Whisenhunt did at the time.

Mettenberger's highly anticipated pro day will be Wednesday and will give teams an opportunity to see if he is fully recovered from a torn ACL. Most of the NFL is expected to send a representative (or two) to the workout to check out the Tigers' talented group of players, but Mettenberger might be the one with the highest upside. He flashed potential in Cam Cameron's pro-style offense in his final year in Baton Rouge but clearly has enough flaws to keep him out of the upper tier of quarterbacks in this year's draft.

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The Patriots have done their due diligence on guys like Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater by bringing them in for workouts and thoroughly evaluating them but both are likely to be gone when it's New England's turn to hand their card in. That means someone like Mettenberger could be a more realistic option on the second or third day of the draft.

"Ryan Mallett is not going to be around much longer," said Jeremiah. "Give yourself a young backup that has a lot of skills to eventually develop into a starter down the road."

The Patriots and Cardinals are not the only two teams that could have interest in Mettenberger. He'll visit Jacksonville on Thursday and will meet with as many as five teams over the next few days. Buzz around him is building so much that NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt says that if he is healthy, Mettenberger could go as early as the second round.

Nobody knows when we'll see replacements for Brady and Palmer actually take the field, but we could have some clarity after the draft in May if the Patriots and Cardinals front offices show some interest in players like Mettenberger.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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