BOSTON (CBS) – In the NFL’s Super Bowl era there have only been three starting quarterbacks age 36 years or older to win the big game: Johnny Unitas (37), Jim Plunkett (36) and John Elway (37, 38).

It’s a harsh reality, but with Tom Brady set to start the 2014 regular season at 37, history shows that his championship window is closing faster and faster.

Eventually, the Patriots will need to address the end of the Tom Brady era and transition into another. Whether they do that via the draft or free agency is something up for debate, but we may be getting a glimpse of the route the Patriots will take as they host quarterback prospects Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel today in Foxboro.

With the 29th overall pick it’s unlikely the Patriots could sit tight and hope to land one of those top two guys, but whether for scouting purposes or planning in the event of a “trade up” scenario, it’s clear Bill Belichick is doing his homework by hosting the prospects for a visit.

“You have to look at the player himself. Bridgewater is in today. Manziel is in today. If any of those guys hit 20, 21 [without being picked], a red light starts to go off in the Patriots draft room,” said Scott Zolak. “Maybe there’s an opportunity to move up to the 25th pick and maybe get the quarterback of the future. It might be Blake Bortles that drops there. Who knows?”

SEE ALSO: A.J. McCarron Says He Wouldn’t Mind Being Tom Brady’s Backup ‘For However Long’

With Tom Brady under center and under contract for the next four seasons, the team isn’t exactly in dire need of a quarterback — especially with backup Ryan Mallett still under contract for another season.

But in terms of the Patriots using a first round pick on a potential future starer, as Zo so eloquently puts it, “The Patriots love surprising people.”

Andy Gresh discussed the difference between drafting a quarterback in the first round (as Bridgewater and Manziel are projected to be), and drafting a quarterback in the later rounds.

“When you take a first round pick, you’re not taking a back up. You might take him for a year as the back up but they’re the eventual starter, a la Cincinnati when they had [Jon] Kitna and they took Carson Palmer. They made him sit for a year, and then the next year he was the guy.”

By this logic, if the Patriots use a first round pick this year on a signal caller it’ll become obvious just how long they think TB12 can play at a high level: NFL — aka “not for long.”

The consensus between Gresh and Zo seems to be that they would rather have the Patriots take a guy in the later rounds and develop him by learning under Brady.

“The organization does a fine job of developing talent and when the time comes, Patriots fans may want to pay attention to the latter rounds of the draft because that is where the quarterback of the future will be found,” Zo concluded.

When should the Patriots start to address the quarterback of the future? If not now, then when? Listen below for the full discussion:



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