The New England Patriots just extended quarterback Tom Brady for two additional years and through the 2019 season. Back-up and assumed heir to the throne Jimmy Garoppolo will be a free agent after the 2017 season.
It seems unlikely that both a) the Patriots would be willing to pay Garoppolo enough to sit behind Brady; and b) Garoppolo would want to stay in New England instead of competing for a starting job with another franchise.
The Patriots have a very interesting decision to make with Garoppolo over the next couple of months, through the NFL draft, and a few possible scenarios could play out.
There are a lot of factors that would need to happen for the Patriots to send Garoppolo away. They would need a willing counterparty. They would need a veteran in free agency for the short term (hello Matt Cassel!). They would probably draft another mid-to-late round prospect to groom and be the back-up in the future.
What is Garoppolo worth to the Patriots? He's a high quality back-up that the coaching staff adores and he's a perfect fit within the New England offense; there's a lot of value in not having to change too much of the playbook should Brady need to come out of a game. Very few other players offer that sort of ability and value.
What is Garoppolo worth to other teams? They don't know how he'll learn the system. He doesn't have much NFL experience and he came out of a smaller college. There's some bad history with former Brady back-ups, as Matt Cassell, Brian Hoyer, and Ryan Mallett have left a lot to be desired.
The most likely obstacle is finding another viable counterparty at the value that the Patriots would like to receive. After spending a late 2nd round pick in 2014 on Garoppolo, it would make sense that the Patriots would like receive a 2nd round pick in exchange.
What teams in the 2nd round would be willing to trade for Garoppolo? The Browns need a quarterback, as do the Cowboys, 49ers, Eagles, Rams, and Texans. The Cowboys would like a rookie to groom behind Tony Romo, so trading for Garoppolo doesn't make too much sense, and then the Eagles don't have a 2nd round pick after sending theirs to the Rams for Sam Bradford.
There are two blue-chip quarterback prospects in California's Jared Goff and North Dakota's Carson Wentz, while Memphis' Paxton Lynch is more of a high-upside project. Michigan State's Connor Cook is considered a solid 2nd round prospect, but Garoppolo is more well-regarded. For this exercise, let's place Garoppolo between Lynch and Cook with regards to desireability.
It's unlikely that both Goff or Wentz will be on the board after the top ten picks, as the Browns, Cowboys, and 49ers will all pick. The Eagles really seem to be interested in bringing back Sam Bradford, and Lynch to the Cowboys in the early 2nd makes a lot of sense.
That would leave the Rams and the Texans, and both make tremendous sense for Garoppolo- and both could totally walk the other direction.
The Rams believe that they're an above-average quarterback away from competing with their top notch defense, and they own the 43rd and 45th overall picks in the 2nd round. Is Garoppolo worth that pick to them? It'll likely be a draft day decision. If Lynch is off the board, then Garoppolo would make plenty of sense with either of those draft picks.
Or, alternatively, the Rams could laugh at the idea that Garoppolo is worth more than a mid-round pick and no deal would take place.
The Texans are the other team and their owner has made it clear that the team will have a quarterback of the future after the draft.
"There are a number of quarterbacks out there, college quarterbacks coming out and I think we have a good chance at getting one of them," Texans owner Bob McNair told the Houston Chronicle. "There are four or five of them who look like they have enough talent and size and athletic ability. I don't know any reason why we wouldn't be able to do it."
Houston has the 22nd overall pick in the 1st round, and the 52nd overall pick in the 2nd round. It would be a really tough sell to a team owner to pick up a third Brady back-up, after cycling through both Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett in 2015. Lynch at the end of the 1st or Cook in the 2nd would both make some sense.
Additionally, Penn State's Christian Hackenberg was Texans head coach Bill O'Brien's select quarterback before O'Brien took the Houston job. That reunion wouldn't surprise anyone.
The Rams are ultimately the only real trade option for the Patriots, with multiple 2nd round picks, and Goff, Wentz, Lynch, and maybe even Cook would have to be off the board inside the top 40 before the Rams would even consider a trade.