With the news Wednesday that the United States 2nd Circuit Court denied New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's petition to appeal his four game suspension, Brady's only hope for having his suspension being overturned is the United States Supreme Court, assuming he wishes to keep fighting the suspension. In the interim, the attention will turn to third year quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo.
If Brady does end up missing the first four weeks in 2016, Garoppolo is fully expected to fill-in and be the Patriots starting quarterback. In his first two seasons, he has only attempted 31 passes in the regular season, with all of his time going in "garbage time". Most of Garoppolo's playing time has come in the preseason, which he has been up and down. In the 2015-2016 preseason games, He finished with 61 completions on 80 attempts (76.25% completion percentage), 554 passing yards and two passing touchdowns to go with two interceptions.
The Cardinals and Texans both finished tied with the 7th best scoring defense (19.6 points per game) in 2015, while the Bills (15th, 22.4 points) and Dolphins (19th, 24.3 points) still represent tough match-ups for the Patriots as AFC East division rivals. It is highly probable that the Patriots' toughest match-up of that four game stretch will be the Cardinals, who they face in Arizona, and pair their great defense with the 2nd best scoring offense in 2015 (30.6 points per game).
Even if Brady were the starting quarterback against the Cardinals in week one, it would still represent a very tough match-up for the Patriots and could even be seen as a potential "Super Bowl match-up". The rest of match-ups listed should not be as tough of a challenge, especially when they are all in Foxboro.
The Dolphins are coming off a 6-10 record in 2015. After firing Joe Philbin as their head coach, the Dolphins hired Adam Gase as their new head coach and will try to be a serious competitor in the AFC East in 2016. The Texans have a new quarterback, Brock Osweiler, who will hopefully bring a more competitive offense to the table.
Lastly, the fourth game of the season will be another home game against a division rival in the Buffalo Bills. As we've seen in the past, a match-up against Rex Ryan, the Bills' head coach, is always one to keep an eye on. So after looking into to the four game slate that Garoppolo would face, it's possible that the Patriots walk away from this with at least a 2-2 record, if not perhaps a 3-1 record.
Say that Garoppolo does well and was able to help lead the Patriots to a solid start, where does that leave him? If he is able to bode well against tough defensive match-ups, does that affect his future with the Patriots? Yes, there is a good chance it could. If he showcased his abilities and showed that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL, he may not be with the team in 2017. There will be plenty of teams that will have questions at the quarterback position following the upcoming season (if they don't already) and some teams will also see their starting quarterbacks be free agents next off-season as well.
For example, the Saints and Drew Brees have not agreed to a contract extension beyond the 2016 season and he is currently slated to be an unrestricted free agent next off-season. Brees is 37 years old and would 38 before the 2017-2018 season, which may make the Saints want to try and get younger at the position.
Kirk Cousins was given the franchise tag by the Washington Redskins after his break-out season. Multiple media reports are saying that the team and Cousins will not be able to agree to a long-term contract and that he'll play under the franchise tag in 2016. If Cousins has another great season, he could find himself subject to plenty of interest around the league and may be on his way out of Washington.
Tyrod Taylor is currently the Bills starting quarterback in 2016 but will be an unrestricted free agent next off-season, where he could look to sign with a team that will guarantee him a starting quarterback job for the future. That is something the Bills have not given him so far.
This also does not mention teams that are currently facing quarterback issues at the moment such as the Jets as they have a myriad of unproven and uninspiring quarterbacks in Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, or the Browns, that currently have a competition between Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III and Cody Kessler that probably has no Browns fans happy. One more to mention would be the 49ers, who are holding an open competition between former NFL bust Blaine Gabbert and overpaid quarterback Colin Kaeparnick. All of these teams and others mentioned could be looking to upgrade their quarterback situation for the 2017 NFL season.
If Garoppolo does indeed play well, teams could be calling the Patriots to see what his price tag would be. Back in March, Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported that "the starting point in any trade involving Garoppolo would be a first round pick". Garoppolo will have one more year left on his contract after the 2016 season, so he would be an unrestricted free agent after the 2017 season. But at his microscopic cap hit in 2017 ($1,108,513), teams may be willing to ignore that.
The Patriots currently have a quarterback log-jam with Brady the obvious starting quarterback whenever healthy for the foreseeable future. Then there is Garoppolo, who was originally a 2nd round pick in 2014. The team also used a 3rd round pick in this past NFL Draft on N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
The Patriots though, don't typically carry three healthy quarterbacks on the roster. Brady is obviously not going anywhere and Brissett was just drafted. The team probably would not get much on the trade market for him and if the team attempted to put him on their practice squad, he would most likely be claimed on waivers by another team. That leaves Garoppolo.
The Patriots have historically not been afraid to trade "good" players in the past, such as Logan Mankins (to the Buccaneers), Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel (to the Chiefs) and Richard Seymour (to the Raiders). In fact, Cassel's situation was eerily similar to what Garoppolo's could be as Cassel filled in as the Patriots starting quarterback when Brady went down with a knee injury and was traded the following off-season after previously being the team's back-up quarterback.
All of this would be for nothing potentially if Garoppolo does not do well and can't showcase that he could be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL. The team could simply release him after the season if that is the case and continue to try and groom Brissett as the Patriots potential quarterback of the future.
The Patriots are unlikely to try and sign Garoppolo to an extension as there is virtually no space for him on the Patriots 53-man roster given their past history with the quarterback position if they are serious about Brissett. Or could the Patriots see how well Garoppolo has progressed potentially and try to keep him as Brady's heir and try to trade Brissett? Possibly. There is a lot of possibilities.
But one thing is for sure: where Garoppolo ends up beyond 2016 depends on how well he does if Brady stays suspended. That not only could be a deciding factor in where the Patriots end up, but where Garoppolo ends up as well.