MMQB’s Albert Breer has a great column called The Game Plan where the former Patriots-turned-National reporter does a deep dive into multiple important topics around the league. This week, one of the topics was what the heck are the Patriots going to do with QB Jimmy Garoppolo?
Garoppolo suffered a shoulder injury on Sunday against the Dolphins, will serve as a back up today against the Texans, except he probably isn’t dressing anymore, and look to regain his starting role next week against the Bills.
He has been outstanding in his six quarters of football and, with another year on his rookie contract and a palatable franchise tag, a team could be willing to pay a lot for his services in a trade this offseason.
Breer spoke with a personnel executive for an AFC team and an NFC team and they had pretty different ideas on how the Patriots could proceed- and how teams might come to the table.
“They can get a first, someone will be desperate enough, and probably more,” said an AFC personnel exec. “With what Minnesota gave up [for Sam Bradford], that’s easy. If it’s me, I eat the year and wait for him in free agency. If someone likes him that much, why not just pay him the following year?”
First off, this has to be an executive for a bottom feeder, right? It’s got to be a team that strikes out in free agency on an annual basis like the Colts. This is just a gross misunderstanding of trade value because the entire argument is rooted in the notion that Garoppolo won’t be available in free agency.
There are only three options with Garoppolo and the Patriots.
- The Patriots trade Garoppolo for whatever they can get prior to the 2017 season so the acquiring team can get the final year of his rookie contract and then control over whether or not they franchise him. This offers the most value to the acquiring team.
- The Patriots franchise tag Garoppolo after the 2017 season and trade him a la Matt Cassel. This offers lesser value to the acquiring team, but they’ll only be doing it if they think he’s the answer at the position.
- The Patriots want Garoppolo to be the long-term future and sign him to a contract to stick behind Brady for however long it takes.
I have a hard time seeing how option #3 works from a financial perspective, but you don’t let go of a franchise quarterback if you think you have one, according to the NFC executive.
“A desperate team might give them [the Patriots] a one and something else,” said one NFC personnel exec. “In the end, I think they’d get at least a one. But why would they trade him? Brady’s 100 years old.”
I’m not sure how the Patriots can keep both Brady and Garoppolo. Brady is under contract through 2019 and he’ll turn 43 before the subsequent season. That’s a lot of time for Brady to drop off, get hurt, lose his fire, or win a Super Bowl and ride off into the sunset.
In an interesting twist, though, Garoppolo’s dad wants Jimmy to stay in New England.
"We hope he stays in New England," the elder Garoppolo said over the summer. "Maybe there’s a way they can still work with the two of them with the progression, only time will tell."
I don’t think there’s any way that the Patriots will push Tom Brady out the door while he still wants to play, but perhaps the Patriots could sign Garoppolo to a long-term extension with enough guaranteed money to equal the franchise tag in 2018 and 2019 (roughly $40 million guaranteed, total, in the same neighborhood as Texans’ QB Brock Osweiler) and the two sides can reassess the situation at the completion of Brady’s contract.
I know, for me at least, I think it’s worth tightening the salary cap belt for two years if it means that Brady gets to ride off into whatever sunset he wants and the Patriots will still have a franchise quarterback secured beyond 2019.
It also seems that the base trade price for Garoppolo is a 1st round pick and “something else.” Maybe it’s a player, maybe it’s another quality draft pick. If the offer is good enough- two firsts?- then I could see Bill Belichick making the trade, but otherwise I could see the team finding a way to transition to Garoppolo somehow.
Another interesting note from Breer was his “sense is the Patriots’ reluctance to sign another QB this week was an effort to try and tread water and not expose a young player to waivers.”
Who are the players that the Patriots would have cut to add a back-up quarterback? Here’s my short list:
RB D.J. Foster: The Patriots have made an active point of keeping him around. They think he’s special.
TE AJ Derby: Derby hasn’t done much in the regular season, but he showed up in the preseason and wouldn’t clear waivers.
OT LaAdrian Waddle: Waddle is the 4th tackle, behind Cameron Fleming, but offensive line depth is too important to risk.
LB Elandon Roberts: The coaching staff loves Roberts’ instincts and they believe he could actually be a solid starter somewhere.
CB Jonathan Jones: The acquisition of Eric Rowe could change the roster calculus, but Jones is a core special teams player and a vital part of the team.
Of the players the team could cut (Foster, Derby, Roberts), it’s doubtful that they’d make it through waivers, while the other two (Waddle, Jones) have specific roles on the team.
We’ll see if the decision to not sign a veteran quarterback pays off.