The New England Patriots are going to be at the heart of two of the most important franchise decisions during the 2017 offseason: quarterback and head coach. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is going to be one of the top candidates for every opening, while QB Jimmy Garoppolo should be one of the most sought-after quarterbacks. Most expect both to be with different teams in 2017.
Not so fast, says MMQB’s Peter King.
“Some coaches will take a head-coaching offer, almost regardless of the salary or the situation,” King writes. “I can’t see McDaniels, 40, doing that...I’ve always thought McDaniels would take his second (and perhaps last) shot at an NFL job when he found a place with stable ownership/management and a quarterback. And a good chance to win, obviously. Where’s that job right now? It might be close in Los Angeles, if he could fall in love with Jared Goff or if he could finagle a way to deal for Jimmy Garoppolo. But I don’t see that job out there right now.”
McDaniels is in no rush to leave the Patriots; he’s been in demand the past two or three offseasons and he’ll remain in demand moving forward. He is just 40 years old- Bill Belichick was 48 when he took over for the Patriots- and in a great situation with New England.
Since McDaniels won’t be back with the Broncos and won’t sign in the division with the Bills, who is left? Why rush to sign a team with meddlesome ownership (49ers, Chargers), or one already married to a quarterback (Jaguars, Rams)? McDaniels is waiting for the perfect job.
The question is when that opportunity will come along. What teams fit that criteria with an opening on the horizon? The Bears, maybe, if John Fox struggles next year, or maybe the Lions or Titans if they regress in 2017. Maybe Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians will retire in a year or two.
McDaniels can wait- but he might keep waiting because he blew his chance in his last perfect job with the Broncos- and the other perfect jobs are far and few between.
As for Garoppolo, King thinks the Patriots are going to try and retain their back-up quarterback. This might be New England drumming up the asking price, but I will always keep an extension on the table.
“I can’t see the Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo in the off-season,” King writes. “I can’t see Bill Belichick, who has to feel Garoppolo is the best chance for a long-term successor to Tom Brady (whenever that will happen) that he’s had, giving that up without trying to sign the third-year quarterback long-term. The trick is how to do that, knowing Garoppolo has to be paid more than your typical insurance policy would be paid at quarterback. Insurance policies don’t normally make $10 million a year. This one might.”
I’m always drawn to an interview with Garoppolo’s dad, where he explicitly expresses a desire for Garoppolo to remain in New England and work through a transition as Tom Brady ages.
"We hope he stays in New England," he said. "Maybe there’s a way they can still work with the two of them with the progression, only time will tell."
The question is whether the Patriots will be able to pony up the money to keep Garoppolo around for the long term- and whether Brady’s horizon might be too far away for Garoppolo’s liking.
Brady is still playing like NFL MVP and is under contract for three more years, through the 2019 season when he’ll be 42 years old. Brady has expressed a desire to play until he’s 45 in the year 2022, when Garoppolo will be 31 years old. A lot can change, but that’s asking Garoppolo to remain sidelined for a long time.
The Patriots typically extend Brady with two years left on his contract due to base salary structure, which means that the two sides will likely discuss a new contract after the 2017 season. If Brady plays at a similarly high level in 2017, then the Patriots will convert his 2018 base salary into a signing bonus and tack on an extra year or two on his contract.
New England has to weigh the potential of a decline in production from Brady or a catastrophic injury against the projected cost to retain Garoppolo. Right now, there is no middle class of quarterback, with Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick the only quarterback earning between $7.5 million (Browns QB Robert Griffin III) and $16 million (Bengals QB Andy Dalton).
Garoppolo could make a pretty solid case that he should be paid in the Dalton, Chiefs QB Alex Smith, and Vikings QB Sam Bradford price range of $16-$17.5 million per year, which way beyond the Patriots price range for a back-up quarterback. Even if they think Garoppolo is a franchise quarterback, as head coach Bill Belichick has expressed on multiple occasions, the team has to believe they can find another one with a more cost-effective method over the next six years.
The franchise tag for quarterbacks is over $20 million, which means that Jimmy could and should ask for at least $45 million guaranteed (equivalent to the final year of his rookie contract and two years of the franchise tag) to stick around on a long term deal. If Garoppolo asks for less, then he’ll be willing to sacrifice potential earnings to remain in New England.
If the two sides can’t come to terms, then perhaps the Patriots would be open to trading Garoppolo for a couple 2nd round picks, a la Alex Smith to the Chiefs, or swapping first rounder this offseason. If the Patriots hold Garoppolo through the completion of his rookie deal, then they’ll be unlikely to find as strong of a trade partner.
I would venture that Garoppolo is more likely to leave this offseason than McDaniels, but any combination of leaving and staying is still on the table.