With the trade deadline approaching, the New England Patriots made a big splash yesterday: The defending world champions traded backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second round draft selection in 2018. This leaves New England without a backup behind Tom Brady; a spot that will be filled soon – but for the first time in three-and-a-half years not by someone named Garoppolo.
Since getting drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft (pick #62), the Eastern Illinois product has served as the Patriots' top backup quarterback. In that role, Garoppolo was everything the team could have wanted and there are three main reasons why this is the case:
Garoppolo allowed the Patriots to carry only two quarterbacks...
When New England picked Garoppolo in 2014, the team already had two quarterbacks under contract: Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett, who served as the number two since 2011. Adding Garoppolo to the mix allowed the Patriots to trade Mallett and move forward with only two passers in 2014, 2015 and 2017. The confidence the team had in the second rounder to get the job done as Brady's lone backup allowed New England to add depth at other positions on the roster.
...at a relatively moderate cost.
Having a reliable young number two quarterback does not only help from a roster building perspective but also in terms of financials. Garoppolo being deemed able to serve as Brady's lone backup also saved the team substantial money considering that no additional passers needed to be paid. This season, for example, the soon-to-be 26-year old carried a salary cap hit of only $1.1 million. For comparison, 50 quarterbacks hit their respective teams' books with a higher number – and a lot of those are backups like Garoppolo
Garoppolo stepped up when he was needed to.
In an ideal scenario, the backup quarterback only sees the field in the preseason and in blowout wins. In his first two years Garoppolo did just that. However, with Brady being forced to sit out 2016's first four games, he was thrust into the starting role – and delivered. Garoppolo led the Patriots to an improbable road victory in week one before dominating the Miami Dolphins in week two. And while he had to leave the game due to an injury and see Jacoby Brissett start the next two contests, Garoppolo's performance laid the foundation for the Patriots going 3-1 during Brady's absence.
Garoppolo netted the team a high draft pick in return.
The Patriots have traded backup quarterbacks before but only one of them – Matt Cassel in 2009 – brought back a positive draft pick return on their initial investment. Garoppolo is expected to become the second one as the 0-8 49ers are currently in the race for the number one overall draft pick. And while seeing Garoppolo take over for Brady in a few years and continue the success New England has had at the quarterback position would have been the best case, the team obviously preferred additional draft capital over what Garoppolo might become. Cannot blame them for that.
All in all, Garoppolo was as successful a backup quarterback as a team could hope for – and in turn a solid draft pick. And while he did not become Brady's successor, he still helped the Patriots during his 3.5 years in New England.