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Can the Patriots keep both Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo under the salary cap?

The Patriots are holding on to their back-up quarterback. Could he have a future in New England?

The New England Patriots decided to hold on to QB Jimmy Garoppolo during the 2017 NFL Draft, which sparked an interesting discussion of what the Patriots plan on doing with Garoppolo moving forward.

The Patriots could keep the quarterback for 2017 and allow him to hit free agency in 2018. They could franchise tag him in 2018 and keep him in the fold for another season (although this would prevent the Patriots from franchising CB Malcolm Butler). They could even flip Garoppolo this summer if a starting quarterback suffers and injury and a team is willing to pay a king’s ransom.

But what if the Patriots actually want to keep Garoppolo around for the long haul? I always come back to this quote from Garoppolo’s father that makes me wonder if there is a plan in place.

"We hope he stays in New England," Garoppolo’s father said about Jimmy prior to the 2016 season. "Maybe there’s a way they can still work with the two of them with the progression, only time will tell."

Brady expects to play another five more years, when Garoppolo will be 30 years old, so any “progression” between the two quarterbacks has to come with a multi-year plan and support from Garoppolo’s camp to keep him on the sideline for the first eight or so years of his career.

But if any team can make an unorthodox decision to pay two starting-caliber quarterbacks top dollar, it would probably be the Patriots. MMQB’s Albert Breer noted that teams around the league are seeing the value of investing serious capital in a young quarterback because it can make-or-break a season.

“This year the Patriots held an asset that was peaking in trade value, and one that could depreciate significantly over the next year,” Breer writes. “And so there’s your offseason lesson for this week: Having a good young quarterback on your own roster is more important than what he’s worth as an asset.”

Looking around the league, teams like the New Orleans Saints (2015 third round QB Garrett Grayson), New York Giants (2017 third round QB Davis Webb), Kansas City Chiefs (2017 first round QB Patrick Mahomes II), and even the Chicago Bears (2017 first round QB Mitch Trubisky) have invested early picks in a quarterback despite also spending money on veteran quarterbacks.

The Patriots invested a 2016 third round pick in QB Jacoby Brissett, but if the team has an option to retain Garoppolo- who was rated the top back-up in the NFL by Sports Illustrated- then why not see if an extension can work out?

Earlier this offseason, Pulpiteer soxpatsceltics wrote out an excellent article on what a potential Garoppolo extension would look like, which factored in Garoppolo’s 2017 base salary, a 2018 franchise tag, the need for a tradeable contract, and much more. The contract allowed for an out with Garoppolo in case Brady looked as good as ever in 2018 or 2019, when the Hall of Famer would be due for another extension.

Based on these figures, I was curious to see how the Patriots cap investment at the quarterback position would compare to other franchises.

The Patriots would have $26.5 million in cap space invested in Brady, Garoppolo, and Brissett in 2017, which would rank the sixth-most in the league, behind the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Washington, Dallas Cowboys, and Baltimore Ravens.

In 2018, the Patriots would have $27.1 million in cap space for the quarterbacks, which would rank second-most, behind the Falcons, but this ranking would likely change as Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, and, I can’t believe I’m writing this, Sam Bradford would be due for big new deals.

The trio of quarterbacks would cost $32.6 million in cap space in 2019, easily the most in the league, but this is when quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Tyrod Taylor, and Blake Bortles (?!) would be free agents, and when quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, and Dak Prescott would have one year remaining on their deals.

Additionally, if Brady is still playing well in 2019, the Patriots would definitely restructure his contract to reduce his cap hit via an extension.

Using soxpatsceltics’ contract, the Patriots would likely be able to retain both Brady and Garoppolo for the foreseeable future and would not be spending too much more at the position than their peers around the league.

I personally believe that the Patriots will keep Garoppolo under his rookie deal in 2017 to see if Brady declines or if Brissett takes a major step forward, and will then apply the franchise tag on Garoppolo in 2018. I think the Patriots see an opportunity to be fiscally and competitively responsible by keeping both Brady and Garoppolo for the next couple of years to ensure the team will be protected at the most important position.

There are too many variables still undetermined that could lead Garoppolo to leave or stay with the Patriots over the next year or two, but if Garoppolo would be willing to sign an extension, there’s a way for the progression from Brady to Garoppolo to take place.