Jimmy Garoppolo remains one of the most polarizing assets in the NFL. He has been rumored to command the #1 overall pick and more in trade value but others believe that he’s more likely to be the second coming of Matt Flynn. Regardless of what the average NFL fan thinks of Jimmy G, the fact is that NFL executives from all teams value him very highly. Belichick has refused to trade him under any circumstances and repelled offers from at least 3 teams throughout the offseason.
Back in May, I wrote about what a possible Garoppolo extension would look like. I still firmly believe that keeping Garoppolo on the franchise tag is not a viable option; committing about 46 million of the cap to QBs, including 24 million to the backup is not a cap strategy that Belichick would ever entertain.
Without copying and pasting all of the previous article, here are the main talking points I had at the time.
- For an extension to be worth it, the Patriots need the extension to be front and back-loaded, many years in length, and have a small signing bonus so the contract is able to be traded without crippling dead cap hits.
- For an extension to be worth it for Jimmy Garoppolo, there needs to be more guaranteed money than Brock Osweiler or Mike Glennon, and there needs to be guaranteed money past the 2nd year of his contract.
- The contract that I proposed was a 5 year 75 million dollar extension (essentially a 4/74 contract starting in 2018) with 36 million guaranteed, a 7.5 million dollar signing bonus, and an option bonus after year 3.
A lot has changed since I proposed this extension, and none of these changes favor the Patriots.
The Patriots have lost the ability to front load the contract
Back in May, the Patriots had about 20 million dollars in cap space. This would have allowed the Patriots to front load an extension by raising Garoppolo’s 2017 base salary. My original proposed extension had Garoppolo’s base salary in 2017 jumping to 10 million; this is now impossible because the Pats have just $ 3,753,473 left in cap space according to Miguel (@patscap).
With Tom Brady’s cap hit rising to 22 million in 2018 and 2019, as well as contract situations with Nate Solder and Malcolm Butler looming next year, the Patriots cannot afford to pay their backup quarterback a lot of money those years.
The Patriots have lost all leverage
As an unrestricted free agent in a rapidly rising cap environment that projects a 200 million dollar cap by 2020, Garoppolo could command much more than 4/74 on the open market. Garoppolo has made it through all of OTAs, training camp, and pre-season without suffering an injury or hurting his stock with poor play. He has nothing left to prove.
In addition, the Patriots traded away their hedge. Having Jacoby Brissett on the roster would have allowed the Patriots to develop him as well and have him be the backup plan if the contract situation with Garoppolo could not be resolved in unrestricted free agency. As it stands right now, the Patriots have only two quarterbacks on the active roster and none on the practice squad.
The quarterback market continues to skyrocket
It absolutely blows my mind that there are no more than about 20 players that can play QB adequately at the NFL level at the same time. For that reason, teams are always looking to lock up their starter, even if it’s a huge overpay. See Stafford, Matt. And the remaining 10 or so teams with bad quarterbacks are always looking to overpay to find the next big name.
Stafford’s 5/135 extension, with 92 million guaranteed and a full season before unrestricted free agency, reset the market once again. Assuming that Sam Bradford and Drew Brees get the franchise tag or sign a long-term contract, there are a grand total of 2 worthwhile UFA QBs on the market. Kirk Cousins. Jimmy Garoppolo. End of list.
What does all of this mean?
Financially, and for the legacy of his career, it simply doesn’t make any sense for Garoppolo to take a below market deal to stay as a backup quarterback. The QB position is so thin across the league that his former backup, a project 3rd round quarterback is starting his 3rd NFL game this Sunday, surpassing Garoppolo’s 2. He’s an NFL ready QB who has spent 4 offseasons with the best QB and coach of all time and has shown real glimpses of franchise QB play. Turning 26 in November, he’s entering the prime of his career.
With a larger than usual list of teams that need replacement quarterbacks (Jaguars, Jets, Broncos, 49ers, Cardinals, Bills) and a number of teams that could realistically move on from their starter (Dolphins, Saints, Bengals, Steelers if Big Ben retires), there is already a massive market for Garoppolo.
After looking at all of the evidence, and assessing all of the events that have happened this offseason, I now truly believe that unless Tom Brady retires after the season (and that prospect remains extremely unlikely) the Patriots will tag and trade Jimmy Garoppolo. I don’t think that the uncertainty of the Patriots’ long-term QB situation really sunk in until I began writing this article earlier in the week. I was planning on writing an article where I would propose a revised extension offer, but I kept trying and the numbers simply don’t work.
Belichick trading Garoppolo and drafting his replacement fits the pattern of what he’s done throughout his career as a head coach/GM. In the Tom Brady era, Belichick has never renewed the contract of any non-Brady QB he drafted. Only 2 veteran backup QBs have stayed on the team for a full year, Damon Huard from 2001-03 and Doug Flutie in 2005. Belichick always wants to draft his backups so that he can mold and teach them while they are in a developmental stage.
Garoppolo still maintains huge trade value on the franchise tag, and the 2018 NFL draft has 3 elite pro-style QB prospects in Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen. Hell, the next tier of QBs in Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph and Baker Mayfield could also have 1st round grades. If there’s a draft where you want to take a quarterback, it’s 2018, and I’d like to think that Belichick is aware of that fact.
What seemed like a promising outlook regarding Jimmy Garoppolo’s future with the Patriots at the beginning of the offseason has clouded considerably. And based on Belichick’s transaction history, financials, and the greatest QB of all time in Tom Brady, I can’t envision a scenario where Garoppolo remains a Patriot after this year.