Even after aggressively tackling free agency, one big hole remains on the New England Patriots’ roster. The team has no obvious long-term solution at the quarterback position right now, something that owner Robert Kraft acknowledged as well during a media conference call on Wednesday.
New England has looked into every possible option, though. That includes scouting potential first-round draft prospects Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Mac Jones and even Trevor Lawrence — the latter being expected to come off the board first overall later this month — but also taking a look at veteran options available either via free agency or through trade.
Given his history with the Patriots, the biggest name among the latter group is current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. And according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, New England has been persistent when it comes to its interest into the 29-year-old.
“I’ve talked to a bunch of people in the league about this, and enough people I trust have told me that the Patriots’ interest in Jimmy Garoppolo has been consistent,” Russini said on the air on Wednesday. “This has got to be more San Francisco willing to make the deal and, of course, New England having the right amount of picks and money to get Jimmy to bring him back. And that’s really what it’s going to come down to.”
The 49ers have insisted time and again that Garoppolo would be their starter for the 2021 season, and even after making a massive trade up to the third overall selection last week did not change their tone.
San Francisco is expected to draft a quarterback at No. 3, but that does not automatically make Garoppolo available for trade. Head coach Kyle Shanahan explained as much during a joint press conference with general manager (and short-time Patriots safety) John Lynch.
“We’re in a situation where when you bring in a rookie quarterback, to me, it’s always better, especially on the team that you have, if you’ve got a veteran starter there already who you like and you’re comfortable winning with,” Shanahan said. “That’s usually the direction you want to go and not throw someone else out into the fire until they’re fully ready. That’s the situation we’re at.”
With San Francisco now set to draft a quarterback in Round One, Garoppolo’s future is very much in question. That is especially true given that he still has two seasons on his contract and is scheduled to count $26.4 million and $27 million against the 49ers’ salary cap in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
While the team is open to use him as a bridge quarterback for at least one season, Shanahan also acknowledged that the club would listen to trade offers and not shy away from pulling the trigger if the right opportunity came along.
“It’s going to be hard to find a quarterback that gives us a better chance to win than Jimmy right now, especially even a rookie in the draft,” he said. “Now, if someone wanted something for that and it can make your team better in a lot of other ways, you listen to that, but also depends on how good you feel about that rookie. We’re not there yet right now and odds are, we probably won’t be. That’s why we’re happy that we don’t have to be that way.
“We’ve got a guy in here who we know we can win with, a guy that our players love, that we love and we’re excited to have him this year and we’re excited to have a hell of a quarterback right behind him learning for when the time is his.”
So, where does that leave the Patriots and their reported interest in Garoppolo? Chances are they are just doing their due diligence in order to get a feel for his cost in a theoretical trade.
Considering the 49ers’ insistence at keeping him, plus the compensation aspect for both the team and the player himself, it appears unlikely New England would do a trade at the moment. Things can change quickly, though, and San Francisco and Garoppolo himself might be more willing to make a move after fully evaluating its draft options at No. 3.
At the end of the day, however, it seems more likely that the Patriots’ former second-round pick will stay put in 2021: New England will probably not be willing to make a big enough offer for the 49ers to reconsider their current position and move on from Garoppolo.
In turn, the Patriots will look elsewhere for that long-term solution they want to find.