NFL AM: Now Or Never For Patriots To Trade Jimmy Garoppolo


Why The Patriots Need To Trade Jimmy Garoppolo

There’s not much that’s wrong in the New England Patriots organization.  They currently have the best record in the AFC, tied for the best in the NFL, and quarterback Tom Brady defies all logic regarding age and deterioration of skills.

Then there’s Brady’s backup, Jimmy Garoppolo.  He was tremendous for the two games that he started, completing 70 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and no turnovers.  His 117.1 quarterback rating was amongst the best in the NFL when he went to the bench.

In a perfect world, the Patriots would pass the mantle from Brady to Garoppolo, just like the Packers did from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers and more recently the Colts with Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck.

As great as things are for the Pats, even they don’t live in a perfect world.

Garoppolo’s contract runs through the 2017 season and Tom Brady’s runs through the 2019 season.  Brady will be 42 years old the last year of his contract.

The former Eastern Illinois standout is scheduled to earn roughly $1.5 million combined for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.  Certainly, he’s a great bang for the buck, but he’s going to want to get paid when he hits free agency.  Even if the Patriots could afford to pay him in the neighborhood of eight figures annually, would he even want to stay in New England to be Tom Brady’s very expensive backup for two more years?  Six years as a backup?  He would be 28 years old by the time he would have the chance to be the full-time starter.

With Brady playing at the level he is, the only reasonable decision to make for New England would be to trade Garoppolo this offseason.  If they were to keep him for the remainder of his contract, they would only receive a compensatory pick for him when he signs his big free agent deal.

What kind of player is he and what is he worth on the open market? 

“I like to think I’m pretty close in comparison to Aaron Rodgers,” Garoppolo said. “He’s very athletic and gets the ball out quickly. He’s very knowledgeable of the game, controls the offense totally, and that’s something I try to do. Just know the offense inside and out.”

“I think Jimmy’s got a good presence for the position. I think he always has,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said as the team broke training camp. “Every player develops throughout the course of their career as they gain experience. That’s no different for him or anybody else. But I think his demeanor’s good.”

All bidding for Garoppolo’s services would begin with a second-round pick, as the Pats would collect a third rounder if he leaves in free agency.  It simply wouldn’t make any sense to give up an elite backup for that. Whichever team trades for him would likely want to sign him to a new contract, and that could potentially complicate things.

Although his body of work is very small, Garoppolo played at the level of a star.  Would that continue for a full season when team’s get more film on him?  Would it continue without offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels?  That’s the chance whatever team that trades for him will have to take.

“He’s worked extremely hard,” McDaniels said of Garoppolo back in training camp. “He’s had a lot of opportunities in his first two-plus years here, in practice and in spring football. This will be his third opportunity at training camp. He’s got a great work ethic, a great approach, he tries to get better and improve every day, and he’s made progress. We’re a long way from where we want to be in terms of the finished product with him and a lot of guys on our team. There’s nobody that’s as good as we can make them. We’re excited to work with all those guys and try to improve every way we can.”

As far as money is concerned, the probable comparison for Garoppolo for better or for worse would be Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler.  Although Osweiler has been a massive bust and now benched, he was considered an ascending player when the Texans offered him a four-year, $72 million deal.  Garoppolo is a much more polished product in just about every way, but it’s likely that some teams may shy away from trading a high draft pick and committing a large salary.

Who Should Trade For Garoppolo?

The team that makes the most sense in the Jimmy Garoppolo sweepstakes is the Cleveland Browns.  Cleveland has no legitimate answer at the most important position in sports and he could step in and start on Day 1.  Cleveland has the most amount of cap space than any team in the NFL and signing him would hardly make a dent on their salary cap.

Certainly, the Patriots wouldn’t have an issue with trading him to Cleveland, as the Browns are neither a rival nor a contender.  It’s unlikely that Cleveland would trade the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, which they’re likely to have.  Would New England take the 33rd overall pick and a package of other selections?  Quite possibly.

The Chicago Bears make a lot of sense as well.  It would be a homecoming for Garoppolo, and the team can finally exit the Jay Cutler era.  The Bears have enough cap space to get a deal done, especially when they get rid of Cutler.  They can also save money on their backup quarterback by letting go of Brian Hoyer in favor of Matt Barkley, who is playing solid football for them right now.  Chicago will likely be selecting in the Top 5, and if they want to go for broke (which is possible with GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox likely sitting on warm seats), they can deal that high first-rounder.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are another team that could be in the market for Garoppolo.  Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is a candidate for their open head coaching position and it would be a perfect reunion in North Florida.  Like Chicago, Jacksonville will likely be selecting in the Top 5 and with a fairly strong roster for a terrible team, they can afford to deal that top pick.  They also have the third-most cap space of any team, and paying the former backup would be a non-issue.

The San Francisco 49ers should be interested in Garoppolo, as their organization is a complete mess starting at the quarterback position.  It’s pretty much understood that the team would like to move away from Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert is one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory.  The 49ers have the second-most cap space in the league and they should be selecting in the Top 3 of the draft.  With all of the holes that San Fran has on the roster, it probably wouldn’t benefit them greatly to trade away their No. 1 pick, but they could put together a package including a high second.

The Arizona Cardinals can go for broke and try to extend their championship window with the Patriots backup.  Carson Palmer has regressed significantly and that’s one of the main reasons why they are going to miss the playoffs.  Working against Arizona will be two things: Their cap situation and their draft pick.  They would have to likely make some roster moves to clear space, and Palmer has a near-$29 million cap charge if they let him go.  They would likely have to move away from Calais Campbell, who is scheduled to be a free agent.  Assuming they don’t win any more games this season, the Cardinals would be selecting 10th in the draft, later than each of the team’s mentioned above.

Finally, the New York Jets are a team that should be interested in Garoppolo.   This seems like the biggest long-shot as the Pats will likely not want to trade their young quarterback inside the division.  New York has the least amount of cap space entering this season, and even after getting rid of Ryan Fitzpatrick, they still won’t have a lot of room without getting rid of veterans like Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall and Nick Mangold.  The Jets could pick in the Top 5 assuming that they don’t win any more games.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.