The New England Patriots are in a very unique situation when it comes to their quarterback depth chart. Starting quarterback Tom Brady just won a record fourth Super Bowl MVP, is reportedly set to negotiate a new contract, and wants to play into his mid-40s. Backup Jimmy Garoppolo has one year left on his rookie contract and is an attractive option in a market where quarterback supply is short and demand is high. The Pats also drafted Jacoby Brissett this past year, giving them some flexibility at the position.
The obvious solution here is a trade of Garoppolo -- both Patriots coaches and players really seem to think he’ll be great in the future, but if Brady plays another three years, it won’t be financially viable to keep Garoppolo around.
And yet, there is a surprising amount of chatter about the Patriots doing just that.
As noted by colleague Ryan Wilson earlier this week, Peter King of TheMMQB.com doesn’t think that the Pats are going to trade Garappolo. King’s opinion is particularly notable considering he just spent several days in Montana with Brady, gathering some fantastic material for a pair of extended interviews.
Brady won’t have full insight into Belichick’s stance on the Patriots’ trading approach, but he’s got some insight into the long-term plans for New England. The logic behind keeping Garoppolo isn’t about replacing Brady, but about making sure that a Super Bowl LII run isn’t derailed by a Brady injury without a viable option behind him.
Now there’s additional reporting about the Pats not wanting to trade Garoppolo. According to Ed Werder of ESPN, he’s just “not expecting” Garoppolo to get dealt.
One huge caveat exists with all of this reporting: it’s the offseason, and everyone is already lying. If the Patriots were interested in driving up the price on Garappolo ahead of the draft, there’s no better method than by saying “he’s not available.”
But it’s entirely possible New England felt out the market and realized there isn’t a substantial enough amount of interest for the backup quarterback. The upside of trading away Garappolo would be an early second-round pick (surely the Browns aren’t giving up No. 12 for him), which would be great for New England. The Patriots would be making out pretty well in that deal if they drafted Jimmy G late in the second, groomed him for three years and then parlayed the backup into a top-40 pick.
That’s a good draft pick. But there’s also the possibility of keeping Garoppolo around, keeping him paid, tell him the job is his after Brady leaves or trading him under the terms of a new contract. The Patriots have a weird ability to work voodoo magic on NFL players who want to stay within the system.
There’s a long way home on this Garoppolo stuff -- things are fluid and they’ll change weekly or even daily up until the draft. If someone is left out in the cold when it comes to free agent quarterbacks and draft quarterbacks, the Patriots could be holding a trump card. Or they could just decide to ride out their investment and provide themselves some insurance for another Super Bowl run.