Can't-miss Patriots storyline: Garoppolo in danger of becoming a distraction?

Jimmy Garoppolo sporting a Flying Elvis logo on the side of his helmet for the 2017 season at times felt like a longshot this offseason, but here we are at training camp and the fourth-year signal-caller is still a member of the Patriots.

The question of why the 25-year-old quarterback is still on the team, despite New England winning two Super Bowls in the last three seasons with Tom Brady -- a guy who says he wants to play at least five-more seasons -- is puzzling, to say the least. It's especially head scratching considering the boatload of assets Bill Belichick reportedly could have collected if he had shipped him out of town.

Instead, Garoppolo will enter the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2017 season.

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New England, in theory, could franchise Garoppolo to later trade him and recoup some of those assets they could have attained this offseason, but the return will likely not touch what it could have been. 

With him on the team, the question of the longterm future at the quarterback position in Foxborough will continue to fester. Every throw Brady makes, every hit he takes will be dissected as folks wait to potentially see the view at the tip of the iceberg before sliding down the other side. 

So what is it? 

Some scouts flat out think Belichick believes he's found the next great quarterback in Garoppolo and that he'll hang on to him for as long as he can, holding off on making that potential franchise altering decision for a long as he can. 

Other, less in-the-know football minds shout out the conspiracy theory from the end of the bar that this is Brady's final year in the league and will calmly hand over the keys to Patriot-land to Garoppolo at the end of the season, which in their minds hopefully is in Minnesota following a Super Bowl LII victory.

Clearly the second is the more romantic of the two, but still unlikely given everything Brady has said up until this point in his career. 

A personal favorite that could link back into the former theory is that Belichick wants to see what a 40-year-old Brady looks like during a full NFL season. After all, he did get a four-game vacation to rest up thanks to Roger Goodell and some alleged soft footballs.  

Could Belichick have seen something in Brady's game towards the end of the season that fell off, spooking him from dealing away his young quarterback? Perhaps. 

Last December Belichick said of backup quarterbacks, "Nobody needs insurance until you need insurance."

Nevertheless, SportsLine projects the same typical dominance from Brady in 2017:


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*Fantasy points

New England is in the business of winning Super Bowls. So, if insurance is what Garoppolo is, and that insurance is so good that it was worth passing on what could only be imagined was oodles of draft picks, it's with the mindset of winning a sixth title. 

When you break it down like that, the Patriots by their actions are essentially saying they believe they can win a Super Bowl with a 25-year-old quarterback. 

And boy, is that saying something. 

In the end this could all be fodder, but the questions must be asked and the theories will come in buckets because he is in fact still in Foxborough. 

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