The only thing more aggravating than the Tony Romo rumors floating around the NFL this offseason are the Jimmy Garoppolo trade rumors. One minute he’s a sure bet to be traded, the next minute the Patriots might end up keeping him and all of a sudden there’s chatter he could fetch the top overall pick. Wild how that works! 

The clear-cut leader in the Garoppolo sweepstakes is the team with the top-overall pick, the one and only Cleveland Browns, a quarterback-desperate team with a pile of picks available for negotiations. 

Let’s look at what needs to happen in order for the Browns to acquire Garoppolo. 

According to Mary Kay Cabot of, the Patriots are going to require a first-round pick in exchange for Garoppolo. This jibes with what has been the general chatter for a while now. The Patriots want a first-rounder for their former second-round pick (with three years of investment in terms of training). The Browns have two of them, possessing the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 12 overall pick. 

Cleveland also holds the No. 34 overall pick but apparently that’s not enough to make it work. (It should be, but that’s another argument.) 

Cabot actually believes it might take MORE to get Garoppolo.

I believe it will take the No. 12 pick to acquire him, and possibly more. The trading window officially opens March 9, but unofficial talks will take place before then. If Belichick doesn’t receive a first-round offer right away, he can hang onto Garoppolo until draft day and try to drive up the price.

Draft day gets tricky, though. Let’s assume there are five teams who would realistically be willing to trade for Jimmy G: the Browns, the 49ers, the Bears, the Jets and the Bills

Let’s rule out Belichick trading Garoppolo in the divsion to the Jets or the Bills. Let’s also assume if he’s willing to send Garoppolo to either Buffalo or New York, both teams he plays twice a year, then it means he believes Garoppolo is going to flame out. Belichick isn’t handing the Jets or Bills a franchise quarterback regardless of the price. 

So that leaves three teams. And this is where the leverage gets really tricky. Both the Bears and 49ers are going to be looking for long-term solutions at quarterback and both are expected to release their respective veteran starters (Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick).

But both teams are potential fits for other veterans. Tony Romo went to the same college (Eastern Illinois) as Bears GM Ryan Pace (which is also the same college Garoppolo went to!) and could be a fit in Chicago, although it’s a rebuilding team and he might not want to wait. Kyle Shanahan has previously coached Kirk Cousins and Cutler. Neither is guaranteed to be available come free agency, but both could be a fit for the 49ers if they want to go in a different direction than the top of the draft. 

In other words, free agency is going to drastically dictate what happens with a Garoppolo trade. If the 49ers and Bears sign a veteran who can start (include Mike Glennon on that list, as well) then all of a sudden Belichick’s leverage with Cleveland could disappear. 

This could also go in the total opposite direction. Cabot reports that Shanahan coveted Garoppolo coming out of Eastern Illinois when coaching the Browns in 2014, but Cleveland took Johnny Manziel. Whoops.

Kyle Shanahan, the new 49ers head coach, loved Garoppolo coming out of Eastern Illinois in 2014 when he was with Cleveland, but the Browns opted for Johnny Manziel instead. 

Shanahan has the No. 2 and No. 34 overall picks and the second-most cap space in the NFL at almost $79 million. Quarterbacks love to play for Shanahan because of his QB-friendly scheme.

If San Francisco and Chicago don’t have an immediate or long-term answer at quarterback by the time the draft comes around, Belichick could be swimming in leverage with those teams. Cleveland might want to offer the No. 12 pick and he might be able to laugh about it, because he can threaten the Browns with San Francisco or Chicago trading their top pick.

This is all hypothetical, of course. The problem with giving up a top-five pick for Garoppolo is his contract. Both rookies and Garoppolo are unknown by default, but unlike a rookie, Garoppolo isn’t going to be on a cost-controlled contract for four years (plus a fifth-year option).

He’s going to play one season and then whoever acquires him will immediately be required to make a decision on an expensive, long-term contract. If he’s the guy, great. If he puts you in a position like the Redskins are in with Kirk Cousins, well, then you need to spend $45 million over the next two years to decide if he’s the right answer. 

To sum up, if the Browns want to acquire Jimmy Garoppolo for a reasonable price and have him be the savior of Cleveland football, they need a bunch of other quarterback-needy teams go out in free agency and sign players, then have the Patriots take less than they normally would in a trade and then have Garoppolo agree to a long-term contract in Clevleand. 

And he also has to be good at football. It’s all pretty simple, really.