Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo still makes perfect sense -- here's why

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL executives I’m talking to at the combine are less than convinced that Jimmy Garoppolo will be in New England next season, regardless of whatever else is reported about expectations to the contrary. The Patriots have no motivation to shop their backup quarterback and love the idea of him being seen as untouchable. The reality is that besides Tom Brady no Patriot has ever been untouchable for Bill Belichick, especially not a quarterback they don’t intend to ever have see the field in 2017.

I had a very smart football man -- one who has no skin in this Garoppolo sweepstakes whatsoever and no stake in the quarterback market -- frame the situation in a way I thought was fairly brilliant, and distilled the decision to move Garoppolo to its core. Of course the Pats will trade a talented backup -- they’re always drafting quarterbacks and truly believe Brady has multiple elite seasons left in him, and a year from now the only way to keep Garoppolo is to franchise him or pay him long-term as a top-of-the-line starter.

And there are maybe four quarterbacks in this draft and most teams will be split on them at least to some degree (I keep hearing Patrick Mahomes could end up being the top guy, by the way) and will really like one or two of them. That leaves small supply. And then you have to hope the kid is mature and developed enough as a person and a player to get on the field quickly (because these are 21-year-olds after all and some, like Jared Goff, are going to need time to mature).

So does it make more sense to move up or draft one of these kids in the top three picks, or does it make more sense to go after Garoppolo? Still just 25, he has proven he is mature and heady enough to handle Josh McDaniels’ system and has three years of pro seasoning and elite NFL coaching on his résumé. And, from a financial aspect, consider the following -- you could trade for the quarterback, pay him just $820,000 for 2017 and you don’t even have to negotiate a new contract if you don’t want to. You could go the route the Redskins have taken with Kirk Cousins and franchise him two years in a row if you want and end up paying Garoppolo a cumulative $46M or so over the first three years of his tenure with his new team.

That, folks, is a relative steal for someone with this upside playing the most important position in all of pro sports. Laying out $15 million or so a year on a pay-as-you go format with no signing bonus or upfront money is a potential steal. He would get that money over 51 game checks over three years, with no balloon payments or option bonuses. Of course, if you like the player, you can give him a lucrative long-term extension at any point and if it doesn’t work out, you could trade him off the franchise tag if need be. Unless he turns out to be a total Osweiler it’s fairly fool proof and offers extreme team flexibility.

So, if you like Garoppolo, who is much more of a known commodity than any quarterback in this draft, is it that crazy to trade a top-three pick for him? I certainly don’t think so. And ultimately it could be something like three second-round picks that gets it done. If no QB-needy general manager in this league is forward-thinking enough to put a package together that offers enough value for Belichick to move the player, then shame on them. That would be an indictment on them.

Ultimately, nothing has to really happen until the end of April, when the draft kicks off. And by April these scouts will have picked these draft prospects to shreds and obsessed over every wart and some will be scared to death about the boom-or-bust potential. And Belichick will be there waiting. He’ll pick up his phone if/when people start calling. It would be ridiculously foolish not to, and Belichick is anything but a fool.

New England doesn’t have to be in any rush. Nothing has to happen March 9, when the league year begins. Maybe no one concocts a package that Belichick thinks meets the quarterback’s value. But the offseason has barely just begun, and everyone has a price. Especially in New England. It’s the Patriot Way.

CBS Sports Insider

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

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