Jimmy Garoppolo’s winning performance Sunday night took at least one option out of the young quarterback’s future. He won’t go unwanted when he becomes available. Sorry, if he becomes available.
Starting-caliber quarterbacks are not easily found where the Patriots typically select in the first round of the NFL draft. The Patriots know this well, despite having Tom Brady at the helm, in seeing the careers of their backups after leaving New England. Matt Cassel is on his sixth team after failing as a starter with the Kansas City Chiefs. Brian Hoyer also is on his sixth team, backing up Jay Cutler with the Chicago Bears. Ryan Mallett is on his third team, and Kevin O’Connell played on six teams before his time in the NFL ran up in 2008.
Now the Patriots finally have their young backup, who’s 15 years younger than their starter and who looks like the real deal. Albeit that’s after only one game, but NFL-wide praise for Garoppolo began in the preseason. How many draft picks would be worth stockpiling for the Patriots to give up a potential franchise quarterback as their current one nears 40 years old? More than another team would give up for a commodity who still will be largely unproven even after four starts, most likely.
So what are the Patriots’ options now that letting Garoppolo walk as a free agent in 2018 without any significant compensation seems out of the question? They could reach a long-term, back-loaded deal with Garoppolo before he becomes a free agent. That seems difficult, since Garoppolo will want to start, knows he’ll earn big money on the open market and doesn’t know when the Patriots would move on from Brady or when the legend will decide to retire.
The Patriots also could franchise-tag Garoppolo in 2018. That’s a large price to pay for a backup quarterback, but it would keep him under contract for one more season, and the Patriots still could elect to trade Garoppolo if Brady looks like he has years of strong play left, or if the team is similarly high on Jacoby Brissett.
The Patriots still could trade Garoppolo, but it’s beginning to seem more and more unlikely. The Patriots clearly have confidence in him. That became apparent the second Patriots coach Bill Belichick announced Garoppolo would be handed the reins in Week 1 without first competing with Brissett in training camp. It also became apparent when the Patriots decided they didn’t need to bring in a veteran quarterback this offseason. Garoppolo was and currently is their guy. He justified their confidence by looking like a future starting quarterback in Week 1 against a Super Bowl contender.
And how stupid would the Patriots look if they do decide to trade him, Brady finally starts to show his age, and then Garoppolo turns into the next Aaron Rodgers?
Finding a franchise quarterback is an arduous task that’s paramount to putting together a perennial winner. Finding a dependable quarterback is difficult enough. Garoppolo looked dependable Sunday night, and he has enough potential that trading him would be a risky proposition.
Thumbnail photo via Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports Images