Why Gardner Minshew Trade Could Be Key Piece Of Patriots QB Puzzle

Minshew might factor into New England's quarterback plans, one way or another


March 26, 2021

Gardner Minshew is a name to watch as the New England Patriots figure out their quarterback situation.

This is true for two reasons: one that involves Minshew potentially landing with the Patriots and another where his possible movement opens the door for New England to land a different QB.

First, and most obviously, the Patriots theoretically could acquire Minshew from the Jacksonville Jaguars as competition for Cam Newton, who recently re-signed with New England on a one-year deal.

The Jaguars this week signed free agent quarterback C.J. Beathard, perhaps increasing the likelihood of a trade involving Minshew. After all, the Jags are projected to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and Beathard and Jake Luton could round out Jacksonville’s depth chart at the position.

Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal on Friday morning floated the possibility of New England trading for Minshew, a 2019 sixth-round pick who would have a minimal impact on the Patriots’ salary cap situation.

“Patriots are still open and curious about considering Minshew — I didn?t say sold on him — at the right price, which the Jaguars have not come close to,” Bedard wrote. “Not sure what they?re asking for right now, but it’s too rich for the Patriots to seriously consider (maybe for one of their three fourth-round picks?).”

The second scenario involves the San Francisco 49ers, who on Friday completed a blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins to obtain the No. 3 overall pick. The Niners presumably are eyeing a quarterback with that selection, casting uncertainty over Jimmy Garoppolo’s future in the Bay Area.

How does Minshew factor into this?

Well, it’s long been rumored that Bill Belichick would welcome a reunion with Garoppolo. And although the 49ers reportedly insist they’re keeping Garoppolo for the 2021 season, perhaps they’ll change course if they can acquire a more cost-effective, comparable bridge quarterback, like Minshew, to pair with Trey Lance, Justin Fields or whatever QB they draft next month. It certainly would make sense from a financial standpoint.

Here’s what Bedard wrote Friday after San Francisco traded the No. 12 pick, two future first-rounders (2022, 2023) and a third-rounder (2022) to Miami for the No. 3 pick:

As far as the 49ers ? you do not trade all of that for one of the top 3 QBs in this draft, and not think that you can win with that QB very soon. Plus, the third overall pick will get a $22 million signing bonus this season, and have a cap hit of $6.2 million this season. I have a hard time seeing the 49ers being OK with $36.6 million in cap space at QB this season. Trading Garoppolo will save them $21 million in cap space to be used at any time for extensions or to acquire more talent when there are still good players on the street due to the cap this season.

I think it makes much more sense for the 49ers to do what I proposed this morning: Gardner Minshew and a draft QB. That?s a much more believable succession plan: Minshew plays winning football until the heir apparent is ready to take the reigns.

If Garoppolo becomes available, whether on the trade market or following an outright release, the Patriots are positioned to pounce. Garoppolo even could steer his way toward New England, where he spent his first three-plus seasons as Tom Brady’s backup, thanks to a no-trade clause in his contract.

The 49ers probably won’t fully entertain the idea of moving on from Garoppolo unless they have another viable veteran signal-caller lined up. That’s where Minshew comes in, as he could open 2021 as San Francisco’s starting quarterback, only to give way later in the year or next season as the Niners bolster the rest of their roster with the money they’ll save from having a young QB on a rookie contract.

All told, the Patriots might have eyes for Garoppolo, 29, as has been speculated for months. But Minshew, 24, is a fascinating character in this developing saga, either as a true trade target for New England or as the missing piece to the Jimmy G reunion puzzle.

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