By: Kenny Doyle
After the Patriots offseason came and went without them trading backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, many took it as a sign that it was because they considered Jimmy Garoppolo to be the next starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. With rumors surfacing that the Browns were willing to offer at least the #12 overall pick (if not more) for Garoppolo and the Patriots still held onto him, it only made sense that the Patriots were planning to keep Garoppolo around to be Tom Brady’s successor. That all changed on Monday when the Patriots shipped Garoppolo to the 49ers for a 2018 second round pick. Leaving everyone wondering, what happened?
ESPN’s Adam Schefter famously said the Patriots wouldn’t trade Jimmy Garoppolo even if they were offered four 1st round picks. So why did they just trade him for a 2nd? Here are three different reasons behind why Jimmy Garoppolo was ultimately traded to the 49ers for a 2nd round pick:
A) The Patriots were never offered a 1st round pick for Jimmy Garoppolo
This one is hard to believe. There were countless reports of the Browns were desperately trying trade for Garoppolo leading up to the draft. Cleveland Browns local writer Mary Kay Cabot and Adam Schefter both reported that the Browns had offered the #12 pick and potentially another 1st round pick to the Pats for Garoppolo back in April, but if the Patriots were offered the #12 pick for Jimmy Garoppolo why wouldn’t they have taken it?
The Patriots are known for trading down in the draft whenever possible. They rarely draft in the 1st round. They even traded away their 1st round pick last year for Brandin Cooks. Maybe the Patriots just didn’t like the players at the top of last years draft and love the players in this years draft. Maybe all along the Patriots wanted the Browns 1st this year over their #12 pick last year and the Browns refused to give it up. Maybe they value the player they can get at #34 this year over the player they could get at #12 last year. Maybe they just didn’t want to be so cruel as to trade Jimmy Garoppolo to the Browns. Maybe they just don’t like first round picks. Either way, it’s a head scratcher why they wouldn’t have taken a 1st round pick if they were offered one, but those reports could have just as easily been typical media postering by teams around the NFL. Still, this trade makes Adam Schefter look soooooo bad after he dug in so hard that the Patriots were not trading Jimmy Garoppolo.
B) The Patriots believe Tom Brady can play at least three more years at his current level
Trading Jimmy Garoppolo leaves the Patriots with no backup quarterback and no clear plan at the position post-Tom Brady. The Patriots are back to the drawing board as far as the team’s future at quarterback goes which must mean they believe Tom Brady’s claims that he’s playing until he’s 45 and think he will be the same player he is today for at least another handful of years.
The Patriots might have already believed that, but wanted to hold onto Garoppolo for a few more months anyway just to make sure Brady still looked good in his age 40 season. With Brady on pace for 32 TDs, 4 INTs, and 5,081 yards at the halfway point of the season, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Nevertheless, with the way Brady has played since the Pats drafted Garoppolo and him being in his 40s, it would behoove the Patriots to draft a new “successor” immediately in the 2018 draft. Clearly having someone behind him ready to replace him at any point is a great motivator for Brady. That should come as no surprise given how he got his start in the NFL. Brady was on track to become a career backup before he replaced Bledsoe. Having Brady constantly looking over his shoulder and constantly being reminded that he could be replaced just like the Patriots replaced Bledsoe has taken his game to a new level over the last 4 years. The Patriots need another guy threatening to be the one to replace him ASAP. It might even help for a part 2 of Belichick’s famous “We all know Tom’s age and contract situation” press conference. Maybe this time go with a “Look, Tom’s not gonna play this way forever.” That will REALLY get Brady going. Needless to say, Tom Brady will be the Patriots quarterback next year.
C) Jimmy Garoppolo refused to re-sign in New England
This one is albeit a bit more speculative, but if it’s true it would be the #1 reason the Patriots made this trade now. In the offseason, maybe Garoppolo was more open to contract negotiations. Maybe he really thought this would be Brady’s last year and he could take over as the Patriots quarterback in quite possibly the best situation any quarterback could ask for. After watching Brady play this season, Garoppolo would have been quickly dissuaded of that notion.
If the Patriots were coming into the season thinking they could hang onto Garoppolo for a few more seasons and have him behind Brady, why not hold onto a quarterback like Garoppolo as long as they could? He clearly showed he was talented and if he wanted to stick around until he was better than Brady and for a reasonably priced deal, it may have made sense. If Garoppolo said he wasn’t re-signing, the Patriots had to deal him. Getting a second round pick for him at this point is all in all a pretty good trade off.
Final Trade Grade: B
Although it’s hard to accept trading away a promising young quarterback who was rumored to be drawing offers of multiple 1st round picks, the Patriots made out alright in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade. Jimmy is in the last year of his deal and is still somewhat of an unknown. He looked good for 6 quarters, but refused to play through an injury 2 weeks in a row. Garoppolo could be great, but he’ll never be as good as Tom Brady. When Tom Brady wants to play 5 more years and he’s playing at the level he is now, you let him no matter who your backup is.
Although a 2nd round pick might seem like somewhat of a disappointment, when you consider that the Patriots are trading Garoppolo, the 62nd overall pick in 2014, with only 8 games left on his contract for a 2018 2nd round pick that will likely be somewhere in the 30s, that’s pretty good value. It looks like Garoppolo won’t be the next quarterback of the Patriots moving forward, but they better find one that’s better than him before Brady decides to retire. If they don’t, the Garoppolo trade might go on to haunt them for a long long time.