With the glow of Super Bowl LI finally beginning to fade -- a little -- it's time to start looking ahead to 2017. Over the next few days, we'll look at the Patriots' to-do list: Things they need to care of as the offseason begins. Today: What to do with backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
First, a live look at speculation regarding the eventual landing spot for Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
And it’s not gonna slow down. Garoppolo is the best (or at least the most promising) quarterback in captivity without a starting job in the NFL.
Since “I dunno” is an unacceptable answer, all manner of Garoppolo-related speculation has been loosed since the start of the 2016 season.
PATRIOTS TO-DO LIST:
- First priority is to get their Gronk right
- To tag, or not to tag Hightower?
- Pats shouldn't over-extend for Bennett
- Franchise tag window open until March 1
This week, ESPN’s Ed Werder spitballed what he expected, which is similar to what MMQB poobah Peter King spitballed, both of which are different from what former Patriots front office man and Bill Belichick consigliere Mike Lombardi opined during the season.
Lombardi’s take, of course was similar to ESPN’s Adam Schefter’s guess, which was reported as fact, causing ESPN’s Trent Dilfer to say that Schefter was getting played by the Patriots, which caused Schefter to get rankled and say that he was just theorizing in the first place. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, meanwhile, had a measured take during the Super Bowl, which is precisely the same information I’ve been handing you since November.
The Patriots are not going to park Garoppolo on the front lawn with a “FOR SALE” sign tucked under the wiper. If some team wants to walk up the driveway, knock on the door and ask, “How much for the Garoppolo you got parked out there?”, the Patriots may invite said team in for lemonade and a conversation. But he isn’t burning a hole in their pocket.
Let’s talk “value” for a second because it’s what drives every Patriots personnel decision. The value of Garoppolo currently is that he’s a very solid backup quarterback on a team that won the Super Bowl and will challenge for it in 2017. Tom Brady hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2008, but Garoppolo is insurance that – if Brady gets visited by misfortune – the Patriots won’t be screwed. Jacoby Brissett, the third-stringer isn’t at a point yet to insure success.
Is the security of having Garoppolo around “just in case” more valuable than the first- or second-round pick the Patriots could wring from the Niners, Bears or Browns? That’s a close call. And the indefinite nature of what the compensation might be – is it the 12th from Cleveland? Is it the 36th from Chicago? – means the Patriots can’t fully weigh value until they have a definite offer.
As the draft approaches, the urgency for teams interested in Garoppolo is only going to grow. The water is sufficiently chummed right now so that Garoppolo is the No. 1 offseason story in Cleveland, San Francisco and Chicago.
The collection of Deshauns, DeShones, Trubiskys and Mahomes populating the top of the 2017 draft class are going to make the sphincters of certain GMs tighten as late April approaches. The best offers may not be seen until the week of the draft. Or the weeks following when teams look at what they’ve wrought. Or even in August when, though it would put Garoppolo behind the learning curve in a new system, he might be a better option that the backup if some team’s starter gets broken. (See: Vikings, 2016).
Even if the Patriots don’t find “value” commensurate with keeping Garoppolo around, there’s always the 2018 offseason. The Patriots could do with Garoppolo what they did in 2009 with Matt Cassel – franchise Garoppolo and try to deal him.
The tag will be (ballpark) $23M in 2018 which means the Patriots would have to carry that amount on their cap until they move Garoppolo. Also, the team that dealt for him would have to have that cap space available prior to the deal being made, since the salary travels with the player. Garoppolo and his agent Don Yee would then work out a long-term deal with the new team.
The Patriots couldn’t pull the tag from Garoppolo after he signed it, so, it would be wise of Garoppolo to sign it the second it’s slid across to him. If that time comes. Obviously, there are a lot of moving parts in that particular scenario but the value in trading Garoppolo at that point – meaning they’re getting something for a guy who would otherwise leave – is clear.
Andrew Brandt of MMQB thinks anyone expecting a first-round pick in exchange for Garoppolo is “delusional.”
That’s a take. It’s also a fact that since 2003, the only quarterbacks to start in the AFC Championship that weren’t first-round picks were Jake Plummer (2005, a second-rounder) and Brady (’03, ’04, 06, ’07, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14, ’15, ’16, a sixth-rounder) so valuing first-rounders is important.
But where a guy is taken should matter far less than what you can see (or have seen) he is capable of.
Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers and Mark Sanchez are the quarterbacks other than Brady and Plummer who’ve made it to the AFC title game since 2003. That’s 28 slots filled by eight guys. And there have been 40 quarterbacks taken in the first round since 2003.
Compared to any of the 40 selected (Eli Manning, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan among them), Garoppolo is the only one who demonstrated what he can do in a regular-season NFL game. That’s got to count for a lot.
I’ve been told to “not be surprised” if the Patriots don’t deal Garoppolo. And I won’t be. I also won’t be stunned if New England pulls a heist that has everyone saying, “Who knew?”
So far, the Patriots are playing a “can’t lose” hand perfectly.