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How Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo earlier would've affected 49ers

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How Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo earlier would've affected 49ers

The New England Patriots' ideal Tom Brady successor is the franchise quarterback for Brady's childhood team.

The Patriots dealt Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick in 2017, to coach Bill Belichick's reported chagrin. He envisioned Garoppolo leading the Patriots into another decade of dominance, but owner Robert Kraft ordered Belichick to trade Garoppolo and keep Brady, ESPN's Seth Wickersham reported in 2018.

Neither Brady nor Garoppolo will be in New England when the 2020 season starts, as the former signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (that's still weird to type and say out loud) as a free agent last month. The Patriots' QB depth chart currently consists of Jarrett Stidham and former 49er Brian Hoyer, which doesn't exactly inspire dynasty-building confidence.

That left NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry to wonder if the Patriots would've been better off trading Garoppolo sooner, when then-Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson stopped just shy of holding a neon sign over his head indicating he would trade the No. 12 pick before that year's draft for Garoppolo.

"On its face, making that move made sense for both sides," Perry wrote Friday. "The Browns were desperate for a competent quarterback. They were flush with picks. The Patriots, meanwhile, didn't have a first or a second-rounder that spring. For them, trading Garoppolo with a year left on his contract represented an opportunity to bolster their 2017 rookie haul with a top-15 talent."

The ripple effects, as Perry noted would've been far-reaching.

Jackson would've had his quarterback of the future, and thus the Browns might not have drafted Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall -- or even had the pick -- in 2018. The 49ers, who Kyle Shanahan admitted were focused enough on acquiring Kirk Cousins as a free agent in 2018 that they passed on Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft, then likely would've gone all-in on Cousins. The Patriots, then, could've drafted Deshaun Watson at No. 12 overall -- the same pick the Houston Texans used after acquiring it from the Browns -- as Brady's successor.

Thankfully for fans sick of New England winning titles, that didn't happen. It's also fair to wonder if any of the teams involved other than the Patriots actually were better off.

Acquiring Garoppolo could've saved Jackson's job in the short-term, but the Browns didn't become a team who failed to meet lofty expectations until after Jackson's firing. The 49ers, had they signed Cousins to the same contract he signed with the Vikings in 2018, would've had more flexibility in the first season but less in the second when compared to Garoppolo's extension. Neither Cousins nor Garoppolo is a clear upgrade over the other, and it's not like you can guarantee Cousins wouldn't have torn his ACL in 2018, either.

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The Patriots can (and surely will) kick themselves all they want for not maximizing Garoppolo's trade return, but the Browns might not view a hypothetical Garoppolo deal with the same regret since that still would've meant not picking Watson.

The 49ers, assuming they still signed Cousins, surely would've been happy either way.

Vikings should sign Colin Kaepernick to contract, ex-NFL exec believes

Vikings should sign Colin Kaepernick to contract, ex-NFL exec believes

With the recent events in Minnesota, Louisville and other parts of the United States, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is back in the news.

It has become clear that Kaepernick's message from his protests during the national anthem in 2017 NFL season didn't take hold.

The deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis this week, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville in March have led to protests all over the country.

In a column posted Saturday, former NFL executive Joe Lockhart and current CNN political analyst Joe Lockhart said the league attempted to convince teams to sign Kaepernick in 2017 and 2018, and he felt they had "done a righteous job."

Based on the events in Minnesota this week, Lockhart now realizes how wrong he was.

In an attempt to right a wrong, Lockhart believes the Minnesota Vikings should sign Kaepernick to a contract and give him a legitimate chance to compete for the back-up quarterback spot in training camp.

"The situation in Minnesota right now offers a unique opportunity to deal with the symbols of racial injustice," Lockhart wrote. "As a small, but important step, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi and Mark Wilf, can send a strong message by offering Colin Kaepernick a contract to play with the Vikings. Bring him into camp, treat him like any of the other players given a chance to play the game they love.

"It will not solve the problem of blacks and police violence. But it will recognize the problem that Kaepernick powerfully raised, and perhaps show that, with courage, real progress can be made."

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL since 2016 and opted out of his contract in March of 2017 after the 49ers told him they planned to release him.

Last year, Kaepernick worked out in Atlanta, but no NFL team signed him.

While Kaepernick is arguably more talented than most back-up quarterbacks and even a few starters, he has remained unsigned since leaving the 49ers. Lockhart claims NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spent a lot of time "prodding and pushing" teams to sign the former second-round pick. No one followed through, and Lockhart explained why.

"But for many owners it always came back to the same thing," Lockhart wrote. "Signing Kaepernick, they thought, was bad for business. An executive from one team that considered signing Kaepernick told me the team projected losing 20 [percent] of their season ticket holders if they did. That was a business risk no team was willing to take, whether the owner was a Trump supporter or a bleeding-heart liberal (yes, those do exist). As bad of an image problem it presented for the league and the game, no owner was willing to put the business at risk over this issue."

[RELATED: NFL briefly lists Kap as 'retired']

The only way Lockhart's suggestion can work is if the Vikings give Kaepernick a real shot to compete to be Kirk Cousins' back-up. Even though he hasn't played the last three NFL seasons, Kaepernick has more natural talent than Jake Browning, Sean Mannion and Nate Stanley, the three other quarterbacks on the Vikings' roster.

Kaepernick deserves another shot to play in the NFL. If the Vikings want to make that happen, great. But it cannot be a PR move.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Examining 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo's case as NFC West's most clutch

Examining 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo's case as NFC West's most clutch

Jimmy Garoppolo’s play as the 49ers quarterback has been hyper-analyzed over the past two seasons, as fans try to decide whether the organization indeed has found its franchise quarterback.

Winning certainly hasn’t been an issue for Garoppolo in the Bay Area, as he’s been the victor in 21 of his 26 regular-season starts.

His play in the fourth quarter was particularly impressive during his first full season as a starting quarterback, as evidenced by the numbers.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Solely based off those stats, the argument could be made as to Jimmy G being considered a clutch quarterback.

But how does his fourth-quarter play stack up with his three opposing starters in the NFC West?

Garoppolo’s fourth-quarter passer rating (107.1) far surpasses that of Jared Goff with the Los Angeles Rams (79.7), Kyler Murray with the Arizona Cardinals (82.2) and Seattle Seahawks signal-caller Russell Wilson (99.4). The 49ers’ propensity for being ahead late in games last season allowed Garoppolo to hand the ball plenty in the final quarter, but close games in New Orleans in Week 14 and against the Rams in Week 16 showed that Jimmy G can make plays when it counts.

Garoppolo’s touchdown-to-interception ratio (6-1) only is bested by Wilson (7-1), who is one of the league’s best when it comes to limiting turnovers. Garoppolo also paces the division’s QBs in fourth-quarter completion percentage (70.09).

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Having one of the league’s best defenses on his side makes Garoppolo’s job immensely easier, as coach Kyle Shanahan rarely had to rely on passing the ball to win games. Goff and Murray played quite a bit from behind in 2019, which was a detriment to their efficiency. 

Wilson’s late-game heroics are a focal point of his reputation around the NFL, as 49ers fans saw first-hand during last year’s Week 10 loss to the Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium. But Wilson had a completion percentage below 50 in the red zone last season, where efficiency becomes even more imperative for a QB. Jimmy G was at just over 63 percent in the same zone, throwing 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

While Wilson clearly stands alone as the NFC West’s best quarterback entering 2020, Jimmy G and his clutch play in the final minutes aren’t far behind.