Teams that trade with the New England Patriots do so at their own risk. Bill Belichick seems to get the better end of the deal more often than not.
So when the 49ers acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in exchange for San Francisco's second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, there was plenty of excitement, but also a lingering question as to whether or not Belichick knew something they didn't.
Two-plus seasons later, Garoppolo already has exceeded the value the 49ers gave up in that transaction, and the trade in general can be viewed as overwhelmingly in San Francisco's favor.
Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon included it in the nine most impactful NFL trades of the last decade, and he firmly agrees. In re-grading the trade, he gave the 49ers an A-plus, while the Patriots received a D-minus.
"The San Francisco 49ers' decision to acquire potential franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots at the 2017 trade deadline has rarely looked bad," Gagnon wrote. "When the deal went down, it was widely perceived as a worthwhile risk for the price of a second-round draft pick. When Garoppolo won his first five starts with a weak 49ers team that year, the deal began to look like a coup.
"And now, with the 49ers coming off a Super Bowl season with Jimmy G under center, and with New England high and dry under center following Tom Brady's departure in free agency, it's beginning to look like a stroke of genius."
Since acquiring Garoppolo, the 49ers have won 19 of the 24 regular-season games he has started. Only the Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson has a better winning percentage among qualifying NFL quarterbacks over that span.
While Gagnon concedes that Garoppolo still has ample room for improvement, he argues that he was worth more than a second-round pick -- particularly to the Patriots, who now don't have Garoppolo or Brady. Of course, the trade isn't just about Jimmy G; there's another side to it as well.
As what Gagnon refers to as "the draft's ultimate wheeler-and-dealer," Belichick and the Patriots did well to turn the second-rounder they received from San Francisco into multiple players. Several, in fact. The problem for them is they got plenty of quantity, but not enough quality.
Through a series of trades, New England turned the 49ers' second-round pick, another 2018 second-rounder, two 2019 third-round picks, a fourth-, a sixth- and two seventh-round picks in 2019, a 2020 fourth-rounder and a 2021 sixth-round selection into:
- cornerback Joejuan Williams
- linebacker Christian Sam
- running back Damien Harris
- offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste
- defensive lineman Byron Cowart
- tight end Dalton Keene
- punter Jake Bailey
- quarterback Jarrett Stidham
Not exactly a collection of stars.
Now, it certainly seems like the Patriots are expecting Stidham to start this season. If he performs well, they'll obviously have gotten much more out of the Garoppolo trade than it currently appears. But, as Gagnon summarized, as things currently stand, "there's no argument right now that the Patriots have gotten the better end of this deal."
Garoppolo has led the 49ers to many wins since the trade, but the transaction itself was a major victory.
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