Jimmy Garoppolo may not become available. Got it.
But we wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't kick around the idea that he will be. And, if he is available, we wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't kick around the idea of what it would take for the Patriots to acquire him from the Niners.
So what would it require for Bill Belichick to entice Kyle Shanahan and the Niners to send Garoppolo back to New England?
In a vacuum, the price for Garoppolo should not be steep. He's missed 23 games over the last three years in the Bay Area, playing all 16 as he helped the 49ers get to the Super Bowl in 2019. He'll be 30 years old by the middle of next season.
When considering trades involving other quarterbacks looking to rebuild their reputations as starters, Garoppolo might only be worth a third or fourth-round pick. Ryan Tannehill was dealt to the Titans for a fourth-round pick and a swap of late-round picks. Joe Flacco went to the Broncos for a fourth-rounder. Teddy Bridgewater and a sixth-round pick were sent by the Jets to the Saints in exchange for a third-rounder.
Garoppolo is in all likelihood closer to that caliber of quarterback than, say, Alex Smith back in 2017. Smith, who'd made three Pro Bowls with the Chiefs, was sent from Kansas City to Washington in the 2018 offseason for a third-round pick and a starting defensive player.
If that's the case, it would be more than feasible for the Patriots to make a deal work. A third or fourth-round pick for a chance to reunite with Garoppolo? No problem. They have No. 96 overall, a compensatory pick in the third round. They have picks No. 120, 122 and 139 in the fourth round.
There are other factors to consider, though, which could complicate a potential trade.
First, Garoppolo has a no-trade clause that could limit the number of teams legitimately in the mix to trade for him. Plus, there aren't many teams that are clearly in need of a veteran starter at the moment. Chicago would qualify. Other dominos could fall before (or after) the draft that open jobs elsewhere, but in theory a reduced number of suitors for Garoppolo could mean a lower Niners asking price.
Second, Garoppolo's contract is massive. He has a $24.1 million base salary that would travel with him in a trade unless his deal is re-worked prior to a move. There are only so many teams that could take on that kind of salary at the moment. Even the Patriots -- flush with cash prior to the start of free agency -- are down to about $12 million in available cap space, per Miguel Benzan.
They'll need a couple million to sign their draft class, and they'll need money for in-season spending. If there is no new deal for Garoppolo prior to being dealt, the Patriots could always find ways to clear more cap space in order to initially acquire Garoppolo and then knock down his salary once on the roster. It would require some work. But it's possible.
Third, the Niners -- as is being reported -- could realistically plan to keep Garoppolo. If they draft North Dakota State's Trey Lance or another quarterback who may need a redshirt year in 2021, Garoppolo could be their bridge quarterback to the future. He'd be an expensive bridge, but he'd be a bridge.
How does that impact a potential Garoppolo trade? Could inflate the price. Even if Garoppolo isn't happy in San Francisco and he puts pressure on the Niners to be dealt, if the Niners believe the quarterback at No. 3 overall won't be ready to lead a championship-ready roster, they may tell the Patriots or any other interested team that they'll need to be blown out of the water to move Garoppolo.
In that scenario, the Patriots may have to be ready to give away a better pick -- maybe their second-rounder at No. 46 overall -- or a pick and a player. But based on the league's recent history of trades involving reclamation-project quarterbacks, the price to acquire Garoppolo shouldn't be exorbitant.