Why 49ers' blockbuster draft trade isn't all good news for Pats


If the Patriots want Jimmy Garoppolo, Friday's development that the Niners have moved up in the draft from pick No. 12 to No. 3 is, for obvious reasons, good news.

On its face. 

But there's a catch. Actually, there are a few.

First, the Niners reportedly don't want to trade Jimmy Garoppolo. Even though they'll be taking a quarterback at No. 3, Garoppolo is reportedly still the plan at quarterback for 2021 in San Francisco. If the Niners want Trey Lance at No. 3, for example, they may need to sit him for a year, which would make keeping a capable starter like Garoppolo more of a necessity. 

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If that's the case, that's one less quarterbacking option for the Patriots in 2021. Prior to Friday, and prior to the reports that Garoppolo will not be traded, the door was open that something could happen in San Francisco that would allow the 2014 second-round pick of the Patriots to shake free. 

Maybe this blockbuster is that something. The Patriots should hope that's the case. But it sounds like -- for now, at least -- the Niners aren't interested in trading Garoppolo. That would be less than ideal for Belichick.


Second, this deal seems to make it less likely that quarterback talent will fall into Bill Belichick's range in the first round of the draft.

Play it out. Trevor Lawrence goes at No. 1 to Jacksonville. Zach Wilson goes off the board at No. 2. The Niners take either Lance, Justin Fields or Mac Jones at No. 3. That would leave two of the top-five quarterbacks potentially available for the Patriots.

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The problem? They sit at No. 15. 

Neither the Eagles (now at No. 12) nor Dolphins (No. 6) -- both of whom traded down Friday, indicating they aren't all-in on this year's quarterback class -- shouldn't be an issue for Belichick. But the Falcons (No. 4) could take a quarterback. And the Lions (No. 7), Panthers (No. 8) and Broncos (No. 9) could either sit and pick a quarterback or fairly easily outbid the Patriots to move up in the draft to take one. 

It's not impossible that a passer would fall to the Patriots if they sat at No. 15. Both the Falcons and Lions recently re-worked the contracts of their veteran quarterbacks to free-up cap space, which may lock them into high-priced passers for the next couple of years. Maybe that means the Patriots would only have to leapfrog one of Carolina or Denver to get one of the top-five signal-callers in this class.

But quarterbacks are going to go and go quickly. And for a team in the middle of the first round in dire need of a quarterback -- not just in 2021 but for their long-term future -- that's bad news.

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If the Patriots still view quarterback as a need, as Belichick assistant Mike Lombardi indicated on The Athletic recently, and if it's unlikely they can draft one, then what?

Would Belichick be more likely to sit tight and draft someone on Day 2? Does it mean he'd be more willing to pay through the nose to Garoppolo from San Fran? Does it mean Belichick would be more likely to wait until one of those non-Niners teams drafts a quarterback to trade for their incumbent? And would guys like Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock even be worth acquiring in Belichick's eyes?

Regardless of how it plays out, if you were a Patriots fan who was hoping that your team might trade up to land one of the top arms in this year's draft, those hopes had to be dimmed a bit by Friday's news.