Sports fans still reeling from the emotional rollercoaster of Sunday night’s World Series Game 5 weren’t given much time to recover. Monday, aka Trade Deadline Eve, was chock full of football headlines, with the biggest news dropping at roughly 8 PM ET. Take it away, Schefty:
Major QB shakeup: 49ers trading 2018 2nd-round draft pick to New England for Patriots’ QB Jimmy Garoppolo, sources tell ESPN.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 31, 2017
Obviously, there’s a lot to digest here, but let’s start off from New England's perspective. When the Patriots drafted Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 draft, they did so with the belief that he would be the heir apparent to Tom Brady. Two Super Bowl MVP awards later, it’s clear that Brady—even at age 40—isn’t going anywhere. Still the best quarterback in the game and arguably in the best shape of his career, the once-absurd notion of Brady playing well into his 40s now seems like a certainty. Rather than waiting to get a compensatory pick for Garoppolo upon his inevitable departure (the idea of New England using the franchise tag on a player who has thrown a grand total of 94 NFL passes was always a farce), the Patriots sold high on the 25-year-old by bringing back what should be an early second-round pick.
While trading Garoppolo leaves New England without a safety net, the reality is that some quarterback-needy team would have overpaid for him in free agency (Mike Glennon got $45 million just for showing up last offseason) and there’s no way the cost-conscious Pats would have entered a bidding war for a mere clipboard-holder.
The Patriots did well to turn their quarterback depth (third-stringer Jacoby Brissett was dealt to Indianapolis prior to Week 1) into draft capital, but now New England has nothing left behind Brady. Ironically, the most sensible backup option (assuming the Patriots don’t break the Internet by resurrecting Colin Kaepernick) is probably Brian Hoyer, who was immediately let go by San Francisco in the aftermath of Monday night’s trade. Hoyer looked overmatched as a starter this year but remains a serviceable No. 2 and has history with New England having played there from 2009-11.
Dealing Garoppolo to the winless 49ers may seem cruel, at least on paper, but it’s actually the nicest thing the Patriots could have done for him. After waiting years for Brady to give up the throne in Foxboro, Garoppolo will finally have the opportunity to be a starting quarterback. Garoppolo’s supporting cast in San Francisco will be bare bones compared to what he had in New England, but perhaps he can improve his free agent stock by stringing together a few wins down the stretch. At the bare minimum, he should be an improvement on third-round rookie C.J. Beathard, who has looked utterly lost in his first two NFL starts.
Many have already anointed Garoppolo as the Niners’ new franchise quarterback, but it seems a bit early to make that declaration. While San Francisco likely wouldn’t have surrendered a second-round pick without at least some expectation of signing Garoppolo to a long-term deal, the next eight games will go a long way toward determining that outcome. It’s still possible that coach Kyle Shanahan could reunite with his former star pupil Kirk Cousins in San Francisco if Garoppolo chooses to test the market. Cousins is a more proven asset than Garoppolo but he’s also three years older and will come at a steeper cost, though cap space shouldn’t be an issue for the rebuilding Niners.
Garoppolo may need a week to acclimate to Shanahan’s offense, but there’s little doubt he’ll usurp the starting role from Beathard once he’s gotten up to speed. It’s an extremely small sample size but Garoppolo has shown well when called upon, completing 63-of-94 career passes for 690 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. His only two starts came when he was filling in for Brady during his Deflategate suspension in 2016.
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Zeke’s Suspension Back On
Ezekiel Elliott has been dodging tacklers all season with great success. He’s been equally adept at dodging punishment from the NFL, though Monday’s hearing in the Southern District of New York represented his biggest setback yet. Nearly three weeks after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided to vacate his injunction, Judge Katherine Failla officially dissolved Elliott’s temporary restraining order on Monday while reinstating his six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s code of conduct. Elliott and his lawyers still have 24 hours to file an appeal but under the current circumstances, Zeke owners should be making other arrangements for Week 9.
The drama surrounding Elliott’s suspension and his various appeals has been well-documented so it’s unlikely that Monday’s ruling will catch anyone off guard. Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden have already been stashed in many leagues, though both are must-adds where available. Of course, expectations need to be tempered as neither player is guaranteed a starting role and it’s possible the Cowboys could employ a backfield committee during Zeke’s absence. Morris has logged 13 carries as a scarcely-used change-of-pace back this year while the veteran McFadden has been a healthy scratch for each of the Cowboys’ first seven games. That would seem to make Alf the better add, though the more versatile McFadden may be better suited to be an every-down back than the one-dimensional Morris.
There’s never a good time to lose a player of Elliott’s elite caliber, but losing him at this juncture would be especially devastating for fantasy owners. He’s really hit his stride over his last two games, producing 373 yards from scrimmage with four touchdowns during that span. Now Zeke’s legal team has 24 hours to pull one last rabbit out of the hat.
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Quick Hits: The Chiefs erased their two-game losing streak by defeating the Broncos 29-19 Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Travis Kelce led the way with seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown while All-Pro corner Marcus Peters scored on a fumble recovery and also logged his third interception of the year. Trevor Siemian had a dismal game (19-for-36, 198 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions) under center and may not be long for the starting quarterback job in Denver … The first big trade domino to fall on Monday was Duane Brown, who the Texans traded to Seattle in exchange for cornerback Jeremy Lane and two draft picks. Brown returned to action last week (against the Seahawks, ironically) after holding out the first six games of the season. He had been with the Texans since 2008 … According to Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, at least two teams have inquired on Frank Gore’s availability. For the Colts, it may be a good time to sell high on the 34-year-old, who is coming off his best game of the season (101 yards from scrimmage in Week 8). Gore is in the last year of a three-year contract and would likely welcome a trade to a contender … Gore isn’t the only Colt teams are calling about. T.Y. Hilton is also generating trade interest. Hilton recently voiced his frustration with the team’s offensive line and could be looking for a change of scenery with Andrew Luck absent and the Colts heading nowhere … Despite recent rumblings, The Ringer’s Mike Lombardi does not expect the Patriots to trade Dion Lewis before Tuesday’s deadline. Lewis began the year as a backup but has recently emerged as New England’s lead back … Doctors believe they were able to save Zach Miller’s leg following emergency surgery to repair a dislocated knee he suffered in Sunday’s loss to New Orleans. With Miller out for the year, Dion Sims will take over as the Bears’ starting tight end … Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman was hit with a 10-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on PEDs. Freeman, who was placed on injured reserve after Week 1, served a four-game PED ban in 2016 … Delanie Walker didn’t suit up for Monday’s practice. Walker is still nursing a bruised ankle he suffered in Week 7 … Corey Davis returned to a limited practice on Monday and hopes to play Sunday against Baltimore. The first-round rookie hasn’t seen the field since injuring his hamstring in Week 2 … Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Joe Flacco is showing no concussion symptoms and has a “good chance” of playing Sunday at Tennessee. Flacco departed Thursday night’s game after taking a brutal hit from Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso … Danny Woodhead is eligible to return from injured reserve in Week 11 and could resume practicing as soon as this week. Woodhead hasn’t played or practiced since injuring his hamstring in Baltimore’s season opener … Jordan Reed is expected to sit out Week 9 after hurting his hamstring in Sunday’s loss to Dallas. Reed’s likely absence will open up more snaps for veteran Vernon Davis at tight end … Jimmie Ward has been placed on season-ending injured reserve with a broken forearm. The 2014 first-rounder also finished last year on injured reserve … Dede Westbrook participated in Monday’s practice, as did teammate Leonard Fournette. Westbrook (core muscle surgery) will likely be activated from injured reserve this week while Fournette is hoping to return from a sprained ankle he suffered in Week 6 … Saints coach Sean Payton promised that Willie Snead will have a role down the stretch. Snead has played just 25 snaps since coming back from a three-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy … DeVante Parker is expected to play against the Raiders in Week 9. He’s missed Miami’s last three games with a sprained ankle … When asked if he was confident Martavis Bryant would have a role in the Steelers’ offense going forward, coach Mike Tomlin said, “I’m not. We’ll see.” Rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster broke out for a career-high 193 yards against the Lions with Bryant benched in Week 8 … Sterling Shepard practiced on Monday coming off the Giants’ bye in Week 8. He should play Sunday against the Rams after missing the last two games with a sprained ankle.