The Jimmy Garoppolo Conundrum

By Luke Grilli, DFW Senior Writer and Co-Owner @LGrilli88

Jimmy Garoppolo may end up being the most polarizing, yet valuable, quarterback this off season. With no clear cut stud QB in the draft or available via free agency, teams that need a franchise quarterback are likely burning up Bill Belichick’s cell minutes. 

Looking around the league, there are plenty of teams in need of that franchise guy and are loaded with draft capital. You can make a case for Houston to make a play for Jimmy G (25th pick in Round 1-3), but if Belichick truly believes that Garoppolo is the real deal, I don’t see him helping out another AFC team that just made the playoffs and may be a competent QB away from being a true contender for the AFC crown. The thought process is the same with AFC East rivals the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. If Belichick thinks Garoppolo is an elite player, he won’t want to face him twice a year.

So in my eyes, it comes down to the following three teams that could be fighting for the services of Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason.

  • Cleveland Browns
    • Own the 1st, 12th, 33rd, 52nd and 65th picks in the 2017 Draft
  • San Francisco 49ers
    • Own 2nd, 34th and 66th picks
  • Chicago Bears
    • Own 3rd, 35th and 67th picks

So before we dig into the potential landing spots, let’s recap Jimmy Garoppolo’s career and how he turned himself into possibly the most sought after QB in the 2017 offseason.

  • Patriots draft Garoppolo 62nd overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. At the time, it seemed like Tom Brady would be passing the torch to Jimmy within 2-3 years. Boy were we wrong.
  • The dreaded Chiefs game of 2014: Week 4, Brady gets smacked around a ton and the Patriots lose 41-14 to Kansas City. Whispers across the nation of whether or not Tom Brady was done have turned into full blown accusations of him and the Patriots “Not being good anymore.”
    Leading up to the next game, Bill Belichick is asked at a press conference if they are thinking about making a change at Quarterback
  • The Patriots come back the next week and manhandle the Bengals 43-17 (Brady: 23/35, 232, 2 TDs). All those with pitchforks quiet down about Brady being done as he leads the Patriots to their 4th Super Bowl title
  • Deflategate happens. Fast forward what felt like 10 years and Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the 2016 NFL season. Jacoby Brissett is also drafted in 2016
  • Given the starting gig during Brady’s suspension, Jimmy Garoppolo goes 42/59, 496, 4 TDs in essentially a game and a half. He was knocked out with a separated shoulder in his Week 2 start vs. Miami.
    • When healthy, Garopplo looked every bit like an NFL starter, granted the sample size is tiny
  • Brady comes back from his suspension and lights the world on fire with 3554 yards , 28 TD and 2 INT in 12 games and leads the Patriots to their 5th Super Bowl victory
  • Brady says he wants to play 3-5 more years and the Patriots and him are allegedly in negotiations on a contract extension when his current contract runs out in 2018
  • Jimmy Garoppolo will be a free agent at the end of the 2017 season. The cost to franchise him is estimated to be $20+ million

So that’s how we got here. Jimmy Garoppolo was a highly rated prospect coming out of college, learned under the best QB to ever suit up for 2+ years, played about 90 minutes of NFL football and now he is set to cash in.

What will the Patriots do? What should the Patriots do? Both questions are tough to answer. With the Patriots being the Patriots, only they truly know what their 5 year plan is with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Even if Belichick thinks Garoppolo is the next Patriots franchise QB, he’s not going to use the Franchise Tag on him twice and commit $50+ million to a backup QB when key starters’ contracts are running up. He would also never cut or trade Tom Brady…right?! Even if you think that Jimmy Garoppolo is garbage (as some of my esteemed NEGPod colleagues believe), his draft pedigree, early season play and the utter lack of options at QB all point to the fact that one team this offseason will make a move for him even if a starting point in contract negotiations is Brock Osweiler’s 4 year $72 million contract. Who will that team be? Let’s discuss:

Making a Case for the Bears- 35%
In my opinion, Chicago is the most likely destination for Jimmy G. Bears GM Ryan Pace was working with the Saints during the 2014 draft and allegedly loved Garoppolo coming out of Eastern Illinois (from which Pace is also an alum). Hailing from Rolling Meadows, IL, which is a 45 minute drive from Solider Field, signing with the Bears could be a homecoming for Garoppolo and a trade (and contract) he may welcome. Also, the cupboards aren’t bare for the QB. RB Jordan Howard really impressed in his rookie year and the athletic Kevin White will be working his way back on the field this off season. The status of Alshon Jeffery is up in the air since he is an Unrestricted Free Agent, but Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller are two solid complementary options. The weapons are there for Garoppolo to throw to.

Now the big question is compensation for Garoppolo. As a Patriots fan, I want the Bears to give New England the 3rd pick and call it a day, but we all know that is unrealistic. What Belichick will probably ask for (and prefer if we are being honest) is the 35th pick and maybe a 4th round pick this year or a 2nd round pick in 2018. If Ryan Pace thinks Garoppolo is the guy, I don’t think he says no to that deal.

FANTASY OUTLOOK: Chicago was a mess this year, but they have some pieces that can help Jimmy continue to grow as a passer. John Fox may not be on the same level as Bill Belichick as a coach, but he’s no slouch either. If Garoppolo becomes a Bear, I’d put him in the conversation as a redraft high end QB2 somewhere in the QB14-QB17 range, while in dynasty formats, I’d probably have him as a low end QB1, but try to pair him with an aging veteran like Tony Romo or Philip Rivers for the first year.

Making a Case for the Patriots Keeping Jimmy Garoppolo- 30%
If the offers Bill Belichick receives for Jimmy Garoppolo aren’t up to snuff, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Quarterback was a Patriot for the duration of the 2017 season. Once Garoppolo’s contract expires, though it would be expensive, Belichick can easily place the Franchise Tag on him. Just like how he managed Matt Cassel, that is when Bill’s negotiations with other teams start. Though I can’t say I EVER know what Bill Belichick is thinking at any given moment, I will say that it seems like he is not one who is willing to give up an asset for less than his perceived value. If he thinks Garoppolo is worth a 1st round pick, he won’t move him for anything less than that until his hand is forced. Being in a position of luxury with the ageless Tom Brady, I’d say this is a very real possibility.

The other reason why Belichick and the Patriots could hold Garoppolo is because of, well,  the ageless Tom Brady. It isn’t news that what Brady is doing pushing 40 years old is nothing short of a miracle, but if the avocado ice cream wears off next season and suddenly Brady looks like a 40 year old QB, the Pats are going to want their contingency plan to be ready at a moment’s notice.

It is certainly a sticky situation for Belichick and the Patriots. On one hand, they have a quarterback that has helped turned the New England team into what all other 31 teams in the NFL strive to be. On the other hand, Father Time eventually catches up to everyone and the Patriots don’t want to find themselves in the same position as the Broncos after Peyton Manning retired.

FANTASY OUTLOOK: From a fantasy standpoint, this may be the worst option for Jimmy G. Those owners who have stashed him (raises hand) would have to either cut him or hold him for another year to see what the Patriots end up doing with him. He’s nothing more than a Brady handcuff while in New England.

Making a Case for the Browns- 25%
Cleveland is my 2nd most likely new destination for Jimmy Garoppolo. Unlike the Bears, the Browns can offer a 1st round pick that may be right in Bill Belichick’s wheelhouse. With their trade before the 2016 Draft that netted the Eagles Carson Wentz, the Browns received Philadelphia’s 2017 1st round pick which ended up being 12th overall. Likely taking Myles Garrett 1st overall with their original pick, they can go a few different ways at 12. If they end up taking a chance on one of the questionable QBs in this draft, is that a better or worse move than using that pick to obtain Garoppolo?

Bill Belichick doesn’t often draft inside the Top 20, but when he does, he targets players that will be impact players. Ty Warren, Jerod Mayo and Nate Solder are all players he has  taken in the neighborhood of 12th overall. Bill likes his Alabama players, so is TE OJ Howard or MLB Reuben Foster an option for the Patriots and a reason why Belichick would prefer to trade Garoppolo to Cleveland over Chicago? Current Patriot MLB (and ‘Bama alum) Dont’a Hightower is set to hit free agency so will Belichick use his Jedi Mind Tricks to turn his backup QB into his new starting linebacker? There are a lot of questions at play here, but Cleveland desperately needs a franchise QB and the 12th pick would probably get it done.

FANTASY OUTLOOK: Cleveland: Where QB’s fantasy value go to die. Just kidding…kinda. The Browns have a young core in Terrelle Pryor, Corey Coleman, Gary Barnidge, Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson and HC Hue Jackson can coach up his QBs. This move wouldn’t be a nail in the coffin to Garoppolo like it would have been in previous years, but he’s nothing more than a QB2 until the Browns can prove to us that they can support a QB’s fantasy value.

Making a Case for San Francisco- 10%
Garoppolo being traded to San Francisco is a distant 3rd, though I expect the package to be similar to what Chicago could offer if they do decide to make a play for him. While new Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch would love to get a franchise QB in house ASAP and help turn the 49ers around, I expect them to try and bring that player in through the draft or throw a ton of money at Kirk Cousins this offseason. When Cousins was drafted to the Redskins, it was Shanahan that was pining for Redskins to take the MSU Spartan even though the Redskins gave up a King’s Ransom to move up to the #2 spot for  Robert Griffin III.

FANTASY OUTLOOK: Other than Carlos Hyde, the 49ers have pretty much NOTHING to speak of in terms of players with fantasy value. Torrey Smith and was a solid player back in Baltimore for a minute and Jeremy Kerley showed us flashes last season, but this team is a true rebuild. The only saving grace is Kyle Shanahan seems to be a QB whisperer and could find a way to get blood from a stone with Garoppolo, but he’s definitely a low end QB2 in the San Fran offense.

Belichick and the Patriots don’t have to make a move with Jimmy Garoppolo anytime soon, but the options above are where I think they COULD go. What do you think? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.