The Browns reportedly will make a run at Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. (The fallback may be Kirk Cousins.) The Patriots, based on who you believe, will listen — or they won’t. Their standoffishness comes either from an effort to maximize the trade offer or from a genuine desire to keep Garoppolo around.
As one high level employee of an AFC team recently told PFT, there’s a persistent belief within league circles that the Patriots truly want to keep Garoppolo.
First, Father Time eventually is going to whack Tom Brady over the head with whatever Father Time’s weapon of choice is (scythe, staff, hourglass, big-ass Flava Flav necklace clock). Notwithstanding the avacado ice cream, it can come very, very quickly for Brady. (Just ask Peyton Manning.) If it comes this year, the Patriots will have Garoppolo under contract for the balance of 2017 and, via the availability of the franchise tag, beyond.
Second, and as Scott Zolak from the Patriots Radio Network suggested on PFT Live in the aftermath of Super Bowl LI, the thinking is that Brady’s magic number is three more years with a caveat — if he wins one more Super Bowl, he may very well walk away. If that happens this year, the Patriots need to have Garoppolo around.
Third, Jacoby Brissett may not be the answer. There’s a feeling that the Patriots drafted Brissett at the very strong urging of his mentor, Bill Parcells, and that coach Bill Belichick has decided after a year of working with Brissett that he won’t become a true franchise quaterback.
So this isn’t about trying to get Garoppolo to make an open-ended commitment to continue to be the No. 2 while no one knows when No. 1 will choose to leave due to age or injury. It’s about the Patriots keeping Garoppolo around as insurance against Brady leaving because he’s walking off with Lombardi No. 6 or because, despite his best efforts and electrolytes, he can no longer get it done.
The Patriots won’t trade Brady instead of Garoppolo. Belichick’s habit of dumping a guy one year too early instead of one year too late has exceptions, rare as they may be. Brady, regarded as the fifth son of owner Robert Kraft, will be one of those exceptions. So Brady stays as long as he wants, especially since Belichick realizes Brady wouldn’t allow himself to keep playing once it becomes clear that he no longer can do it.
The key will be Brady’s legs. Though he’s not regarded as a fast guy (he had a nifty scramble in Super Bowl LI), the moment he can no longer slide and step and dart with authority in the pocket, that’s that.
The Patriots, if they truly believe Garoppolo is capable of carrying the mantle, have every reason to keep him around until they know how it plays out for Brady. Some think that will include using the franchise tag in 2018 — not as a precursor to a trade but as a device for ensuring that, if Brady makes it through 2017 and returns for 2018, the Patriots can preserve the ability to have Garropolo available.
Of course, there’s also a possibility that Garoppolo will chooses to sign a Band-Aid contract that pays him a fair rate to continue to wait, and that gives him a lot more if he plays. Given that Garoppolo is represented by the same firm that has signed off on Brady’s string of below-market deals, it’s impossible to rule out Garoppolo taking less to remain with an organization that constantly contends.