Before the Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers, did New England offer Garoppolo a contract to try to get him to remain? ESPN’s ballyhooed story about the escalating tensions in New England says an offer was made. A longtime Patriots reporter says otherwise.
The story from Seth Wickersham of ESPN couldn’t state it more confidently: “The Patriots repeatedly offered Garoppolo four-year contract extensions, in the $17 million to $18 million range annually that would go higher if and when he succeeded Brady. Garoppolo and [Don Yee, the agent for Garoppolo and Tom Brady] rejected the offers out of hand, for reasons that remain unclear.”
But Tom Curran, who has covered the Patriots reliably for many years, also couldn’t state it more confidently: “The Patriots never extended a new contract offer to Garoppolo. No question they discussed it and spitballed about what it would look like — great pay as a backup escalating to starter money when Brady left — but the offer was never formalized. Why? Because it was clear Garoppolo wasn’t staying another year as a backup.”
What to make of those conflicting reports? For starters, Wickersham’s phrasing that Garoppolo rejected the Patriots’ offers, “for reasons that remain unclear,” is odd. Garoppolo’s reasons would seem to be crystal clear: He’d rather make $25 million to be a starter than $18 million to be a backup. Who wouldn’t?
Garoppolo knew the time was coming when he would either be traded to a team that saw him as its starting quarterback, or that he’d hit free agency, where the only way the Patriots could keep him would be to franchise him at more than $23 million, fully guaranteed, for the 2018 season. Then in 2019 the process would repeat, only this time the franchise tag would be $28 million fully guaranteed. Why would Garoppolo take $18 million a year to remain Brady’s backup when he knew that the Patriots would have to pay him a lot more than that to keep him? And why would he want to spend his prime years backing up Brady, who keeps saying he has no plans to retire, when he could go elsewhere and be a starter?
Another important factor to consider in all this is that Yee represents both Garoppolo and Brady. Both of his clients are better off if they’re both starters than if they’re on the same team, where only one can start. It’s better for Brady that the first time he struggles next year there aren’t hot takes about how the 41-year-old is aging and it’s time to go to Garoppolo. And it’s better for Garoppolo that he’s a starter right now, not a guy just hoping to replace a legend some day. Yee would have been doing a bad job representing both of his clients if he had urged Garoppolo to sign a team-friendly deal to stay in New England.
In that light, the two reports might not conflict as much as it would initially seem. Either the Patriots didn’t offer Garoppolo a contract, or they offered him only a contract that he would obviously turn down, which isn’t much of an offer at all. There’s nothing unclear about that.