After an offseason full of speculation regarding a Jimmy Garoppolo return to New England, the Patriots are probably pretty happy that deal was never made.
Future is now
Almost from the moment Garoppolo left New England for San Francisco, speculation of a potential return down the road began. The Patriots low return for the young quarterback, particularly after national reporters such as ESPN's Adam Schefter suggested the team wasn't interested in dealing him for multiple first-round picks, led many to wonder if perhaps an agreement had been made between Bill Belichick and Niners coach Kyle Shanahan.
The theory was after Tom Brady was finished in New England that Belichick would bring Garoppolo back to be his quarterback of the future. When Shanahan spent the offseason first explaining how much he liked all five of the potential first-round rookie quarterbacks and then trading with Miami to move up to No. 3, Garoppolo's days in the Bay Area appeared to be numbered.
Trade rumors involving Garoppolo to New England permeated the offseason landscape. Various reports indicated the sides were talking and haggling over compensation – both in terms of the return the Niners would receive from the Patriots and with regard to the salary the quarterback was due.
In the end, a deal was never consummated, possibly because the Niners asking price was too rich for what the Patriots were willing to give, assuming they were interested in the first place. Based on how the first half of the season has played out, the Patriots are likely quite pleased with that turn of events.
Garoppolo remains a good, solid quarterback. The Niners success with and without him is striking, but the reality is he's not in the lineup nearly often enough. He's already missed a game and a half this season due to a calf strain, and at this point it appears as if he's destined for life as nothing more than average.
Meanwhile, the Patriots selected Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick, having surrendered neither additional draft pick compensation nor the $24-plus million Garoppolo is earning in 2021. Through the first seven weeks of the season Jones looks like a competent NFL quarterback who should improve with experience and provides the team with hope for the future. Instead of having Garoppolo keep the seat warm before the quarterback of the future is found, Jones may very represent the future in the here and now.
To be clear this isn't meant to be a coronation of Jones after the rookie's seventh NFL start. He's been solid thus far, completing 70 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and six picks while compiling a 92.8 passer rating – steady if unspectacular numbers that by no means indicate the Patriots have their man for the next 10-plus years.
But the fact that Jones looks as comfortable as he does indicates the Patriots wouldn't be much better off (if at all) with Garoppolo under center. Watching Garoppolo fight through the slop against the Colts on Sunday Night Football showed a quarterback who looks like he's lost some confidence and is fighting to keep his job while Shanahan waits for rookie Trey Lance to take control.
Obviously, he wouldn't be dealing with a coach that lost faith in him had Garoppolo been dealt to the Patriots, but it's also hard to say he's anything more than average and injury-prone at this stage of his career.
As the old adage goes, sometimes the best deals are the ones you don't make, and if indeed Belichick was interested in bringing Garoppolo back he's likely happy he didn't.
Watson on the move?
After an eerily quiet couple of months, the Deshaun Watson trade rumors picked up significant steam last week when long-time Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain indicated the Texans could move the troubled quarterback to Miami at some point before the November 2 trade deadline.
This potential deal obviously has significant ramifications for the Patriots, who are already contending with one MVP-caliber quarterback in the division in Buffalo's Josh Allen. Adding Watson to the mix would make life even more difficult for the Patriots as they continue their efforts to reclaim the top spot in the AFC East.
But any Watson deal will be a tricky proposition as there has been little to no resolution to the nearly two dozen accusations of sexual misconduct he's been dealing with for the past several months. Watson has been on the Texans active roster throughout the season but has been listed among the team's inactives each week. He continues to get paid but hasn't played a single snap, and by all indications he won't play for the Texans again in the future.
The entire situation is bizarre as the league hasn't disciplined Watson, ostensibly making him eligible to be on the field at any time. However, many feel the league and the Texans have come to an understanding where Watson remains active and will get paid but will not play.
The possibility of a trade might change things. The league could then step in and place Watson on the commissioner's exempt list, preventing him from playing. If that's the case, the Dolphins, or anyone else acquiring Watson, would run the risk of losing significant draft capital for a player who won't be in a position to help the team.
That said, the Dolphins are 1-6 and circling the drain with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback and may feel the risk to acquire a difference-maker like Watson is worth it. The cloud surrounding him, as well as his no-trade clause, may actually help Miami save some resources in a potential trade. Watson reportedly wants to go to Miami, so the Dolphins might be able to get him without surrendering the three firsts and two seconds the Texans are said to be looking for in return. Given Watson's uncertain status, any team would be crazy to surrender anything close to that and in turn the Texans would be foolish to make the deal now for the same reason. But Houston might just not want to pay him and therefore be willing to ship him now.
While Watson's impact in Miami might not be evident in 2021, the Dolphins prospects with him certainly would raise their profile going forward.
More deadline dealings
Peter King had an interesting nugget in his Football Monday in America notes on Monday, indicating veteran corner Kyle Fuller could be available at the deadline, writing the following:
"Trade deadline is a week from tomorrow. Big deals, I doubt. Just not enough teams with enough cap room to absorb big players dreaming of big deals. The player who could be had at a need position, though his star is tarnished: cornerback Kyle Fuller, who's been benched in Denver but who could be a good stretch-run get, cheap, for a contender."
With the news of Jonathan Jones' shoulder surgery ending his season, perhaps Fuller would make some sense for the Patriots, who at 3-4 remain on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. Fuller has been a durable player in his career, and even if his performance in Denver has slipped he would provide an additional experienced corner to add to the mix. The Patriots have worked out a number of corners in recent days so clearly Belichick is looking for an upgrade.
Week 7 tidbits
Tough to find a more impressive win than the one Cleveland picked up Thursday night against Denver. Playing without quarterback Baker Mayfield, their two starting running backs, top two tackles, a linebacker and losing top corner Denzel Ward during the game, the Browns found a way to register a 17-14 win working on a short week. … Patriots fans won't like it but your Rookie of the Year through seven weeks has to be wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. He's ignited the 5-2 Bengals with 35 receptions for 754 yards and six touchdowns – and Cincy currently occupies the top seed in the AFC after Sunday's blowout of the Ravens. … Funny how quickly narratives changed in the NFL. In September Carolina was riding high at 3-0 with the rejuvenated Sam Darnold earning praise for the Panthers quick start. After four straight losses and a Darnold benching, suddenly the decision to pick up the embattled quarterback's fifth-year option doesn't look quite as good. … Few developments around the league have been as shocking as the demise of the Kansas City Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes is turning the ball over at an alarming rate and the 3-4 Chiefs are searching for answers. It won't get much easier as KC is set to follow a Week 8 Monday nighter with games against Green Bay, Las Vegas and Dallas. … In the Sometimes Things Work Out Exactly As We Thought Department: we offer the Rams and Lions matchup on Sunday. The Rams were flat and the Lions pulled out all the stops necessary to pull off a road upset with a pair of successful fake punts as well as an onside kick. In the end it didn't matter, though, because the Rams had Matthew Stafford and the Lions had Jared Goff. It was Goff's late interception that ultimately did in Detroit, a scenario Rams coach Sean McVay was all too familiar with. And it's exactly why he spent so much to get Stafford in the first place.
After seven weeks it seems the NFC is top heavy while the AFC has the depth.
- Arizona (7-0) – The Cardinals continue to take care of business, even after a lukewarm start against the overmatched Texans.
- Tampa Bay (6-1) – The Bucs maligned defense battered rookie Justin Fields in a blowout win over the Bears.
- L.A. Rams (6-1) – The Rams have sandwiched a pair of three-game winning streaks around their lone defeat at the hands of the Cardinals.
- Buffalo (4-2) – After a bye week the Bills will look to get back on the winning track.
- Green Bay (6-1) – Not the smoothest performance by the Pack but Aaron Rodgers made it six straight wins after the season-opening debacle against the Saints.