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What to do about Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo owns the distinction of being the quarterback drafted highest by the Patriots during the Tom Brady era. New England selected him in the second round (62nd overall) of the 2014 draft.

At the time, the general consensus seemed to be that this was the guy who was eventually going to take over for Tom Brady.

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Funny thing happened along the way: Brady won another Super Bowl (his and the team's fourth) that very same season, brought the Patriots to the brink of another one last season, then, just a couple of weeks ago, signed a two-year contract extension that appears to keep him in New England until the end of the 2019 season.

No sooner had the Tweets of the Brady contract news been transmitted than our PFW offices began being flooded with e-mails from readers and fans wondering if this means Garoppolo is now expendable and should be dangled as trade bait for draft picks and/or other compensation.

The very short answer: No.

From a purely practical standpoint, dealing Garoppolo would leave New England with precisely one quarterback on the current roster: Brady. The obvious response might be, "Well, then, just go out and sign a veteran backup, or draft another one."

My counterpoint to the veteran approach is, "Have you seen the state of quarterback play around this league?" There aren't many good ones out there. It's so bad that guys like the still-unproven, baby-faced Brock Osweiler are getting $18 million-per-year contracts in free agency this year.

Could Garoppolo be as good as or better than Osweiler? Potentially. I wasn't overly impressed with what Osweiler did for Denver late last season. The jury is very much still out on him. Ditto for Jimmy G. We just haven't had enough opportunities to see Garoppolo in meaningful action with the first-team offense to make a fair comparison. 

Which means other teams haven't, either, and they might be less likely to want to swing a trade for the kind of compensation that Patriots fans think or wish they could get. Besides, what serviceable veteran backups there are in the NFL universe don't come cheap (at least $2 million per year), but Garoppolo does, relatively speaking.

As things stand today, Garoppolo is playing under his original rookie contract, which expires at the conclusion of the 2017 season. He stands to earn less than a million dollars in 2016.

So, the more logical course of action the Patriots should take is to keep Garoppolo around for the time being, at least … if for no other reason than - oh, by the way - the Patriots just might be without Brady's services for the first four games of this coming season.

If a three-judge panel in New York reverses last year's lower court ruling that wiped out Brady's four-game suspension stemming from the underinflated football investigation, Garoppolo would be your team's starting quarterback for at least a month. In that scenario, we would have a better sample size to gauge whether or not Garoppolo is worth keeping or offering in a trade (eventually). I still would not feel comfortable right now dealing away Garoppolo, a solid backup (worst-case scenario) or potential future starting quarterback (best case), until the Patriots are able to secure a bona fide backup to replace him.

Bill Belichick is not averse to keeping just two quarterbacks on his roster, but this season he'd be wise to invest in a reliable third, as insurance. It's unclear when we'll get a ruling from the appellate court panel, so, New England should either sign a veteran arm or draft another youngster in the event that Garoppolo starts in September and needs a backup of his own. And with two-plus seasons in the New England offense, Garoppolo is much more prepared to take command of this team than any veteran newcomer would be.

If, on the other hand, Brady is successful in his court battle with the NFL, Garoppolo would remain on the bench for the foreseeable future and we will have to continue to wait to see just how good a player he might be. That, to me, would be the ideal outcome for both the Patriots and Garoppolo. If I were him, I'd continue to learn under Belichick, Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for another couple of years, then let the free-agent process play itself out in two years' time.

Assuming Brady continues to play at a higher-than-average level for the remainder of his contract, that would put the Patriots and Garoppolo in an intriguing position. Would New England consider trying to extend Garoppolo's contract before it expires, or compete for his services when he becomes a free agent?

I'm sure Belichick and his coaches have seen enough of Garoppolo at this point, in practice more than anywhere else, to know if he's got what they think it takes to quarterback this team when Brady is gone for good. The question is, even had the unproven Osweiler not gotten that ludicrous sum from Houston, would Garoppolo be patient enough to wait until 2020, presumably, to get his first crack at being Brady's full-time successor? I doubt it, especially now, given the financial reality of quarterback contracts these days. Interestingly, Brady and Garoppolo are represented by the same agent, Don Yee.

In all likelihood, Brady is going to play out his contract and Garoppolo will wind up leading some other team's offense in 2018. The Patriots might have to start making contingency plans now, therefore, for the eventual loss of both players.

*This article came from the March 2016 issue of Patriots Football Weekly. To subscribe, click here. *

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