- Maddie Meyer/Getty
- The New England Patriots reportedly view Jimmy Garoppolo as their quarterback of the future. Garoppolo will be a free agent at the end of this season, meaning the Patriots will have to decide how to handle his future. Re-signing with the Patriots may not hold much appeal to Garoppolo if it means continuing to sit behind Tom Brady, who hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. The Patriots will have to decide how to make a commitment to Garoppolo while dealing with Brady’s future.
Tom Brady’s excellence has provided the New England Patriots stability at quarterback for years, but from the sounds of it, they may soon have some tough decisions to make.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said on The Boston Globe’s “Season Ticket” podcast that the Patriots view backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as the “future franchise quarterback.”
According to Rapoport, the team never seriously considered trading Garoppolo this past offseason as teams like the Cleveland Browns called about him. That dedication to Garoppolo also sets up an unclear future at the quarterback position.
Garoppolo will be a free agent this offseason. As Rapoport noted, it would be “far-fetched” to think the Patriots would let him just walk in free agency, particularly after turning down draft picks for him in trade offers. If they wish to re-sign him, however, there will be some hurdles, namely, Brady’s future.
Brady has stated that he would like to play into his mid-40s. At 40 years old this season, Brady hasn’t shown any signs of declining, but the Patriots know that day will eventually come. And when it does, Garoppolo could be the replacement, a quarterback in the mold of Brady who won’t turn 26 until November.
Another hurdle is Garoppolo’s motivations to stay in New England considering Brady hasn’t shown signs of handing the reins over. When the 2017 season ends, spending another year of his prime behind Brady can’t have much appeal to Garoppolo.
In July, Garoppolo told The MMQB’s Albert Breer of his role: “I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated. Eager to play is probably a better way to put it. I’m just not used to being a backup. I want to be a starter, and compete to be a starter.”
The Patriots must now decide how to handle Garoppolo’s free agency. Rapoport suggested the Patriots could place the franchise tag on Garoppolo and then trade him – because “everyone has a price” – but that he believes it to be unlikely because Garoppolo could be their answer at quarterback for the foreseeable future.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss and The MMQB’s Peter King debated in September whether the Patriots could get creative with Garoppolo’s free agency by tackling it sooner. Reiss wondered if the Patriots might offer to pay Garoppolo the full $20 million franchise tag, but split it over two years, lessening the cap hit, delaying his free agency by a year, and engendering goodwill with Garoppolo.
“I think that’s something that would be very Patriot-like, to me, to buy them more time,” Reiss said.
But would Garoppolo accept either of those options, particularly if it means sitting behind Brady for another year? Brady is under contract through the 2019 season. The Patriots are likely sensitive to the optics of making a long-term commitment to Garoppolo and how that might impact Brady.
If Brady were to show signs of decline as the season goes on – he has already taken more sacks this year than he did all of last season – the Patriots will have to begin pondering their choices. Do they anticipate further decline from Brady and make a commitment to Garoppolo? Or would they let Brady play out his career until it’s truly obvious that he has nothing left in the tank? At this current rate, that may take years, something Garoppolo surely isn’t interested in signing up for.
Garoppolo’s options are somewhat limited. He could refuse to sign the franchise tag, effectively causing a holdout, which would cause the type of distraction Bill Belichick and the Patriots hate. He could also reason with himself that one or two more years of backup work could be worth it to take over the Patriots.
This matter is unlikely to resolve itself soon, but it only figures to become more intriguing if Brady continues to play well as Garoppolo’s free agency approaches. However it plays out, it seems unlikely that it will be resolved in a manner that satisfies all three parties.