- Winslow Townson/AP
The Cleveland Browns don’t have a long-term solution at quarterback, which could turn their sights toward the New England Patriots.
Former Patriots assistant Michael Lombardi said on Fox Sports’ “Speak For Yourself” that he thought the Browns and head coach Hue Jackson would go “hard” after Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
“I think Cleveland understands, Hue Jackson specifically understands he needs a quarterback,” Lombardi said. “I think they’ll be very aggressive. I think Jimmy Garoppolo’s on top of their list, and I think they’ll go hard after him.”
Lombardi, who is also a former Cleveland Browns general manager, noted that the Browns owned several future draft picks, which could be enticing in a trade package for the Patriots.
Lombardi’s rumor is interesting for several reasons. First, he worked firsthand with the Patriots and knows the way coach Bill Belichick thinks. After the Patriots made the shocking decision to trade Jamie Collins to the Browns this season, Lombardi was one of the key voices in explaining that the Patriots were unhappy with Collins’ “freelancing” on defense. It’s unclear whether Lombardi has insider information with the Browns, but perhaps he’s heard, through the Patriots, that the Browns are intrigued by Garoppolo.
Furthermore, if such a trade were to be offered, it would speak to how the Patriots view both Garoppolo and Tom Brady’s future in the NFL. Brady, at 39 years old, hasn’t missed a beat this season. But how many more years can he continue to play like a star quarterback? And after he’s regressed as a star, can he simply play the role of game manager, à la Peyton Manning with last year’s Super Bowl-winning Broncos?
Garoppolo, though he started just two games for the Patriots this year before injuring his shoulder, looked like a legitimate starting quarterback. Though the Patriots have long believed they can plug players in and out of their system and be successful, with so many teams struggling to find competent quarterbacks it would be risky for the Patriots to trade away a 25-year-old backup who looks as if he could one day take over for Brady.
Garoppolo is under contract through 2017. If the Patriots don’t trade him away before that, they will also have to pay him, as surely a team will offer him a deal should he hit the free-agent market.
This may seem like a great deal of hand-wringing for a backup quarterback, but the Patriots find themselves in the unique position of managing a 39-year-old star and a 25-year-old potential star. Should a team like the Browns offer a bunch of draft picks for Garoppolo, the Patriots’ decision could be a fascinating one.