Opinions on the decision by the Patriots to trade Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers has run the gambit this week. I’ve been a big proponent of trading Garoppolo for the last year. But, in this case, the possible risk far outweighs the possible reward.
Many Patriots fans and pundits have lamented not the fact that Garoppolo was traded, but the return New England got for him, a second-round draft pick. The Patriots spent a second-round pick in 2014 to grab Garoppolo from FCS school Eastern Illinois.
The sample we all saw of Garoppolo last season during the Tom Brady suspension certainly gave fans reason to be excited. He was solid in an opening week win at Arizona and was doing even better in Week 2 at home against Miami, until he injured his shoulder in the 2nd Quarter, never to play another meaningful snap in a Pats uniform.
The fact is, Garoppolo is a second-round QB with five-and-a-half meaningful quarters of NFL football under his belt. He’s more potential than sure thing. To net back a second rounder for a backup QB you drafted in the second round three years ago is a solid return, and probably the best you were going to get all along.
My problem with the trade is all about the Patriots diminishing their quality QB depth going forward.
Yes, Tom Brady is the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. Yes, Tom Brady is still leading the league in passing yards, by quite a bit, through nine weeks of the season. But, Tom Brady is also a 40-year-old man. He’s a 40-year-old with a mediocre offensive line. He’s a 40-year-old without his favorite weapon, Julian Edelman, to bail him out when the defensive pressure is turned up. He’s a 40-year-old who is one hit away from his career being over.
Brady says he wants to play until he’s 45. By trading away both of his young backup QBs this season, Bill Belichick appears to be placing all of his eggs in the Brady basket. Signing journeyman and former Pats backup Brian Hoyer to a three-year deal after the trade only strengthens that argument.
But, it’s a very risky bet. For all his pliability and all his skill, there is no guarantee that Brady can make it through the next five years without getting hurt or being convinced to walk away earlier than that. Hoyer is capable enough to run the offense successfully in the short-term should Brady go down, but he’s likely not good enough to lead the Pats to a Super Bowl title or be a strong Brady replacement.
My worry is, and has been for the last few years, that Brady will not leave the football field for the last time lifting his sixth, seventh, or eighth Lombardi Trophy. I fear he will leave the field for the last time on a motorized cart after being planted and not getting up.
Had the Pats hung onto either Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett, I’d feel a lot more comfortable about their chances to stay a championship contender should the worst-case scenario become reality. Thanks to those two trades, we now have no clue who the long-term Brady replacement will be, and I highly doubt it’s Hoyer.
I don’t mean to say that I don’t believe that Brady will stay healthy and remain an elite quarterback for the next five years, because I believe he can. But, if he goes down before the end of this season, or even sometime next year, this trade will look even worse than it already does.