Just two days after rumors swept the National Football League that New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was on the verge of a trade — possibly to the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears or San Francisco 49ers — a new claim from one of the top NFL reporters currently covering the league maintains that New England will not trade Garoppolo after all, even if another team steps up with a blockbuster offer.
In fact, ESPN reporter Adam Schefter now insists, the Patriots may not even want to part with Garoppolo following next season either, when the highly-regarded 25-year-old backup will become eligible for free agency. The Patriots would be willing to place a franchise tag on Garoppolo at that point — an extraordinary measure for a backup that would cost New England at least $20 million for a quarterback who is unlikely to play a single meaningful snap.
“This is nothing about smoke, this is nothing about leverage, this is nothing about (the Patriots) not getting the price they wanted. This is about one thing plain and simple,” Schefter told Boston radio station WEEI on Wednesday morning. “They really like Jimmy Garoppolo and they don’t want to get rid of Jimmy Garoppolo.”
Watch Schefter deliver his report on Garoppolo on an earlier ESPN SportsCenter appearance from the NFL combine in Indianapolis, in the video below.
But what about Tom Brady, the future Hall of Famer who has been the starting New England quarterback since the 2001 season and has led the team to five Super Bowl championships and seven appearances in the NFL title game? Brady will be 40 years old in the 2017 season, and said earlier this month that he plans to play in the NFL until he hits 45 — and may not even be done at that point, saying only that he will “make a decision” at that time.
“Tom Brady is 40 years old. He’s been able to do it for an awful long time and again, I think they would love to see him do it for 10 more years, but who knows how much longer he is going to play for,” the ESPN reporter told WEEI. “(The Patriots) think that good, young quarterbacks in this league are tough to come by. It is the most valuable commodity there is. If you don’t have a good young quarterback, you are doomed.”
In other words, the Patriots and Coach Bill Belichick want to keep Garoppolo on the roster in case the aging Brady declines in skills much more quickly than was apparent from his performance in the 2016 season, or suffers an injury, according to Schefter. They are willing, the reporter says, to spend millions to keep Garoppolo around as insurance even if it means that the prime years of the young quarterback’s career will be spent on the bench.
Though he played only 12 regular season games in 2016 due to his season-opening, four-game “Deflategate” suspension, Brady posted the second-highest quarterback rating of his 16-year career as a starter at 112.2, which was also his highest rating since 2007.
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If indeed Garoppolo is off the trade market, the outlook for top quarterback prospects such as Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, or Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, appears brighter. With Cleveland, San Francisco and Chicago selecting in the top three draft positions, in that order, the collegiate quarterbacks now stand a better chance of landing a top draft position and the highly-priced contract that goes with it.
But not every NFL expert is persuaded by Schefter’s report, no matter how adamantly the ESPN reporter has stated it. Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated said on Wednesday that the Schefter report should be taken “with a grain of salt,” and that with a “leak” stating Garoppolo is off the trade market, the Patriots may simply be making a “leverage play” to increase the young backup signal caller’s value.
[Featured Image by Elise Amendola/AP Images]