With the 2017 NFL Draft only days away, rumors that the New England Patriots will make a blockbuster trade, sending draft day into confusion, are spreading fast — with one NFL expert working for CBS Sports now predicting that the Super Bowl 51 champions Patriots are looking to ship backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out and bring in four-time Pro Bowl Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
If New England were actually able to acquire Sherman, that would likely mean the exit door via trade for fourth-year cornerback Malcolm Butler, who has one Pro Bowl selection on his resumé, after Butler signed a restricted free agent offer sheet last week, keeping the 26-year-old under Patriots' control.
Butler's signing renders him officially tradeable by the Patriots.
Garoppolo, the highly-regarded, 25-year-old backup to future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, presents a different scenario, however. Garoppolo has one year remaining on his rookie contract and after he impressed NFL experts filling in for Brady in the first game of 2016 — and about half of a second game — as Brady served his "Deflategate" suspension, rumors ran rampant this offseason that the Cleveland Browns would be willing to deal one of their first-round draft picks for Garoppolo.
The Browns hold the top overall pick in the draft, which begins this Thursday night, April 27. They also hold the 12th pick in the first round. The Patriots, on the other hand, have no first-round pick after they swapped the 32nd overall selection to the New Orleans Saints for speedy wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
By acquiring Cooks, draft experts say, New England received an upgrade on any player who might have been available with the 32nd overall selection. But will the Patriots — who have already picked up cornerback Stephon Gilmore in a $65 million free agent acquisition from the Buffalo Bills — upgrade again by adding one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL in Sherman?
That's the scenario presented by CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Will Brinson, who wrote last week that the Patriots, Seahawks, and Browns may work out a three-way trade deal that would ship Garoppolo to Cleveland and bring Sherman to the defending Super Bowl champions.
"In this hypothetical deal, the Seahawks send Sherman to the Patriots. The Patriots send Garoppolo to the Browns, and the Browns send the No. 12 overall pick plus a conditional fourth-round pick to the Seahawks as well as the No. 33 overall pick to the Patriots."Read Brinson's entire article outlining this alleged blockbuster three-way trade deal by clicking on this link.
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There's only one catch. According to ESPN NFL "insider" correspondent Adam Schefter, the Patriots have already made a firm decision to keep Garoppolo on their team this season, as insurance against a potential injury to Brady who will turn 40-years-old on August 3, about one month before the Patriots September 7 season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Schefter first reported that the Patriots refused to trade Garoppolo on March 1, and made clear on Sunday that nothing had changed with regard to the quarterback's situation. The Patriots remained adamant about keeping him, Schefter said.
ICYMI (in February): Jimmy Garappolo isn't going anywhere. His name continues to surface in trade rumors and speculation - not happening.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 23, 2017
Whether or not the speculative three-way trade involving Garoppolo and Sherman actually materializes, NFL experts say that Patriots Coach and General Manager Bill Belichick could cause havoc in the 2017 NFL Draft anyway, with a series of moves to address his team's needs.
"People keep saying he doesn't have a first-round pick, but he already got his first-round pick. That was Cooks," NFL former Patriots fullback, now NFL Network analyst, Heath Evans told The Boston Herald. "And if he wants back in (the first round), he can get back in real easy. They'll be the ones taking all the calls."
[Featured Image by Jim Rogash/Getty Images]