By Greg Gabriel–
(CBS) Last week there were various national media reports that the New England Patriots may consider trading third-year backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Most of these reports originally came out of the New England area, so the initial perception was it was someone from the Patriots who leaked what the organization might want in a trade for Garoppolo. The reported asking price in a potential deal was a first-round pick and fourth-round pick in this April’s draft.
I’m skeptical that the Patriots would leak something like that with the season ongoing and the playoffs awaiting. On top of that, I’m not so sure that New England really wants to trade Garoppolo. Why? Because current starter Tom Brady will be 40 years old when the 2017 regular season start. There can’t be much gas left in that tank, and coach Bill Belichick has to prepare for his eventual replacement. If Garoppolo has the talent to be that replacement, why trade him and weaken the franchise?
Over the years, Belichick has kept the Patriots playing at such a high level in part because he consistently trades players that he sees trending downhill in their talent level or because they aren’t as good as the national perception. He keeps getting high picks for these players, only a few of whom have panned out with their new team. So why give up such a high price for a player that Belichick essentially doesn’t want? If Belichick is willing to trade Garoppolo with Brady near the end of his career, he can’t be as good as the perception.
Next, let’s look at what Garoppolo’s value really is. He was a second-round selection in 2014 after an excellent career at Eastern Illinois. In his three years with the Patriots, he hasn’t played much. As a rookie in 2014, he got some mop-up duty in blowouts, playing in six games and completing 19 of 27 passes for 182 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. In 2015, he only attempted four passes, completing one.
With Brady serving a four-game suspension this year because of “Deflategate,” more opportunity awaited Garoppolo. But because of a shoulder injury, Garoppolo only started the first two games of the season. His numbers were excellent — 496 yards and four touchdowns combined in two games, with no interceptions — and the Patriots won.
Despite his strong performances, the concern is Garoppolo’s overall body of work is minimal. We haven’t seen enough to really know. Lets’s use Bears quarterback Matt Barkley as an example. He looked good in his first couple of starts, then it was all downhill after that.
A team has to be careful when it makes a purchase. Adding worry to Garoppolo’s limited experience is the fact that no quarterback who Belichick has traded has ever played at a high level at his next stop.
Is Garoppolo talented? Yes, there’s no question about that, but he’s also an unknown commodity because of his lack of experience. He could turn out to be a great player. He also could turn out to be nothing. If a team’s front office pays a high price for him, those individuals are gambling their careers on that move. If he turns out to be good, they get extensions. If he fails to live up to expectations, they get the pink slip.
My feeling is that if you really want to trade for Garoppolo, the team has to protect itself because there’s potential downside to the deal. I would only do a deal that has clauses based on team performance and Garoppolo’s personal performance. I would give up a pick in the 2017 draft but not more than a third-rounder. In that situation, I would also include a pick in the 2018 draft that would have the performance clauses attached to it.
If Garoppolo puts up good numbers and the team wins, then by all means give up that 2018 first-rounder. He obviously was worth it. But if he ends up being just an ordinary player, then the pick that is conveyed must be much lower — perhaps another third-rounder or fourth-rounder. Such an approach has the potential to be a win-win for both teams and the team trading for Garoppolo protects itself and its future.
If a trade can’t be made that way, I wouldn’t do the deal. I’d rather take my chances drafting a quarterback high and developing him. This type of approach on the trade market and entering the draft would be smart decision-making.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.