The New England Patriots have the second hottest quarterback name on the market before the free agency period begins: Jimmy Garoppolo, catering to teams without immediate hopes of becoming contenders; only becoming competent. The Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns lead the list of suitors.
The top name on the list at the moment is Tony Romo, but it seems like the Denver Broncos, New York Jets or even the Buffalo Bills lead the way in retaining his services, that is if the Cowboys release him. Trading him with his current deal, which counts for $24.7 million against the cap in 2017, very hard to digest considering how little he’s played over the last two seasons, his age and his record of injuries, all mostly hurting the Cowboys leverage points.
But we’re talking about Garoppolo… Garoppolo. It seems like two starts at the beginning of this season before Tom Brady made his way back from suspension are enough to put the 25-year old, 2nd round pick (2014) in position to win the Patriots some draft picks. It is rumored that the Pats are shopping their backup QB, but not in a desperate kind of way (why should they when they’re the Super Bowl champions and he’s not going to cost much next season), looking for an offer that will blow them away. What does that mean? More than just a first round pick.
Will someone actually give up so much for Garoppolo? Depends on how desperate they are. The Browns seem to be, although after so many years of missing the playoffs and bottoming out, does it really matter if they go through another season of getting nowhere? The Browns don’t mind missing the playoffs again, but they want to feel like they’re headed in some sort of direction. The vibe around the NFL right now puts Garoppolo in narrow category of young quarterbacks that are worth building around, or at least giving them a shot to prove they’re franchise guys. No one is throwing Brock Osweiler money at him anytime soon, but his cap hit is only $1.1 million next season, well worth taking a chance on.
The Bears, missing the playoffs for six straight seasons, are finally moving on from Jay Cutler, putting the 33-year old on the trading block, although he’ll probably be released if no one offers the Bears something (and they’ll probably take very little). Cutler comes with a $16 million cap hit in 2017, but cutting him costs only $2 million in dead money, while saving $14 million under the cap. After years of not being sure if he’s the guy but keeping him as QB #1, the Bears are finally done with waiting for whatever it was they were waiting for to happen. Last season was incredibly unlucky considering injuries, but the failures of the last two years were too much to ignore, even it they had little to do with Cutler himself.
Garoppolo ranking so high on team’s shortlist shows just how difficult it is to gauge what a franchise quarterback is. With less than half the teams in the NFL set for more than the next 2 or 3 years at the position right now, even a backup with barely any starting experience can position himself to be the face of a franchise, although going by the precedents set by the likes of Matt Cassel (especially relevant) and Matt Flynn, maybe it’s dangerous falling into the trap the Patriots are setting, with Garoppolo as bait.