A flood of reactions hit when news broke Monday night of the Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick.
“What? They’re trading him now, and not in the offseason?”
“Hmm, surprised they only got a second-round pick for him.”
“Who’s going to be the backup?”
“Wow, Garoppolo might be a great fit in Kyle Shanahan’s system. Can’t wait to watch him play.”
But when the fog cleared, the most important aspect of this trade became obvious.
“The Patriots are all-in on 40-year-old quarterback Tom Brady playing several more years.”
Brady has told anyone who will listen he wants to play until he’s 45 or older. He created an entire lifestyle brand about it, and recently wrote a book about it.
Many of us thought it was just lip service, Brady’s way of fending off constant questions about the end of his career.
Former NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck told me this summer, “When Tom is asked the question how long can you play and he says, ‘Oh, until 45,’ to me that’s him saying, ‘Stop asking me this question. I want this question to go away.”
But the Garoppolo trade seals it. Brady may not make it to 45, but the Patriots are buying in on Brady maintaining his high level of play for several more years. As of Monday night, he was the only quarterback on the roster. The two youngsters, Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, have been traded away for spare parts.
The Patriots were worried about Brady at age 36. They drafted Garoppolo in the second round in 2014, the highest they ever picked a quarterback under Bill Belichick.
“We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is,” Belichick said that night.
But two Super Bowl titles later, the Patriots are no longer worried about Brady. He has found the fountain of youth, and Brady will play as long as he wants to. There’s no reason to doubt him anymore.
At 40, he’s still the best in the NFL. Brady has 478 more passing yards than any other quarterback, on pace for his second career 5,000 yard season. He has 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He has the Patriots at 6-2 and primed for another Super Bowl run.
Brady has mastered the art of quarterbacking and dissecting defenses. And unlike pretty much every other quarterback ever, his body isn’t failing him yet at 40.
“I have the answers to the test now,” he told Sports Illustrated shortly after winning his latest Super Bowl.
And Garoppolo isn’t the heir apparent after all. The next heir is probably in college. Maybe high school.
We thought the Patriots loved Garoppolo after developing him for four years, and thought they put high value on the backup quarterback spot. They still might.
But they love Brady a lot more. And they’re not worried about him getting hurt this season. That was supposedly one of the reasons for keeping Garoppolo this year — he could still lead a Super Bowl run. Guess the Patriots don’t really care to think about Life Without Tom this year.
Trading Garoppolo should end any speculation that Brady could pull a surprise retirement this year or next. No one was twisting their arm to trade Garoppolo or Brissett.
Whomever the Patriots acquire as a backup this year is simply a seat-warmer. They’ll have to draft another quarterback in 2018, and start the developmental process all over again. In the meantime, at least they have that Brady guy sticking around for at least 2-3 more years.
The compensation for Garoppolo is interesting. The Patriots reportedly were getting all kinds of wild offers for Garoppolo this offseason, which included multiple first-round picks.
Now they’re trading him a day before the NFL trade deadline, and getting only the 49ers’ second-round pick.
NFL Network reported on Monday, after the trade went down, that the Patriots only were offered a second-round pick for Garoppolo before the draft. It might be true, or it might be the Patriots covering themselves.
Either way, the fans are upset that the Patriots didn’t get enough. But a second-round pick for Garoppolo sounds a lot more like his true value than a package of first-round picks.
Garoppolo has played 1½ NFL games. He looked great, but we’ve seen a lot of quarterbacks look great in a small sample size. He hasn’t proven that he can lead a team for 16 games or make the playoffs. He hasn’t proven that he can stay healthy. And Patriots quarterbacks have a stigma that they don’t succeed when they leave New England, fair or not.
This notion that teams were throwing themselves at the Patriots this offseason to try to get Garoppolo seems to have been driven by the agent, or maybe from the Patriots trying to up the ante.
Let’s not forget that Garoppolo also was set to be a free agent this coming offseason. The Patriots could have made it work with a franchise tag between $23 million-$25 million, but they have a budget, and it doesn’t include spending $45 million on two quarterbacks. They could have tried to franchise Garoppolo and trade him, but that high salary would have hurt his trade value. They could have let him walk away in free agency, and received a third-round compensatory draft pick in 2019.
In the end, Garoppolo was traded now for an early second-round pick in 2018. The Patriots drafted him with a late second-round pick. Seems fair. The fact that the 49ers now have to sign Garoppolo to a big contract this offseason also factored into the trade compensation. If he were cheap next year, the Patriots would have gotten more.
But the Patriots did get a valuable draft pick in return. The 49ers are one of the league’s worst teams at 0-8, so that second-rounder could be pick No. 33 or 34. The No. 33 pick also comes attached with extra trade value as the first pick of Day 2 of the draft.
Patriots fans might be upset, but this trade is great for everybody.
Garoppolo finally gets his shot to prove himself as an NFL quarterback.
The 49ers may have finally landed their franchise quarterback, for the bare bones price of a second-round pick.
The Patriots, meanwhile, just added a high draft pick next year to go along with, hopefully, the No. 32 pick.
And Patriots fans get to watch Brady quarterback their team for several more years. Probably until he’s 45. Or maybe 48.
The Patriots are willing to ride it out for as long as Brady wants.
By: Ben Violin - Boston Globe