How amazing is it that the NFL trade deadline is on Halloween, this year?
Count the New England Patriots among those that are ‘trick or treating’ this year on the day called ‘All Hallows Eve.”
On the eve of a day in which thrills rule the roost, the Patriots provided the ultimate shock by dealing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
For the Niners, it was a no-brainer. They have acquired, who many believe to be, the next franchise-building quarterback in the NFL.
However, for the Patriots, the return has been (to put it mildly) questionable. A second-rounder, while a good asset, seems to be a bit less than the expected haul of first-rounders and multiple picks that had been rumored around draft time earlier this year.
The question on everyone’s mind is “Why trade Jimmy G, now?”
In short, Pats fans are searching for a ‘clue.’ (pun intended)
In honor of Halloween, let’s take a look at a trio of scenarios, in the mode of the iconic (yes, I said ‘iconic’) 1985 movie, Clue®. While the theatrical release included three possible endings (with different theaters receiving only one of the three) the film’s home video release included ALL three endings. This one will follow the home video format.
For this satirical example of the Garoppolo trade, only three plausible explanations are identified; all of which could be the true ending to this ‘mystery.’ Of course, the real ‘trick’ here is that the Patriots may have had entirely different reasons, which may or may not be revealed in the coming days.
Without further ado, here are some possible answers to the the greatest mystery in New England sports at the moment.
Was it really Coach Belichick…in the conference room…with a draft pick??
Let’s take a look.
This is how it could have happened…
It has been long-assumed that the Patriots would franchise Garoppolo at the end of the season. Once secured, they would then deal him. Although the $24 million franchise cost for a quarterback would be nearly impossible to maintain, the Patriots would somehow find a way to temporarily fit Garoppolo under the cap until they could move him. However, as outlined by NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran, the franchise-and-trade option would have tied the Patriots hands in free agency. Multiple restructures and/or releases were going to be necessary in order to make the financial numbers work. This would have put the Patriots behind in their pursuit of free-agents. Garoppolo would still be on the books, and thus carry a large cap hit until his departure.
In the second part to this plot, the recent struggles of cornerback Stephon Gilmore may have been enough to convince the Patriots that they cannot so easily move on from Malcolm Butler. If the franchise tag was used on Butler instead of Garoppolo, the Patriots would only absorb approximately $15 million against the cap, while allowing them to control Butler for one more year. Perhaps, they could even work out a long-term deal with their estranged hero of Super Bowl XLIX.
As a result, Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio and the Patriots front office decided that now was the time to deal Jimmy G.
The Butler didn’t do it…it was the money.
But how about this…
There has not been a wealth of game film available on Garoppolo, to date. With the exception of six impressive quarters to open the 2016 season, Jimmy G has taken minimal snaps in regular-season NFL action. This is a point that came up in casual conversations with scouts this offseason. Some of them pointed out that Garoppolo has many desirable traits, but there were also only six regular-season quarters to evaluate in 2016.
In only his second week of action, he sustained a right shoulder injury on a hit by Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso. The injury occurred on a third-and-9 completion for 15 yards that was only possible because Garoppolo kept the play alive by backpedaling, and then firing a strike to receiver Malcolm Mitchell. In doing so, he left himself vulnerable to injury as Alonso closed on him and drove Garoppolo’s right throwing shoulder into the ground.
By the time Garoppolo was ready to return, so too was Tom Brady; from a four-game NFL suspension. Garoppolo only played 31 snaps the rest of the season. They were all at the end of games when the outcome was well in hand.
Here’s where the plot thickens….
It was reported that some within the Patriots organization believed that Garoppolo could have played through the injury a bit better than he did. In fact, rumors were abound that the Patriots were eager to have Jimmy G under center for their week four contest against the Buffalo Bills. Garoppolo did not play, and rookie Jacoby Brissett started for the second straight week. The Patriots would go on to be shut out by the Bills 16-0.
While there has been no confirmation of these sentiments by the Patriots, it was speculated that there was a question as to whether or not a lack of toughness to ‘play though the injury’ was the key culprit. In fact, some have said that it even led to a game of the Pats playing the ‘Tom played through it’ card. This could have led to a question about Garoppolo’s toughness and durability moving forward.
Ergo, after having seen that 40 year-old Tom Brady looks to be as pliable as he was ten years ago, through the first eight games of 2017, the Patriots decided that now was the time to part with their talented, but fragile, back up signal caller.
But here’s how it really happened (maybe?)….
As much fun as conspiracy theories surrounding cap hits and durability are to speculate, the most likely reason for Jimmy G’s departure might be the most simple.
In short, they just could not allow the talented quarterback to ride the bench any longer.
In a story published Monday night, MMQB’s Albert Breer reiterated an Adam Schefter (of ESPN) report that the Patriots did all they could to sign Garoppolo to a long-term contract, before moving on from him. Breer stated that New England’s decision to trade its backup QB boiled down to one main issue.
“But late on Monday night, the Patriots finally gave up hope, because they couldn’t give Jimmy Garoppolo what he really wanted: playing time,” Breer wrote.
According to reports, the Patriots had put potential solutions in front of Garoppolo in the spring, and summer, in an attempt to extend their window to succeed Tom Brady as starting quarterback of the New England Patriots. It would have cost them a large financial burden, but they were willing to carry two starting-quarterback contracts to do it.
However, Garoppolo has made it abundantly clear he that wants to be a starter. While the salary accompanying the franchise tag would have been a major upgrade, it would have meant another year of being a back up. This was simply no longer an option for Garoppolo, or the Patriots.
While the Patriots wanted to keep the potential of a Brady-to-Garoppolo hand-off alive as long as possible, it was now or never to move their quarterback. On Monday night, the Patriots did just that.
While it has been fun to speculate, the reality is that there are always a myriad of reasons for trading a potential star. Coach Belichick and Co. might have received a better offer for Garoppolo this past summer. However, this move seems to be the best they could do, at this time.
For Garoppolo, he has a chance to build a future with a young team in San Francisco. For the Patriots, it gives them an asset heading into the upcoming draft, or possibly Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. It will be interesting to anticipate the Patriots next move.
Could this be the next mystery??
(Cue the closing credits, accompanied by ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’ by Bill Haley and the Comets)
-Mike D’Abate is the Managing Editor for cover32.com/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots. He is also a National Content Writer and covers the NFL for cover32.com.