FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With Jimmy Garoppolo leading the San Francisco 49ers to four straight victories and playing some high-level football, it has sparked the question of whether the New England Patriots received enough (a 2018 second-round pick) in return for trading him.
There are multiple layers to the analysis:
Timing of trade created low-leverage situation. With the Patriots waiting to deal Garoppolo until the midseason trade deadline, they put themselves into a low-leverage situation. Had they made Garoppolo available in the 2017 offseason, the return surely would have been higher. So why did the Patriots wait? Two possible reasons: to buy more time in hopes of signing Garoppolo to an extension, or to assess how Tom Brady, turning 40 in early August, looked in the first half of the season. Garoppolo had little incentive to sign an extension with unrestricted free agency on the horizon after the 2017 season, and if that was the team’s thinking, it seems fair to call it a miscalculation. If it was about gathering more intelligence on Brady to make sure they weren’t rushing things with Garoppolo, it would be a more plausible explanation.
Dictating landing spot part of the consideration. Even waiting until the trade deadline, the Patriots still could have received more in terms of bottom-line compensation had they opened the bidding to include another team, such as the Browns. As for why they didn’t, the concept of trading Garoppolo out of the conference -- where he would be less of a threat to them -- could have been a top factor in accepting less in compensation than they would have in an open-bidding situation by involving the Browns (and possibly others, although the market was going to be limited). Another thought tied to that line of thinking would be if coach Bill Belichick was projecting that Garoppolo going to Cleveland -- with the possibility of a Browns coaching change in 2018 -- could have ended up pairing him with Josh McDaniels. Avoiding that would further protect the Patriots. If they simply let Garoppolo walk as an unrestricted free agent after the season, which would allow him to choose his destination, it would make the Patriots then eligible for only a late-third-round 2019 compensatory draft pick.
Also needed to secure a No. 2. Given the dynamics of the situation, the Patriots also needed to ensure they had a backup quarterback to fill Garoppolo’s void. By trading him to San Francisco, it ensured Brian Hoyer would be available to do so. The team was in that spot after trading No. 3 quarterback Jacoby Brissett, whom they weren’t as high on as Garoppolo, in early September.
Franchise tag wasn’t an option, so something had to give in 2018. The trade confirmed that the Patriots weren’t willing to buy themselves another year to make their decision by assigning Garoppolo the franchise tag while also having Brady under contract. That would have been around $22 million to $24 million on a one-year term for 2018, and made him a higher-paid player than Brady. If the Patriots felt that they had little to no chance of signing Garoppolo to an extension with Brady still on the team, and the franchise tag wasn’t deemed a viable option by them to buy more time because it would hurt their ability to field a competitive roster, it essentially came down to this question: Is it Brady or Garoppolo? If ever there is a player who could make a case for the team’s loyalty for all he has accomplished, it is Brady.
Always better to have assets to trade than none at all.. In the end, however one views the question on if the Patriots received enough in return, it’s always better for a team to have an excess of assets than not enough. It’s a fair question to ask if the Patriots maximized the asset they had in Garoppolo. Part of evaluating that is considering the high-end insurance policy he represented in New England while with the team, in addition to the return they received in the trade.