“I think everything's on the table right now,” Pace said after the regular season. “It's free agency, it's trade, it's draft, it's current players on our team. Everything's on the table, and we've got to analyze all that and the next two months are going to be huge for that. It's critical that we get that right."
Garoppolo, 25, is an intriguing player for any quarterback-needy team to consider. The third-year man began Week 1 as New England’s starter because of Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, and in roughly six quarters Garoppolo passed for 496 yards and four touchdowns before he sprained the AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder.
However, Garoppolo’s opportunities in New England have been few and far between. Brady is an absolute freak of nature, who after the suspension ended threw 28 touchdown passes and just two interceptions (112.2 quarterback rating). On Saturday night, the veteran notched his 23rd career playoff victory and sixth straight appearance in the AFC Championship Game when the Patriots beat Houston.
Suffice it to say, Brady is not relinquishing the job anytime soon -- in theory, making Garoppolo expendable after the Super Bowl.
And for a Bears team with so few star-caliber players to excite fans, Garoppolo’s ties to the area -- he attended Rolling Meadows High School in suburban Chicago -- would be a welcome storyline for an organization that struggles to generate positive news.
There is little doubt New England eventually will entertain offers for Garoppolo, but at what cost? Can the Bears afford to package the third overall pick to the Patriots for a quarterback who has made only two career starts?
Make no mistake, the Patriots are in the driver’s seat with Garoppolo. For all of Brady’s greatness, he does turn 40 in August. At some point, Brady’s skills will erode. Garoppolo is under contract for a mere $820,077 in 2017, meaning there is no reason New England has to move him. What if Brady gets hurt next season? Or what if (however unlikely) time finally catches up to Brady? The Patriots seem way too smart to trade Brady’s heir apparent unless the compensation is outrageous.
New England will want a 2017 first-round pick for Garoppolo, and more -- at least that’s where negotiations are likely to start.
Now, the Bears were willing to package two first-round choices (plus a third-round pick and Kyle Orton) to the Denver Broncos for Jay Cutler in 2009. But Cutler was a full-time starter in Denver and made the 2008 Pro Bowl with 4,526 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. Cutler never came close to making a Pro Bowl in Chicago.
By comparison, Garoppolo’s body of work is extremely limited. Only the Patriots truly know how good he can be. That is the benefit of watching a guy every day for three years at practice and in the meeting room. My best guess is that Garoppolo’s skills are legit, but it’s always better to try before you buy.
Plus, the Bears have so many holes on their roster. Are they better off keeping the third pick and drafting an impact player on defense?
After all, the Bears are partly in this mess because of their recent first-round failures – Chris Williams, Gabe Carimi, Shea McClellin, Kyle Fuller and Kevin White (maybe). They probably need to stockpile picks, not trade them away.
The only reason to burn a first-round pick on Garoppolo is if you believe he’s a legitimate franchise quarterback. Under that scenario, no price is too steep. Go get him.
But if the Patriots, as many expect, demand a fortune for Garoppolo, the Bears may be better off moving in a different direction.