FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The quarterback class in the 2017 NFL draft is widely viewed as flawed, so what happened in Thursday night’s first round? Three QB-needy teams paid massive prices to move up to select their hopeful franchise signal-caller, which helps explain, in part, why the New England Patriots are so inclined to hang on to Jimmy Garoppolo.
Teams that don’t have quarterbacks often have to pay a premium just for the possibility they might be able to develop one.
As New England coach Bill Belichick said the night the Patriots selected Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 draft, if a team doesn’t have the quarterback position accounted for -- from top to bottom on the depth chart -- it puts the entire team at risk.
That’s why we saw the colossal prices paid by the Chicago Bears (No. 2, Mitchell Trubisky), Kansas City Chiefs (No. 10, Patrick Mahomes) and Houston Texans (No. 12, Deshaun Watson) on Thursday night. The Chiefs and Texans each gave up 2017 and 2018 first-round picks -- in addition to other high selections -- to take those quarterbacks, while the Bears dealt this year's first-rounder among four picks in this draft and next.
“These were uncommon picks, if you ask me. Clearly, that was the story of this year’s draft, these three quarterbacks going as early as they did,” ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said on SportsCenter.
Story of 2017 Draft: First time in common draft era - since 1967 - that 3 different teams traded UP on draft day for a QB in the 1st round.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 28, 2017
The other layer to the Patriots' decision to hold on to Garoppolo is that the quarterback himself has some control over the situation. No team would trade significant assets for the 25-year-old without assurances it could sign him to a long-term extension. It's possible that Garoppolo might view waiting another year, with the chance to possibly pick his destination, as more favorable.
So with Garoppolo tied to the Patriots in 2017, the obvious question is what happens next offseason when he is scheduled for unrestricted free agency.
Among the numerous scenarios:
He signs elsewhere as a free agent.
He receives the franchise tag in New England and stays another year under the tag.
He receives the franchise tag and then is traded, similar to how the Patriots dealt quarterback Matt Cassel in 2009.
He signs an extension in New England.
If Brady is still playing at a high level (he’ll turn 41 on Aug. 3, 2018), and Brissett continues to develop, those figure to be key parts of the team’s analysis with Garoppolo.
As for the present, the message was clear Thursday in the first round: No position moves the needle like quarterback, which sets up an intriguing situation for the Patriots and Garoppolo in 2018.