AFC East Q&A: How should the Patriots handle Jimmy Garoppolo's contract?

Garoppolo nipping at Brady's heels? (1:25)

Max Kellerman doesn't think it will be long before Jimmy Garoppolo replaces Tom Brady as New England's starting QB. (1:25)

Today’s question: Expectations and excitement surrounding the New England Patriots' 2017 season are as high as they’ve ever been during Bill Belichick’s 18-year coaching tenure. Tom Brady, who turns 40 on Aug. 3, is still playing at a high level. Top backup Jimmy Garoppolo, who has flashed signs of potentially being a franchise quarterback, is scheduled for unrestricted free agency.

What should the Patriots do?

Rich Cimini, New York Jets reporter: This is the most fascinating personnel decision looming in the NFL. This is a tough one, but sometimes the tough ones work themselves out organically. Personally, I’d move on from Brady if he suffers a serious injury or experiences a decline in his play. After all, he will be 40 years old in August. In that case, I’d hand the 2018 job to Garoppolo and sign him to a new contract. If Brady maintains his current level of play … wow, that’s a tough one. The popular school of thought is to use the franchise tag on Garoppolo for 2018, but I don’t think it’s fiscally prudent to pay $21 million (probably more) for a backup. Besides, it’s not the Patriot way. Heck, they don’t like to pay anyone that much, let alone a backup with limited experience. I’d try to sign Garoppolo to a two-year deal, pushing a big guarantee into 2019 and promising him he’ll be the starter by then. It’s not ideal for any of the sides, but it’s the best way to stabilize the position for the long term. Some teams would let Brady play until he says “Uncle,” but the Patriots are cold and ruthless when it comes to personnel decisions, and I can’t see them letting sentimentality get in the way -- not even for Brady.

James Walker, Miami Dolphins reporter: It seems to me the Patriots have made their decision to let Garoppolo walk in 2018. They’ve had numerous offseasons -- including this year -- to trade Garoppolo while his value was high, and the Patriots determined it was best to keep the quarterback insurance. That’s fine. What would not be wise is for New England to use the one-year franchise tag, reportedly worth $25 million, to keep him next year as a backup. That would be terribly shortsighted and un-Patriot like. The only way I see Garoppolo in a Patriots uniform next year is if Brady suffers a season-ending or career-threatening injury this season. Otherwise, they got four years out of Garoppolo as a second-round pick. Let someone else pay huge money for him next season.

Mike Rodak, Buffalo Bills reporter: This is, as owner Robert Kraft likes to say, a "high class" problem for the Patriots. Whether New England trades Garoppolo or keeps him around, I don't think the team can go wrong. The Bills would sure like to have Garoppolo, who was available in the second round of the 2014 draft when they instead chose offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (who was released in May) at No. 44 overall. With quarterback-needy teams such as Buffalo ready to pounce if Garoppolo hits the open market, I don't see the Patriots letting Garoppolo walk as a free agent for nothing. I think the most logical solution is to assign Garoppolo the franchise tag. If a team wants to trade for him, I am sure the Patriots will listen to any offers. If New England holds onto him, they could attempt to renegotiate his deal to smooth out his sizable salary-cap hit over multiple seasons. While the price tag is going to get significantly higher, I think it makes sense for the Patriots to hold serve with Garoppolo, particularly as Brady enters mostly uncharted territory as a 40-year-old starting quarterback.