Some in the NFL think the New England Patriots could be more apt to trade four-time All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski than backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Others disagree. It's going to be an intriguing several months for the Patriots, regardless. That is because New England faces important strategic decisions regarding a long list of prominent contributors to its latest championship effort.
How will the Patriots proceed from here? Conversations with NFL decision-makers illuminate the options, culminating with five predictions.
1. Answer the Garoppolo question
Tom Brady's exceptional production at age 39 suggests he will remain the Patriots' starter long enough to force the team's hand on Garoppolo, whose rookie contract runs through 2017. New England could hold on to Garoppolo for another year just in case, then use the franchise tag to facilitate a trade in 2018. But in using a 2016 third-round choice on quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the Patriots bought insurance for parting with Garoppolo earlier than that.
"If the price is right, I think they'll be willing to deal," a personnel director said. "That is why they drafted another quarterback last year. They are smart enough to know this thing will be vastly different without Brady, whenever that day comes. They may like Garoppolo, but no one person is above the team. They will keep looking for quarterbacks if they have to."