FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- While excitement and anticipation for the New England Patriots' 2017 season is as high as it has been in the region in recent memory, some looking to the future have asked the question, “With the Patriots not trading Jimmy Garoppolo, what happens with him after the year?”
Last week, Patriots Hall of Famer Willie McGinest touched on the possibility the club would put the franchise tag on Garoppolo, buying them another year with a top backup quarterback as they assess Tom Brady's ability to continue playing at a high level entering his 40s.
That would be an outside-the-box move, as teams don’t use the franchise tag -- projected to be around $24 million for quarterbacks next year -- on backups.
McGinest, now an NFL Network analyst, pointed out how anyone who has watched the Patriots operate shouldn't rule it out.
“Well, if you’re talking about things that never really happen that seem to happen in New England; yes, it’s a possibility,” he said during an appearance on “NFL No Huddle” with hosts Kordell Stewart and Brian Weber. “I’m not sure how long he is going to be in New England. His deal is coming up [after the 2017 season]. There’s a lot of quarterbacks that reached that point and they leave.”
But if the Patriots placed the franchise tag on Garoppolo with the intention of keeping him because they view him as a potential franchise quarterback, that would run counter to their past approach of not devoting too much salary-cap space to one position. Instead, the team generally prefers to spread the wealth, which allows them to build a stronger middle class over all areas of the roster.
One possible solution to avoid that: Offer Garoppolo, right now, a one-year extension through 2018 worth $24 million (a figure reached because it is projected to be close to the franchise tag).
By doing it now, the club could spread the cap hit over 2017 and 2018, making it much more tenable from a cap-management perspective. The Patriots currently have about $19 million in cap space.
It is unknown if the Patriots would be willing to do that, or if they’ve even discussed it with Garoppolo. But it could potentially be a smart (albeit unconventional) move as the club navigates keeping an asset while managing the unknown of how much longer Brady -- who turns 40 on Aug. 3 -- will play at a high level. It would also open up the use of the franchise tag for the team on a different player.
Then, of course, there’s this question: Would Garoppolo, who shares the same agent as Brady, even be open to signing such a hypothetical extension?
The benefit to him would be to gain financial security one year early. But in doing so, he also could be putting off his chance to be a starter for at least one more year.