It has been a slog in the first six weeks for Patriot Nation. Their 4-2 record isn’t evoking any confidence in their ability to win long term but it’s still October and Bill Belichick always strives for his football team to play their best football in December and beyond. After a tumultuous offseason in which Belichick abandoned all his teachings by paying a free agent on day 1 and trading away multiple draft picks for players, much of the discourse around the team was how stacked they were. Many people forgot about the guy backing up Tom Brady and how interesting the dynamic is with a 40 year old starter and heir apparent on the same team. It seems like the perfect time to reflect on keeping Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster after five inconsistent weeks. There are tons of “what ifs” to browse through.
The price for the attractive QB out of Eastern Illinois was downright ridiculous after his brief stint as the starter during Brady’s suspension in 2016. It was estimated that teams like the Browns, Texans and others would offer multiple first round draft picks to have Garoppolo as their starter. The most reasonable destination would have been Cleveland because they had the first and twelfth overall picks in the 2017 draft and could have parted with the latter, plus a future first to hypothetically get Belichick to agree. With the massive struggles of the defense as a whole, the struggles and ultimate release of Kony Ealy and the torn ACL for third round pick Derek Rivers, it now seems as though Belichick should have pulled the trigger and added a couple picks to boost the depth on defense.
The amount of value Belichick could have gotten out of the 12th overall pick (and possibly a future 1st) is insane. He could have drafted the pick and taken top-flight talent at the defensive end or linebacker position, which are both in need of talent upgrades at the moment. Even better, Belichick could have traded down from the 12th overall pick and accumulated multiple 2nd and 3rd round picks. Either way, Patriots fans wouldn’t be worrying about Trey Flowers single handedly generating a pass rush or hoping Deatrich Wise will flash some of his pass rushing skill on occasion or relying on Dont’a Hightower to be an edge defender. Building depth and talent through the draft is vintage Belichick and trading Garoppolo would have given him that flexibility and maybe even given the struggling defense a boost.
There are quite a few rookies who would be a welcome sight for an under performing defense. Wise has been stellar at times and looks like he will be a stalwart on the edge for a long time, but he is inconsistent against the run and has made some serious mental mistakes recently such as the roughing the passer call against Tampa Bay at the end of the first half. Lets assume Belichick still drafted Wise and the Pats add 2 extra picks to the equation, which will be one defensive lineman and one linebacker (the glaring needs on defense).
Carl Lawson, the edge defender of the Bengals has 3.5 sacks this season in limited snaps. He seems like a Wise type player who will bring pressure on obvious passing downs but isn’t a versatile player just yet. 3.5 sacks would be a welcome sight to a unit that only has 10 sacks on the season. The depth he could have brought on the edge could ensure Hightower would be playing more middle linebacker and calling the plays.
Kendell Beckwith, was a third round selection of the Tampa Bay Bucs and has played great in the linebacker position. He has been excellent at stopping the run and has the seventh best run stop percentage out of all linebackers in the league. Beckwith could have been useful when Kareem Hunt was running all over the Patriots in week 1.
Lastly, a Belichick favorite is linebacker Zach Cunningham, who was drafted in the second round by the Houston Texans.
— Joe Giza (@JoeGiza) March 17, 2017
He has been a workhorse so far for the Texans and would bring brains and grit to the Patriots defense. The question that needs to be asked is; are a few of these impact rookies, which could add to the depth of the porous Patriots D worth it for Jimmy G? All Garoppolo has done this season is hold a clipboard and play some catch with Brady. Is he really worth the roster spot with the numerous holes that have been discovered on this roster through 6 weeks?
While the discussion of what immediate benefits the Patriots would have received through trading Garoppolo is important, this decision was entirely a decision based on the future. It’s entirely possible that one of the three rookies mentioned here or others the Patriots were high on could turn into perennial all-pros but the end is truly here for Brady.
When is the last time Brady did endorsements during the season? Never is the answer and now he has done multiple big time commercial spots, released a book among other post-football pursuits. He sees the end no matter if he will acknowledge it to the media. This season may not be his last but it reasonable to think that Brady will retire after next season, especially if the Patriots bring home a sixth Super Bowl.
The Patriots will need to franchise Garoppolo after this season but the 24 million price tag will be an expense on the Kraft family and not the salary cap. The piece of mind having a quarterback the coaching staff can rely on for the next decade is too great to pass up. Brady has been sacked more this season already than the 12 games he played in 2016 and has a shoulder injury to show for this beating. It’s realistic that Brady keeps getting hit at a high rate and can’t finish this season. Garoppolo is ready for that scenario.
Honestly, if the Patriots were smart, they would sit Brady for games against awful teams like the New York Jets or Miami Dolphins to preserve Brady’s peak play and his body. The 12 regular season games Brady played last season was a sneaky benefit for the old man QB. He was fresh for the postseason and played some of his best football in January. Of course, it’ll be impossible to force Brady not to play when he is healthy but the idea is an interesting one if the Patriots get hot and clinch the division in week 14 or so. There is the first round bye and home field battle as well so it’s tough to really have that discussion but Brady’s health is paramount and should be protected by any means possible.
Ultimately, Belichick made the right call this past offseason hanging on to his prized backup quarterback. The immediate gains of some impactful rookie linebackers or defensive lineman could help a struggling defense but that unit just needs reps together and to discover an identity which only can come with time. It’s not everyday a team feels confortable winning with two different quarterbacks on the roster and that is where the Patriots find themselves today.
The Garoppolo saga still remains a divisive issue in Patriot Nation and its impossible to determine the right course of action but after 6 weeks, its nice to have Garoppolo on the roster still. The defense would have been awful with or without Zach Cunningham and Brady is banged up earlier in the season than ever before. While he most likely will play 16 games, Garoppolo is ready to go at a moments notice.
The transition between hall of famers Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers was not an easy or pretty one and the transition from Brady to Garoppolo won’t be either. But Garoppolo needs to be on the roster to quarterback the post-Brady Patriots and Belichick looks to be making that happen. With 11 weeks left this season it looks as though having Garoppolo on the roster is a huge positive and that he is the heir apparent in Belichick’s eyes.
“Oh, he good. Jimmy good.” Unnamed player on Jimmy Garoppolo in practice this week.
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) October 12, 2017