By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Within minutes, or perhaps even seconds, of news breaking Monday that Tom Brady signed a two-year extension to stay with the Patriots through 2019, the speculation about Jimmy Garoppolo's future began.
It makes sense, of course. He is a backup quarterback, and he seems to be a pretty good backup quarterback, one who's taken some big steps forward in his two years since getting drafted out of Eastern Illinois. He may well become a solid NFL quarterback. He may end up getting a starting job only to find out that he's in way over his head before getting cycled out of the league in a matter of two years. It's simply difficult to properly forecast at that position.
So, given all of those unknowns, it stands to reason that if the Patriots were to try to trade him this offseason, the return might not be great. After all, Ryan Mallett received much of the same hype locally for his rocket arm, and the Patriots only got a seventh-round pick for him. The Patriots let Brian Hoyer walk for nothing, and certainly, a parade of backups has left New England without so much as a mid-round pick coming back.
(The exception, of course, was Matt Cassel, who was sent away with Mike Vrabel in exchange for an early second-rounder. But Cassel had a full year of being an NFL starter under his belt, and so teams were smitten.)
(For what it's worth, that pick became Patrick Chung.)
But there are two unique circumstances which are at play this year, and both provide reason to believe that perhaps the return on Garoppolo might be decent.
1. Teams Do Stupid Things For Quarterbacks
This is just an unassailable fact about men who run football teams. They rightly place a lot of value on the most important position on the field, yet they're so overwhelmed by that significance that they often forget to pay close enough attention to the person in whom they're actually investing.
This really bears itself out in the draft every year, when teams dedicate their most valuable assets (first- and second-round picks) to unknown commodities, in the hopes that they're discovering the next Hall of Fame quarterback. All too often, these picks prove to be costly misfires.
I'm going to list for you some highlighted portions of recent drafts. I'll include some of the whiffs at QB as well as some of the star players at other positions whom teams lost out on due to their Pavlonian response to salivate at the sight of a strong-armed QB.
(Quarterbacks are in bold. Players that could have been drafted instead of the QBs are not in bold. That list of missed opportunities is far from comprehensive; it is presented merely to illustrate a point. And finally, the 2011 and 2010 misfires are tied as the funniest/worst of the bunch.)
22. Johnny Manziel, Cleveland
23 - 256. Literally anybody else
16. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo
18. Eric Reid, San Francisco
20. Kyle Long, Chicago
21. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati
22. Desmond Trufant, Atlanta
27. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston
39. Geno Smith, New York Jets
46. Kiko Alonso, Buffalo
48. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh
52. Jamie Collins, New England
61. Eddie Lacey, Green Bay
2. Robert Griffin III, Washington
8. Ryan Tannehill, Miami
9. Luke Kuechly, Carolina
21. Chandler Jones, New England
22. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland
25. Dont'a Hightower, New England
26. Whitney Mercilus, Houston
31. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay
45. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago
47. Bobby Wagner, Seattle
57. Brock Osweiler, Denver
58. Lavonte David, Tampa Bay
75. Russell Wilson, Seattle
8. Jake Locker, Tennessee
9. Tyron Smith, Dallas
10. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville
11. J.J. Watt, Houston
12. Christian Ponder, Minnesota
13. Nick Fairley, Detroit
14. Robert Quinn, St. Louis
15. Mike Pouncey, Miami
16. Ryan Kerrigan, Washington
24. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans
30. Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets
1. Sam Bradford, St. Louis
2. Ndamukong Suh, Detroit
3. Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay
4. Trent Williams, Washington
5. Eric Berry, Kansas City
6. Russell Okung, Seattle
7. Joe Haden, Cleveland
9. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo
12. Ryan Mathews, San Diego
14. Earl Thomas, Seattle
15. Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
17. Mike Iupati, San Francisco
18. Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh
22. Demaryius Thomas, Denver
24. Dez Bryant, Dallas
25. Tim Tebow, Denver
27. Devin McCourty, New England
42. Rob Gronkowski, New England
6. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
9. B.J. Raji, Green Bay
13. Brian Orakpo, Washington
14. Malcolm Jenkins, New Orleans
17. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay
19. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia
21. Alex Mack, Cleveland
22. Percy Harvin, Minnesota
25. Vontae Davis, Miami
26. Clay Matthews, Green Bay
44. Pat White, Miami
46. Connor Barwin, Houston
49. Max Unger, Seattle
53. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia
OK, you get the picture.
Essentially, every GM and personnel man in the NFL would be better at their jobs if they weren't allowed to spend draft picks on quarterbacks. Aside from the no-brainers like Andrew Luck, the practice of drafting a quarterback is a wretched endeavor. Yet every singly year, teams show they can't learn their lessons, and they take risks on guys who end up out of the NFL within four years.
Keep that in mind as we discuss point No. 2.
2. The QB Crop In This Year's Draft Is Weak
The quarterback expected to be drafted first is a guy in Carson Wentz whose last game came against Jacksonville State and a guy who played his best football against Montana, Weber State and the University of North Dakota. Or it's Jared Goff, or Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook or Christian Hackenberg.
Is there a chance that one of those guys goes on to have a successful NFL career? Sure. But it's every bit as likely that most or all them end up like so many quarterback prospects before them: mediocre. Or, worse, they could be just plain bad.
That much remains somewhat unknown, and that's where the sell job begins for the Patriots. Just two years ago, Jimmy Garoppolo was that uncertain player, but since then he's studied under Tom Brady and learned in Bill Belichick's and Josh McDaniels' meeting rooms. He's worked in one of the more elaborate offenses in the league, and he's received nothing but praise from his teammates and coaches.
Given the way personnel men tend to lose all reason when considering quarterbacks, the Patriots could just say "this could be the guy" and let that do some bamboozling.
Of course, nobody is foolish enough to give up a first-rounder, and likely, it'd be tough to get a second-rounder in return. (Garoppolo himself was a late second-round pick at No. 62.) But what about, say, a third and a sixth? Or what about a fourth in 2016 and a third in 2017? Considering Garoppolo only has thrown 31 more passes in the NFL than all of this year's prospects, that could be considered a decent return.
Then, there would be other considerations. Namely, the Patriots would need to find a viable backup for Brady, and if that would require the team spending a draft pick in the first four rounds of this year's draft, then the whole deal becomes questionable. Given the Patriots' lack of a first-round pick, every pick becomes that much more valuable this year, so spending a fourth-round pick on a quarterback who will end up just filling Garoppolo's roster spot may not be worth it.
But, well, if you look at the history of how quarterback-thirsty teams get, and if you look at how poorly some teams have allocated their assets in trying to acquire a passer, you have to recognize that there is a chance that one team overspends tremendously on the "potential" of Garoppolo.
And as Belichick has shown over the years that if a smart deal presents itself, he won't hesitate to make it.
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