The New England Patriots are headed to Super Bowl LI after yet another brilliant season by quarterback Tom Brady. The 39 year-old quarterback has displayed absolutely no signs of slowing down, as evidenced in Sunday’s blowout Conference victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brady and the Patriots achieving Super Bowl status was a great feat in itself. This is all the more amazing considering backups Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett combined for a 3-1 record while Brady served his suspension.
Clearly, the Patriots are in an excellent position when it comes to their quarterbacks. Garoppolo will enter his final year of his rookie deal in 2017. This could be the ideal time to try to move him. There is already some buzz that the Patriots may consider trade offers. A quarterback of his caliber could potentially warrant a first-round draft pick in exchange.
If the Patriots were actually serious about seeing what they could get for Garoppolo, these are some potential quarterback-needy teams that might be willing to make a deal.
1. San Francisco 49ers
After a disastrous finish to the 2016 regular season, the 49ers’ lonely two wins earned them the second overall pick in the upcoming draft.
We are not sure if San Francisco would be willing to let that pick go to New England for Garoppolo, but perhaps the 49ers can leverage some other assets to exchange for the quarterback.
For now, Colin Kaepernick is the team’s No. 1 starter. But, his future with San Francisco remains somewhat cloudy. There was a recent report that surfaced in December suggesting Kaepernick wanted to get out of his current contract. Kap denied this, but there is enough going on to believe the two parties will part ways this year.
Beyond Kap is Blaine Gabbert, who remains a backup for many glaring reasons. And, the draft pool of potential rookie quarterbacks is pretty thin.
There is plenty of appeal in Garoppolo, considering the team’s other options. Even better, the price tag to secure Garoppolo would be much cheaper than the 49ers attempting to snare, and then pay Kirk Cousins. Cousins could be on the 49ers’ radar due to the team’s presumed next head coach, Kyle Shanahan.
— KNBR (@KNBR) January 19, 2017
2. Chicago Bears
The Bears currently have the third overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. They also could be moving on from quarterback Jay Cutler after a terrible injury-riddled 2016 campaign.
Earlier in January, the team said they are not necessarily ruling out his return in 2017. But the Bears’ brass also said when it comes to a future quarterback, “everything is on the table,” (more on that here).
Clearly, they are open to exploring options after a dismal season.
Cutler is currently under contract through 2020. But this year, the team would only be on the hook for $2 million in dead cap if it let Cutler loose this spring. Cutler also turns 34 in April and has not played a full, healthy 16-game season since his trade to Chicago back in 2009.
Drafting a rookie quarterback or attempting to trade for a seasoned Bill Belichick-coached quarterback is something the Bears will consider.
3. New York Jets
The Jets have one of the most complicated and unfortunate quarterback situations in the league. New York re-signed veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, which turned out to be a complete backfire. Fitzpatrick lost his 2015 magic, dealt with injuries and actually got benched twice in lieu of other quarterbacks last year.
Beyond Fitzpatrick is Geno Smith, who will become a free agent in 2017. The Jets are likely done with him as he never performed up to expectations. In 30 games starts, he completed 57.9 percent of his passes, threw 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
This leaves Bryce Petty, drafted in 2015, and Christian Hackenberg, whom the Jets traded up for in the second round to snag in 2016. Petty played in six games last season and was quite wet behind the ears, to say the least. Hackenberg is hardly the answer either for a fresh start to the 2017 season. This is especially after he reportedly drew some terrible criticism by one of the team’s coaches (more on that here).
A guy like Garoppolo sure seems like a breath of fresh air compared to this awful mess. The Jets might just be willing to give their divisional nemesis pick No. 6 to snag Brady’s talented backup.
4. Los Angeles Chargers
Quarterback Philip Rivers is not going to play for the Chargers forever. His longevity with the franchise is even more in question due to the relocation of the team to Los Angeles. Something that Rivers was having a difficult time in dealing with once the bombshell news broke.
Rivers is signed through 2019 and recently shot down the idea of a possible trade to the San Francisco 49ers (more on that here).
For now, it would appear the former 2004 first-round draft pick will at least play out this season. But, it will be interesting to follow how Rivers actually deals with the relocation and impact it has on his very large, San Diego County-rooted family.
Planning for the future beyond Rivers should be on the Chargers’ to-do list. It’s remarkable that the 35 year-old quarterback has started in all 16 games from 2006-2016. But, we never know when injury could strike, especially at his age.
The only other quarterback currently on the Chargers’ roster is veteran Kellen Clemens. Garoppolo would be a much younger upgrade, and a potential franchise quarterback who could thrive under the pressure of playing in LA.
5. Buffalo Bills
The Bills finished the 2016 campaign with a mediocre 7-9 record. That quickly led to the firing of coach Rex Ryan. Despite the team’s record, Taylor put up some commendable numbers.
After starting in 15 games, Taylor recorded 3,023 passing yards, 580 rushing yards, 23 combined touchdowns and only six interceptions. Although, his accomplishments might not have been enough to secure his future with the Bills.
New head coach Sean McDermott won’t commit at this time to keeping Taylor around in 2017 (more on that here). Currently, Taylor is signed with Buffalo through 2019. But his contract allows the Bills to release him and only absorb $2.85 million in dead cap.
The Bills also have E.J. Manuel about to become a free agent, and second-year quarterback Cardale Jones. They, like the Jets, might be interested in giving pick No. 10 to Bill Belichick to bring in a member of the Patriots.
6. Cleveland Browns
Due to a horrible season and a handy trade with the Philadelphia Eagles last year, the Browns possess the first and twelfth overall picks in the upcoming draft. Likely, they are not going to give one of the best teams in the league the No. 1 pick. But, Cleveland might be interested in trading away No. 12 to gain an upgrade at quarterback.
Per Clayton, Browns have best chance to get Garoppolo. Take Jimmy G, draft Myles Garrett, still have twelfth pick.
— Aaron Goldhammer (@HammerNation19) January 18, 2017
Garoppolo would be a big upgrade over one of the saddest cast of quarterbacks the league saw last year last season.
Try as they did, the Browns managed only one win while a handful of rotating quarterbacks took center stage. Right off the bat, Robert Griffin III was injured and landed in IR back in Week 1.
Throughout Weeks 2-13, Browns’ fans witnessed Josh McCown and Cody Kessler under center. Then, Griffin made an uneventful late-season return in Week 14. Overall, RG3 was terribly underwhelming in his Browns’ debut, throwing only three touchdowns in five games.
He is under contract for one more season, but RG3’s future as a starter for the Browns is certainly in doubt. However things play out for Griffin, Garoppolo would boost the quarterback quality factor in Cleveland.
7. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have the 13th pick in the upcoming draft after a less than stellar 2016 season. A season that saw the regression of veteran starter, Carson Palmer. Palmer turned 37 in December, and signs of his aging arm and body were evident.
His pass-completion rate dropped by 2.7 percent and he threw for just 26 touchdowns compared to 35 in 2015. His interceptions went up from 11 to 14 as well. Father time is catching up and the team needs to prepare for more appealing backup material than Drew Stanton and second-year passer Zac Dysert.
It is possible that these factors could dump the Cardinals into the pool of potential suitors for Garoppolo if the right deal with the Patriots could be struck.
Of the teams discussed on this list, Arizona boasts the most promise and comes loaded with a talented offense.