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The New England Patriots have been busy reshaping their roster this offseason, spending tons of money to upgrade on both sides of the ball. As Bill Belichick prepares for the 2021 season, it seems he isn’t done exploring his options at quarterback.
New England’s projected starting quarterback Cam Newton re-signed a one-year deal with the organization. While he’s atop the team’s depth chart, the Patriots are still scouring the market for an upgrade. There are options, either via trade or the 2021 NFL Draft, but it seems Belichick might have a specific target in mind.
Based on the latest NFL rumors from ESPN’s Dianna Russini, it seems many in the league still believe the Patriots’ interest in a Jimmy Garoppolo trade could eventually lead to a blockbuster deal with the San Francisco 49ers.
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“Just recently I was talking to somebody in the league who I really trust. He’s got good information. He said, ‘Do not take the Jimmy Garoppolo trade off the table.’ That is something New England is still sniffing out. Bill doesn’t like to put his cards out on the table so most think if we all know about that it probably won’t happen, but there is definitely a tone in the league that it could still go down.”ESPN’s Dianna Russini on New England Patriots pursuit of Jimmy Garoppolo (H/T WEEI)
To this point, the 49ers seem committed to their current starter. While Garoppolo doesn’t offer the highest upside and puts a bit of a ceiling on Kyle Shanahan’s quarterback, this is the same passer who helped the team reach Super Bowl LIV. Injuries have forced him to miss 26 games over the past three seasons, but his past two years in San Francisco’s scheme have been relatively productive.
- Jimmy Garoppolo stats (2019): 69.1% completion rate, 27/13 TD/INT ratio, 8.4 ypa, 248.5 ypg, 102.0 passer rating, 60.8 QBR
- Jimmy Garoppolo stats (2020): 67.1% completion rate, 7/5 TD/INT ratio, 7.8 ypa, 182.7 ypg, 92.4 passer rating, 61.5 QBR.
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Across his last 22 regular-season starts, the 49ers have a 16-6 record with Garoppolo at the helm. He’s not a playmaker, but he executes Shanahan’s offense and helps keep this team in a position to consistently be in games, with the 49ers’ defense often making the difference.
Belichick and Josh McDaniels likely believe Garoppolo could do the same thing for New England.
Examining Garoppolo’s fit with the New England Patriots, potential trade cost
In the Patriots’ dream scenario, the 49ers would cut Garoppolo to create $23.6 million in cap space. But that isn’t going to happen, so it will take a deal to acquire him. If Francisco can pull off a Sam Darnold trade or lands a top quarterback in the NFL Draft, the door opens for a move.
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New England can afford to take on Garoppolo’s $26.4 million cap hit this season, especially given the value they place on the 29-year-old quarterback. With the contract not an issue, it comes down to the acquisition cost.
San Francisco would certainly be interested in Stephon Gilmore, who is available for trade. The 49ers would land an excellent cornerback to pair with Jason Verrett and the Patriots land their starting quarterback. It might also take New England sending a fourth- or fifth-round pick, but the cost could be worth it in Belichick’s mind.
There would be no transition period for Garoppolo, he knows McDaniels’ scheme and his four seasons in New England made him plenty familiar with the environment. In terms of a fit, the situation is a lot better than where things stood before the offseason.
New England will run a lot of two-tight end sets in the years to come, after opening up the wallet for Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. Both are quality weapons who could make plays underneath in a quick passing game. Garoppolo would also benefit from playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
With that said, McDaniels isn’t on Shanahan’s level as a play-caller and the Patriots’ defense doesn’t compare to the one that pushed the 49ers to the Super Bowl two years ago. Realistically, with Garoppolo under center, the Patriots are a nine-win team in 2021.
Ultimately, Belichick might be better off trading up on draft day to land a player like Justin Fields or Trey Lance.