The New England Patriots fascinate me. They have been the class of the NFL for a long time. Depending on your definition of a dynasty, you could state that New England’s has spanned the last two decades. Or they had one in the early 2000s and we’re presently living in the second iteration. Either way, five Lombardi trophies have made their way up to Foxborough. A large part of that has to do with the decisions made by head coach and general manager Bill Belichick. You may not agree with every decision Belichick makes, but you know that there’s a logical and well-thought-out reason for him doing so. For instance, depending on the personnel and other contextual factors, Belichick will sometimes put his CB1 on the opposing offense’s WR2 to essentially take him out of the game. While putting his CB2 on the WR1 along with help, like a safety, to increase the odds of winning match ups.
However, that’s only one of the many ways Belichick executes his strategy on the field. He’s also responsible for building his team in the offseason through free agency, trades, and the draft. That too requires strategy as well as knowledge of the CBA and understanding of player value. At Wesleyan University, Belichick studied economics and has incorporated what he learned well with his tasks as a coach and general manager. The Patriots have made many moves to upgrade their roster this offseason, but it’s the one move they didn’t make that have many people intrigued.
That move was keeping Jimmy Garoppolo in New England. The Patriots seemed set to trade Garoppolo to the highest bidder. Likely they would have been looking for at least two first round picks and maybe more highly valuable draft capital. Only a team like the Cleveland Browns have that sort of draft capital to offer up. Something we’ve discussed prior to the draft around ITP was a Garoppolo to Cleveland for picks deal. Yet, with a chance to add high draft picks, something New England doesn’t often obtain with their success, the team wanted to hold onto their backup quarterback for the last year of his rookie contract. Garoppolo will earn $895,077 while on the bench for New England in 2018 before he’s set to hit the free agent market. Adding those picks would have resulted in adding help to the team right now, but Belichick is seemingly thinking long-term by holding onto Garoppolo.
That is if the only other constant to the Patriots’ success the last two decades decides to hang ’em up. And that doesn’t seem to be happening just yet, at least in Tom Brady’s mind. It’s been said that Garoppolo could be Brady’s successor in New England after his career is finished. Brady playing at such a high level this late into his career puts the Patriots in a difficult situation in regards to the team’s post-Brady plans.
Recently, Albert Breer of MMQB wrote about the potential situation in New England between Brady and Garoppolo next offseason. The Patriots can franchise Garoppolo at season’s end, but that means they’ll be paying the backup $22MM and Brady only $15 million in 2018 according to Breer. Breer then explains that could potentially lead to spending $45MM between two of their quarterbacks if you add in an $8MM increase to Brady’s salary. That is all dependent on Garoppolo being okay with sitting behind the future Hall of Famer for another season.
The financial aspect of the dynamic alone may make it difficult for both Brady and Garoppolo to be Patriots in 2018. The Arizona Cardinals currently spend the most on quarterbacks, spending $29,255,000 cap dollars according to Spotrac. The league average is $17.5MM for the position. I don’t think league average quarterback salaries will rise enough in the next season to justify paying two quarterbacks like the starter.
The difficulty of the Patriots’ situation is trying to do what’s best for the long-term outlook of the team and maximizing the rest of Brady’s remaining seasons without offending him. If this were anyone but Tom Brady, I believe Belichick would let him walk a year early rather than a year late. It’s reasonable that in a vacuum if you had to choose between the two, and think Garoppolo is a capable franchise quarterback, you’re likely to pick Garoppolo because he has more future value. But, this is Tom-expletive-Brady. The man who’s won five Super Bowls and most recently helped lead a comeback against the Atlanta Falcons facing a 25-point deficit in the Super Bowl. He’s built Robert Kraft’s brand. He’s New England royalty. You can’t not take emotion into the equation when making that decision. Also, take into consideration that if New England cut Brady a year early rather than late they’re lessening their chances of winning a Super Bowl for those seasons without him. Tom Brady is better than Jimmy Garoppolo.
But for how long?
There have been some articles about Brady’s inevitable decline this offseason. I guess now is a good time to start calling the beginning of the end for Brady considering he just turned 40. Although, I don’t think you’re going to see anything in film that points toward that prediction. Which makes sense considering quarterbacks of Brady’s caliber usually rapidly decline. According to this FiveThirtyEight piece by Ty Schalter – Warren Moon, Brett Favre, and Peyton Manning all had excellent seasons at ages 41, 40, and 39 respectively, a season prior to their rapid declines. When Brady declines it’ll likely have no warning signs. Making Belichick’s job all the more difficult.
Waiting it out and letting Father Time make the decision is a delicate matter. If Brady declines next season then Garoppolo is the future starter. But, If Brady doesn’t decline within the next season Garoppolo is probably gone and the Patriots are hoping Jacoby Brissett can take over when Brady inevitably falls off.
Though, no decision needs to be made yet. The Patriots should keep Garoppolo as long as they possibly can. With all the moving parts, I believe Belichick is making the right decision for the future waiting it out. If Brady’s play were to somehow fall off this season, they have Garoppolo to save the day. And if Garoppolo must be traded – he should still fetch a nice return despite a potentially healthy group of quarterbacks being made available in free agency and the draft next offseason. For now the Patriots will try and win as many Super Bowls they can with Tom Brady leading the offense and Garoppolo backing him up.