Jimmy Garoppolo Could Still Back Up Tom Brady in 2018—Here's How

The New England Patriots likely didn't want to lose Jimmy Garoppolo as Tom Brady's backup and the presumed heir to their starting quarterback's throne.

Garoppolo was traded away to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night, in return for a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. It's a fascinating, brassy move that was probably forced on the Patriots. The 25-year-old quarterback out of Eastern Illinois becomes an unrestricted free agent in the 2018 offseason. According to Pro Football Talk, the Patriots wanted to sign Garoppolo to a new deal to tide him over until Brady retires, which is unlikely to be soon and now, with Monday's news, appears to be an even more remote prospect.

It seems Garoppolo, who was drafted by the Patriots in the second round in 2014, was commendably unwilling to accept a fat salary to watch Brady from the sidelines any longer. "Garoppolo...wants to be a starter, not just a guy paid like one," Sports Illustrated reported on Monday. He walks into a starter's job in San Francisco, albeit one of the least appealing in the NFL. Kyle Shanahan's rebuilding 49ers have played some tough defense so far this season, but they are 0-8, and Garoppolo can expect to get hit, a lot, as he scrambles for viable receiving options. That's the life of a starting quarterback, of course. Brady has been hammered at times this season himself, and if Garoppolo can stay upright and healthy, then he could be part of an exciting 49ers project under Shanahan and 49ers General Manager John Lynch.

There is, potentially, another factor in play here—hear us out while we play some fantasy football. Had the Patriots kept Garoppolo around, they would probably have had to put the franchise tag on him in the spring of 2018, as SI notes. That can now be used on the defense—possibly on cornerback Malcolm Butler, according to USA Today. As for the 49ers—the Niners Nation blog points out that since Garoppolo was a second-round pick, there is no fifth-year option on his contract. To keep him beyond the 2017 season, the 49ers are going to have to sign him to a long-term contract extension or use their own franchise tag on him.

But what if Garoppolo plays out the second half of this season, only to realize that he has walked into a proverbial dumpster fire in San Francisco? He can then test free agency with half a season as a starter under his belt. And maybe, by that time, the Patriots will have come to the realization that Brady really has only a season or two left. And so Bill Belichick goes into the 2018 season having resigned Garoppolo, without having had to use the franchise tender, and having collected a potentially lucrative second-rounder along the way. That would also open up a route for Kirk Cousins to move to the 49ers, as per what everyone thought was the most likely scenario for Shanahan for the 2018 season.

Or to put more than 500 words another way: Is this all part of a Machiavellian Bill Belichick strategy?