By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In the latest chapter of Brady Of Our Lives, the football world is going a bit gaga at the possibility of Tom Brady returning home to the Bay Area and restoring the 49ers to championship glory. It’s a scintillating idea, really, Brady in that red and gold get-up, playing near his hometown, winning one last title. Some might even call that the sexiest resolution possible in this dreary, maddening, chaotic period of history known as The Tom Brady Free Agency Offseason of 2020.
That’s all well and good. But folks in New England have seemingly taken this concept and pushed it one step further. And many people seemed to assume that if Brady goes to San Francisco, then Jimmy Garoppolo would obviously be returning to his original NFL home in Foxboro.
Brady in San Francisco. Jimmy G. at Gillette. A happy ending for all!
It’s a wonderful little notion, the idea that Brady could go home and Bill Belichick could reunite with his little quarterbacking gem.
But it’s a story straight out of Candy Land.
It’s not going to happen.
Sure, the first part could happen. If you watched Jimmy Garoppolo closely in 2019, you saw a quarterback who was … good but not great. Of the 13 quarterbacks to start 16 games, he ranked 12th in attempts, meaning the Niners didn’t exactly trust him to fully run the show. And despite ranking 19th in passing attempts, he was tied for throwing the eighth-most interceptions. He threw a whopping 27 total passes in the Niners’ two playoff wins, and with a chance to win the Super Bowl, he didn’t exactly step up to the challenge.
Could Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch look at their team as currently constructed, envision Brady in that same spot lifting the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory for the first time since 1994, and thus pursue the quarterback in free agency? Absolutely. Similarly to the Titans, the 49ers might just be one Tom Brady away from a Lombardi presentation in Tampa next February.
That part? Sure. Plausible, even if it remains on the unlikely side.
But the part about Garoppolo landing back in Foxboro? Not. Gonna. Happen.
Seemingly, Belichick and Josh McDaniels would want that to happen. When you draft a quarterback and develop him within your building and on your practice field, you’ll naturally feel as though that player will ascend to the highest level once you get your coaching mitts on him once again. While the narrative that Belichick desperately wanted to keep Garoppolo and give the heave-ho to Brady after 2017 has wrongly become canon around these parts, it stands to reason that Belichick surely wouldn’t mind having the quarterback he drafted and developed under center for the next several years.
But wanting something to happen doesn’t generally make it come true. And surely, a number of teams will want Garoppolo — and may have more to offer.
In this imaginary scenario where the 49ers sign Brady, the team will immediately be fielding trade offers for Garoppolo, who has three years (and more than $72 million) left on his deal.
Now remember, back in 2017, Garoppolo had a grand total of 94 NFL passes under his belt. And the rights to his contract for eight weeks netted the Patriots a second-round pick. (And that was considered to be a discount.)
Now it’s 2020, and Garoppolo has 12 times as many starts and eight times as many passes on his resume. And he’s also locked up (albeit at an expensive rate) for three full seasons. Suffice it to say, he’s going to be worth a first-round pick.
And in terms of interested teams with better 2020 first-round picks than the Patriots? You could count the Dolphins, Chargers, Panthers, Jaguars, Raiders, Colts, Buccaneers and Broncos as teams that might be willing to make that trade for Garoppolo.
The only scenario, really, where the Patriots end up with Jimmy G. reclaiming his No. 10 jersey in Foxboro is one where Lynch and Shanahan sell their quarterback for less than he’s worth, as a show of thanks for that killer deal cut by Belichick back on Halloween 2017.
And even in that scenario it’s a tough squeeze for the Patriots, in terms of the salary cap. In that scenario, the Patriots would be carrying the $13.5 million in dead money from Brady and adding the $22 million cap hit for Garoppolo, locking up almost 18 percent of their cap. You might recall Tom Ernesto Curran sharing a 2013 Robert Kraft quote a couple of months ago, wherein the team owner said flatly, “We don’t want to have a team where we’re paying 18 to 20 percent to a [single] player on the cap.”
Would the team be willing to dedicate that much cap space to one quarterback on the team and one quarterback contending for titles in San Francisco? Maaaaybe, but it seems far-fetched. (For what it’s worth, a QB duo of Jarrett Stidham and Cody Kessler would cost the Patriots $1.6 million against the cap.)
In any event, whether it’s due to the low odds of Brady signing with the Niners, or due to the unlikelihood of the Patriots winning the bidding war for Garoppolo, or due to the uncertainty of whether the Patriots would prefer dedicating roughly $35 million of cap space to the QB position instead of just paying Brady a decent salary, it might be wise for the 317 people in New England who bought Garoppolo Patriots jerseys to keep them folded up in a storage bin in the attic.
The thought that a Brady-for-Garoppolo clean swap could actually take place is a fairy tale.