That’s the overwhelming takeaway from Monday night’s stunner of a trade that sent backup Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Those who wanted Brady to retire as a Patriot, never playing in another uniform, have had their wish granted in shocking fashion.
In the process, owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick are taking a major risk in both the short and long term.
In the short term, the Patriots have just one quarterback on their roster: Brady. They’ll need to fill the No. 2 spot, and it very well could be with veteran Brian Hoyer, who spent his first three seasons in the NFL with the Patriots (2009-2011) and will be released by the 49ers, according to Schefter. Brady and Hoyer have remained close friends.
But part of the reason the Patriots were so adamant about holding on to Garoppolo was that he was viewed as insurance in the event that Brady, who is signed through 2019, breaks down as he enters his 40s. Belichick has often said if a team doesn’t have its quarterback position accounted for at all levels of the depth chart, it puts the entire team at risk.
By making this move, the 2017 Patriots assume much greater risk than they would if Garoppolo, who was scheduled for unrestricted free agency after the season, were on the roster.
Yet Belichick obviously felt that the value of a second-round pick, which should be high in the round (low-to-mid 30s), was worth taking that risk.
In essence, Belichick has stripped down the once-promising quarterback depth chart in exchange for a No. 4 receiver and a 2018 second-round pick. Only a football czar with Belichick’s job security and track record could pull off those moves and not be facing a firestorm of questions.
There are likely things that unfolded behind the scenes that would help add context to the Patriots’ thinking.
Jeff Darlington explains why Kyle Shanahan and QB Jimmy Garoppolo are a promising match and breaks down how the quarterback evaluation will play out in hopes the former Patriots second-stringer can be the future of the 49ers organization.
For example, if there was an earnest effort to sign Garoppolo to an extension and it was clear to the club that it wasn’t going to happen, that could have led Belichick & Co. to make the deal now for what they felt was the best value they would ever receive.
Or perhaps if Kraft had let it be known to Belichick that he wanted Brady to finish his career in New England, no matter what, that would make some sense, too.
But one question lingers: Even if those or other factors were in play, why wouldn’t the Patriots play out the 2017 season with Garoppolo, assign the franchise tag to him in the offseason and then attempt to trade him like they did Matt Cassel in 2009?
That would have been the safe play, even if it meant sacrificing some leverage and briefly handcuffing the salary cap.
But Belichick has never been shy about taking risks, and this is among his biggest.