By Nick Shook
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The Jimmy Garoppolo-to-Cleveland rumors aren’t going away any time soon.
Just months after completing an in-season deal for linebacker Jamie Collins, the Browns remain linked to the Patriots in trade talks for the backup quarterback. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that “the interest in Garoppolo is real,” but there are some uncertainties.
“We do not know whether or not they will strike a deal for that, how willing the Patriots would be to actually part with someone who would be their backup next year and their big-time insurance policy in case Tom Brady ever gets injured,” Rapoport reported.
In Cleveland, this potential trade has been all the rage since before the regular season ended. The hottest savior is always the newest. But Rapoport makes a good point in that this might not be a deal the Patriots are all that eager to make, unless they get an offer they simple can’t refuse.
Leverage advantage: Browns. Right? Well, not for a team starving for reliability under center. Consider Cleveland’s quarterback situation. Long in dire straits with a few supposed messiahs (Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel, heck, even Charlie Frye) arriving only to flame out, this has long been a need that continues to go unaddressed. Any young, capable quarterback who is available should and will inevitably be linked to the Browns, who never seem to have one of their own.
But Tom Brady is 39 years old, and while he wants to play in the same fashion Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith wants to shoot — until his arm falls off — you can’t run from the calendar. If the Patriots truly thought so highly of the backup, why would they consider dealing him away with the twilight of Brady’s career barreling down on them?
New England drafted Garoppolo with an eye on the future, and with Garoppolo’s free agency looming, is now nearing a difficult spot with the supposed heir apparent. The Patriots could reach 2018 with Garoppolo not under contract and fielding lucrative offers from other franchises with plenty of salary-cap space (Cleveland being one of them), risking an empty-handed divorce much like Denver saw Brock Osweiler walk away. The Broncos, so far, proved to be the winners in that breakup, saving the gobs of money Houston spent on Osweiler, but also enter 2017 with some uncertainty under center.
Could New England end up in a similar situation? At that point, it makes more sense to deal Garoppolo and get something for him — a first round pick (of which Cleveland owns two in the upcoming draft), perhaps — than risk him walking.
Rapoport added that if the price becomes too high, Cleveland could explore other options, most notably Cincinnati’s AJ McCarron, who showed promise under Hue Jackson’s tutelage when the Browns head coach was the offensive coordinator along the Ohio River. The sticker number for McCarron would undoubtedly be less, and Jackson will know what he’s getting. Rapoport said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the Browns look at McCarron instead. Considering everything covered above, that might make the most sense for Cleveland, even after needing time to wash off the grime of an in-division trade.