The New England Patriots were headed for an impasse. Their talented and highly sought-after backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo was set to become a free agent at season's end. Every word out of New England was that the team would do everything possible to keep Garoppolo and ensure that he'd be Tom Brady's successor.
But that's easier said than done. Brady, now 40 years old, has informed the Patriots that he wants to play well into his 40s. The future Hall of Famer is currently leading the NFL in completions (206) and passing yards (2,541) which suggests that he's still got plenty of top-tier football left in him.
View the top images of Jimmy Garoppolos's playing career from his time at Eastern Illinois, the New England Patriots and the 49ers.
That conclusion made it relatively impossible, at least on a rational level, to keep Garoppolo past 2017. Garoppolo wasn't likely to re-sign with New England in a backup capacity, and using the franchise tag on the fourth-year pro would mean to pay him approximately double what Brady would make in 2018. So essentially, the Patriots were out of options as Tuesday's NFL trade deadline approached.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick confirmed as much on Tuesday after the San Francisco 49ers acquired Garoppolo for a 2018 second-round pick.
"We probably had, in my opinion, the best quarterback situation in the league for the last, let's call it two-and-a-half years," Belichick said. "It's just not sustainable given the way that things are set up. It's definitely not something that we wanted to walk away from, and I felt like we rode it out as long as we could. … This is really the last window that we had, and we did what we felt was best for the team."
Garoppolo appeared in 17 games during his tenure with the Patriots, including two starts while Brady was suspended in 2016. He went 2-0 in those games with 496 combined passing yards, four touchdowns and no picks.
His pair of starts was enough to attract national attention that the Patriots were potentially sitting on a gold mine. New England has found its heir-apparent for Brady was the storyline. Teams reportedly called about Garoppolo's availability over the offseason (John Lynch confirmed that the 49ers were one of those teams), but the Patriots continually turned away each potential suitor.
"We inquired and were quickly shut down," Lynch said regarding their offseason interest in the QB.
Now that the deal has gone through, Belichick shed some light on why he values Garoppolo so highly, both as a quarterback and as a person.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jimmy," he said. "I couldn't ask him for any more than he's given us. The 49ers are getting a good player, and they're getting a good person, and they're getting a great teammate, and they're getting a good quarterback."
There's no denying that this move to the Bay Area brings huge potential for Garoppolo's career. San Francisco is in search of a long-term answer at quarterback, and Garoppolo will have every opportunity to be that guy.
"Jimmy is getting a good coach," Belichick said. "His career is moving forward. He's a talented individual (and) was a great person to coach. I met with him weekly and, again, have a tremendous amount of respect for him."
For a man who has bided his time behind one of the best to ever do it, there's no doubt that Garoppolo is eager to prove his worth in San Francisco.