Should Chicago Bears make move for Garoppolo?February 25, 2017 - Author: John-Mark and Chuck Mallory
by Bob LeGere
Reprinted with permission, Daily Herald, 2/2/2017
There’s no doubt about the biggest question facing the Chicago Bears this off-season.
Should they trade for New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to lead their bid to return to NFL prominence, or would they be better off using a high draft pick to get their quarterback of the future?
Bears general manager Ryan Pace has three months to find an answer to the most important decision he will make between now and the NFL draft. His future here and that of coach John Fox may depend on getting it right.
For a Bears team poised to move on from Jay Cutler, the Garoppolo scenario is too intriguing to ignore because the team doesn’t have a successor in place.
The Arlington Heights native, who starred at Rolling Meadows High School and then at Eastern Illinois before being drafted in the second round by the Patriots, has impressed in his limited opportunities in the NFL.
The Pats can afford to entertain offers for Garoppolo because Tom Brady is still playing at a Hall of Fame level at 39 and has indicated he wants to play for several more seasons. They also drafted Jacoby Brissett in the third round last year.
As usual, the Patriots are in the driver’s seat because they’re rich at quarterback and this is not considered a strong year for the position in the draft.
With that in mind, let’s consider the main arguments in this Bears debate.
No. 1: The top QBs in the draft all come with major concerns.
North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky is the consensus top prospect because he grades the highest in accuracy and mechanics. The biggest knock on Trubisky is that he has been a starter for just one year. But he still may not get past the Cleveland Browns, who have the first pick, and the San Francisco 49ers, who are next at second.
That doesn’t mean Trubisky will pay immediate dividends.
“It would shock me if, after one year as a starting quarterback, he were able to play at a high level as a rookie in the NFL,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper said.
But what if he’s there when the Bears are on the clock?
Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is not strong fundamentally and comes with accuracy concerns, but he’s a potential top-10 pick. He proved himself on the national stage and has great athleticism and intangibles such as leadership and experience.
Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer is the consensus third-best quarterback in the draft. He has prototypical size, athleticism and a strong arm, but he underachieved last season with inconsistent accuracy. Several draft analysts believe Kizer will be available when the Bears make their second-round pick (36th overall).
No. 2: Garoppolo is the safer pick.
The safer alternative is Garoppolo because he has three seasons of experience with the Patriots. It’s true that the vast majority of that time has been spent watching Brady play the position, but there’s also value in that.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised Garoppolo’s work ethic and his acceptance by the team last summer when the Bears traveled to practice with the Patriots.
“I think that happened Day One when he came here,” Belichick said. “He’s always done that. I don’t think it’s been any different this year. He has grown this year, but I don’t think his approach has been any different. Jimmy has good presence for the position. I think he always has.”
The 2016 season was supposed to be Garoppolo’s opportunity to show his readiness to be a starter because Brady was suspended for the first four games for his alleged role in “Deflategate.”
But after less than six quarters as the starter, Garoppolo was sidelined with a right-shoulder injury that kept him out for several weeks. Before getting injured, Garoppolo was spectacular, completing 42 of 59 passes (71.2 percent) for 496 yards, 4 touchdowns, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 119.0.
He has one year remaining on his four-year, $3.48 million rookie contract, but no team that trades for him would do so without a long-term extension in place.
No. 3: The Patriots won’t let Garoppolo go cheaply.
Rumors suggest the starting point in trade talks with the Patriots is a first- and fourth-round draft pick for the 25-year-old Garoppolo.
That’s too much to give up in the Bears’ case, since they hold the third overall selection. Too much unless they’re convinced he is worth much more than he was in 2014, when he was a late second-round pick (62nd overall).
Since then, adding in garbage-time appearances to his two starts, he has completed 63 of 94 passes for 690 yards with 5 touchdown passes and no interceptions for a rating of 106.2.
That’s not a large enough body of work for the Bears to give up the third overall pick unless they’re convinced Garoppolo is their long-term answer at quarterback.
Don’t forget how impressively the Bears’ No. 3 quarterback, Matt Barkley, played last season before he crashed and burned.
In his first three starts, Barkley had an 83.0 passer rating with 4 TD passes and 2 interceptions. After opponents had three games’ worth of film on him, Barkley threw 10 interceptions and 4 TD passes in his next three starts for a 66.0 passer rating. He also lost 2 fumbles on sacks.
The Bears and others will proceed more cautiously than the Houston Texans did last off-season when they signed unrestricted free agent Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million deal that included $37 million guaranteed. The Texans overspent for Osweiler after he had accumulated just seven mildly encouraging starts in four years with Broncos, and they wound up benching him. Osweiler finished 29th in the league with a disappointing 72.2 rating.
No. 4: Comparing apples and oranges in the NFL.
When the Philadelphia Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings just before the start of the 2016 season, they got a first-round pick this year and a fourth-rounder in 2018.
But the two situations are not comparable. The Vikings were in panic mode after Teddy Bridgewater went down with an injury on the eve of what Minnesota expected would be a playoff season.
The Bears have no such reasonable expectations for next season, regardless of who is at quarterback.
More important, Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, and a more proven commodity than Garoppolo.
Bradford had made 64 NFL starts before the Vikings traded for him, and had 54 TD passes vs. 31 interceptions in three seasons.
In 2013, the Kansas City Chiefs gave up a second-round pick (34th overall) and a conditional pick (which became a second-rounder) to the 49ers for Alex Smith. But Smith was 29 and had started 75 games, posting a 38-36-1 record. Smith also was a No. 1 overall pick (2005).
The Bears won’t be the only team interested in Garoppolo. The Browns (at No. 1), and the 49ers (No. 2) have critical needs at quarterback.
Still, it’s conceivable the Bears could offer their second-round pick this year (36th overall) and a fourth-rounder next year for Garoppolo.
That would allow Pace to draft a defensive difference-maker in the first round and also get a quarterback of the future who’s ready to play right now.
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