Jimmy Garoppolo Traded to 49ers; Patriots Receive 2nd-Round Pick

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots reacts before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have arguably the best player in NFL history under center in Tom Brady, so his backup became expendable.

New England traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday in exchange for a second-round pick, the 49ers announced Tuesday. That pick will likely be one of the earlier selections in the round.

“We are thrilled for Jimmy to join the 49ers family,” 49ers General Manager John Lynch said in the release. “Jimmy is a player we have researched extensively since Kyle and I joined the 49ers. I am extremely pleased this came together today and we all think it is a big win for our organization. Albeit in limited game action, Jimmy has displayed the characteristics and traits that we believe are vital to being a successful quarterback in this league. He has had the rare opportunity to sit and learn from a future Hall of Fame quarterback in a championship atmosphere. We look forward to Jimmy joining the team tomorrow and hitting the ground running.”

ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the deal.

Schefter also noted the teams only began talking about a potential deal Monday morning. Schefter reported Garoppolo is not expected to play this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, per Mike Jurecki of Arizona Sports.

The 49ers also released veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer, who started the team's first six games this season, per Schefter. Hoyer was originally part of the trade but "was taken out for comp. pick reasons," according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Now a free agent, Rapoport added it's "safe to say" the Patriots will be speaking with Hoyer.

Many analysts believe this was an excellent move for the 49ers:

From the other perspective, there are still questions about the Patriots' future at the position:

"This was a decision involving Jimmy, and some form of a decision that has been looming for the past couple of years," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told reporters on Tuesday.

Garoppolo is set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2018, per Spotrac. Assuming Brady is still playing, New England likely wasn't going to pay Garoppolo market value as a highly sought-after quarterback with Brady already on the books through 2019, per Spotrac.

Garoppolo burst onto the national scene at the start of the 2016 campaign when Brady was serving a four-game suspension for the Deflategate scandal. The 2014 second-round draft pick had just 31 pass attempts in his career to that point but filled in admirably while No. 12 was out.

He finished 24-of-33 for 264 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions in a season-opening win over the Arizona Cardinals and followed that up with another victory over the Miami Dolphins. Garoppolo went 18-of-26 for 232 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions against Miami before he suffered a shoulder injury.

The setback cut short his four-week audition for other teams that were potentially interested in trading for him, but he clearly did enough to impress the 49ers.

Garoppolo didn't throw a single interception despite being thrown into the fire with the usual starter sidelined, and Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com noted he led the NFL through the first two weeks of the year with a 91.1 QBR. What's more, Garoppolo put up those numbers without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was nursing a hamstring injury.

Barnwell also praised Garoppolo's ability to handle the blitz against Miami even though it is "the biggest concern for an inexperienced quarterback."

Garoppolo's play in 2016 is a reason for optimism in San Francisco, especially since he won't turn 26 until November and has little mileage on his arm at the pro level. That he learned under an all-time great's tutelage and comes from a winning culture in New England should also bode well.

The one concern is his lack of experience, as he has only 94 regular-season pass attempts on his NFL resume. Perhaps Garoppolo truly was a product of the Patriots' winning system and will struggle on a 49ers team devoid of much offensive talent, although the absence of Gronkowski as New England's most dangerous weapon during those two starts suggests otherwise.

Considering this is already a lost season for the 0-8 49ers, Garoppolo now has a low-pressure environment in which to garner more reps and prove himself worthy of a long-term commitment. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle noted the team "plan[s] to work out a deal" with its newest addition, which makes sense given what it gave up in the move.

The 49ers could also use the franchise tag on him if they can't agree on anything long-term, per ESPN.com's Mike Reiss and Nick Wagoner.

While inexperience will be a concern for San Francisco fans until the Eastern Illinois product enjoys sustained success, Garoppolo thrived in his limited action. If that translates to a full season, the 49ers could have the franchise quarterback they thought they had in Colin Kaepernick.

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