Cleveland Browns Should Not Trade For Jimmy Garoppolo

The Cleveland Browns are reportedly interested in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo, but it would be best for them to avoid swinging another deal with Bill Belichick.

Since the Cleveland Browns are in a never-ending quest for a franchise quarterback, there has been a parallel never-ending quest link potentially available quarterbacks to them. We’ve seen it all these past few months, from “stick with Robert Griffin III” to “let’s start an A.J. McCarron rumor.”

The latest quarterback to hit the Browns radar is actually better than Griffin and McCarron, because Jimmy Garoppolo is coming off of a strong 2016 cameo. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns have “real” interest in Garoppolo and could try to make a trade for the 25-year-old signal-caller after they fully evaluate this year’s quarterback class in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Operating under the assumption that at least one quarterback in this class is going to be a franchise player, which is the case in most classes, trading for Garoppolo doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Browns.

I get that Garoppolo has plenty going for him. His quick release and pocket presence may remind some fans of Tom Brady, and he doesn’t have glaring deficiencies when evaluating his physical tools. Garoppolo completed 68.3 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions, averaging eight yards per attempt.

All of that is fine, but a sample size of two starts in a favorable environment is hardly convincing, especially in the face of such a steep price. Garoppolo’s value to the Patriots is limited only by his impending free agency in 2018, and he’ll want a greater opportunity (and, more importantly, a larger paycheck). As such, the Patriots will want to score as much as possible in a trade involving Brady’s main contingency plan, and that’s not even accounting for the fact that the Patriots spend  a second-round pick on Garoppolo.

The Browns have the first and 12th overall picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, and the Patriots would want nothing less than a first-round selection from Cleveland. That’s a player that could help the Browns immensely over the next five years at a reasonable price, while Garoppolo would probably want to make like Jamie Collins and sign a mega-deal shortly after being acquired in a trade.

While the Browns have ample cap space, there’s a certain stigma attached to a high-priced player. For example, the Houston Texans signed Brock Osweiler to a deal worth $72 million over four years with $37 million in guaranteed money. Osweiler didn’t have Garoppolo’s numbers in his starts for the Denver Broncos, but he played in more games and seemed like a semi-encouraging player.

Since then, Osweiler has been a massive flop, and his contract makes it difficult for the Texans to move on from him. It also means that the Texans may feel compelled to give him more chances to play, even though Tom Savage has (somehow) looked like the superior player.

Jan 1, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) scrambles with the ball as Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) and outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) chase during the first quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 27-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 1, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) scrambles with the ball as Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) and outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) chase during the first quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 27-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If the Browns trade for Garoppolo, they would be giving up a first-round pick and significant financial resources to a player with two NFL starts. While Garoppolo seems to check all the boxes on film, how much faith can a team have in two starts? Remember, Osweiler was also a 25-year-old, former second-round pick from a Super Bowl team when he signed his contract with the Texans, and he’s quickly become the butt of jokes.

Garoppolo’s contract doesn’t run out until 2018, so he wouldn’t command a big contract immediately. Now, this is important for the Browns, because it means they can give him one year to audition before choosing to franchise him or giving him a new deal. That puts them in a Kirk Cousins-like situation, though, and that has its own cat-and-mouse game problems. There’s also the risk that if Garoppolo is indeed willing to audition for a bigger contract in the future, he might not “play nice” with the Browns at the bargaining table if he succeeds.

There’s a lot at stake here for the Browns when it comes to finding the right quarterback, and Garoppolo could very well be that guy when looking at his talent and mental make-up. The issue is that those stakes and risks are raised when trading for a player who will become expensive much faster than a rookie quarterback would.

Players like Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson are exceptions to the rule, but when “the rule” consistently undervalues quarterbacks year after year, there’s a distinct possibility that the Browns are able to find a franchise quarterback after the first round. If that’s the case, then it would make trading a first-round pick to the Patriots for Garoppolo—who was a second-round pick himself—look unnecessary in hindsight.

Based on the opinions of quarterback prospects like DeShone Kizer, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes, there’s a reasonable chance the Browns are able to find a franchise quarterback at a lower draft price—and financial commitment over the next five years—than Garoppolo.

Cabot’s report indicates that the Browns will mull over their draft options for the next “five weeks or so,” and this makes me believe that the team isn’t completely sold on Garoppolo as a future franchise quarterback. As an outsider, I get the sense that the Browns like Garoppolo and would be willing to take a chance on him, but it doesn’t seem like they love him enough to send a first-round pick to the Patriots for him.

Garoppolo is an option that the Browns have to consider, and it goes beyond just due diligence. Jimmy G could legitimately be a team’s savior. Given the depth of this quarterback class and the price tag associated with Garoppolo, who is ultimately an uncertain commodity like the upcoming crop of rookie quarterbacks, the Browns best bet is to avoid giving in to New England’s demands.

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