Hoge’s Bears Offseason Notebook: Garoppolo Worth It, Despite Questions

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Jimmy Garoppolo before a preseason game against the Bears. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jimmy Garoppolo before a preseason game against the Bears. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

On the list of obvious Chicago sports courtships, Jimmy Garoppolo and the Bears have to be near the top of the list.

Jon Lester reuniting with Theo Epstein at Wrigley Field. Fred Hoiberg leaving Iowa State to coach the Bulls. Chris Chelios getting traded to Chicago to play for his hometown Blackhawks.

For good or bad, these were all moves that could be seen months, even years in advance. They were mutual partnerships that just made too much sense.

Even before Jason La Canfora’s report last week that said the Bears will “make a strong run” at Garoppolo, the two sides were linked by an infinite amount of common sense. The Bears need a quarterback. Garoppolo needs a place where he can actually play. He’s from Arlington Heights. And, yes, he went to Eastern Illinois, the same school Bears general manager Ryan Pace played for in the late-1990s.

How much that last detail matters is up for debate. Pace likely wouldn’t let his alma mater cloud his evaluation of the Patriots backup quarterback, but it is a connection to bond over. This was obvious following an August practice in Foxboro, when Pace waited a long time for Garoppolo to finish signing autographs so he could have a chat with the quarterback. An NFL general manager patiently waiting to talk to a backup quarterback from another team isn’t exactly a normal occurrence.

Keep in mind, this interaction occurred right after Pace had watched Garoppolo practice against the Bears for three straight days. And Garoppolo was splitting first-team reps with Tom Brady because the Patriots knew they were going to be without Brady for the first four games of the season.

Immediately following his conversation with Garoppolo, Pace joined WGN Radio’s “Intentional Grounding” podcast for an interview.

“From an evaluation standpoint, first of all, it’s good to see another team. We’re evaluating their roster too. So that gives us three days and a game of full evaluation,” Pace said.

That matters. Remember, the Bears claimed cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc off of waivers because of those practices, while the Patriots were hoping to keep LeBlanc on their practice squad. So while the rest of the league really only has five quarters of legitimate NFL tape to evaluate Garoppolo off of, the Bears pro scouting department had three practices to see Garoppolo up close, in addition to the preseason game (which of course is available to the rest of the league to watch too).

But while there appears to be mutual interest between Garoppolo and the Bears, there are some important questions to consider:

What would the Bears have to give up?

I imagine the conversations start with Belichick calling Cleveland about their No. 1 overall pick, San Francisco for No. 2 and Chicago for No. 3, but that seems astronomical for a former second rounder who has only thrown 94 passes in the NFL.

“I think we’ve seen, historically, for guys like Matt Cassell and Kevin Kolb, guys that don’t have many starts, usually it’s a second round pick,” Boston Globe Patriots reporter Ben Volin told WGN Radio last weekend. “Whether that’s a two and four, or maybe just a second round pick, or a two and three next year, somewhere in that range is probably where I would land for compensation.”

That certainly seems more realistic, although it’s worth noting that the Browns also hold the No. 12 overall pick, so if they really want Garoppolo, they do have more currency to work with than the Bears — at least when it comes to value in the draft.

Some have mentioned the cost being a first round pick and a fourth round pick because that’s what the Vikings gave up for Sam Bradford, but that was a special circumstance involving a team with Super Bowl aspirations that lost its starting quarterback right before the regular season started. The Vikings were as desperate as a team can be.

Volin also mentioned Belichick would probably prefer to trade Garoppolo out of the AFC and that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan also coveted Garoppolo in the draft when he was in Cleveland. So the 49ers could be in play too.

Another note you shouldn’t ignore: Pace has completed three separate trades with Belichick (Martellus Bennett, Jon Bostic and Ryan Groy) in the last year and a half.

Would Garoppolo be a one-year rental?

No. Whichever team trades for him would almost certainly be prepared to extend Garoppolo at the time of the trade (much like the Bears did when they traded for Jay Cutler in 2009).

This is where Garoppolo holds some leverage. The Patriots will get more in return for a guy signed longterm, so Garoppolo will likely have some say in where he wants to end up. Also worth noting here: Garoppolo shares the same agent as Tom Brady (Don Yee) and Yee is likely going to be looking for extensions for both players.

Why would Belichick trade Garoppolo if he’s good?

This is a fair question. Even if Brady says he can play for three to five more years, the Patriots are known for moving on from players a year or two early rather than a year or two late. That said, there has to be a nostalgic exception for the greatest quarterback of all time, even for the robotic Belichick.

The situation reminds me a little of 2008 when the Packers had to choose between Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre, who at the time was the most beloved quarterback in Packers history. Rodgers had only thrown 59 passes in the NFL through three seasons, while Favre was coming off a Pro Bowl season at the age of the 39 (the same age Brady is now). As tough (and messy) as the situation was, the Packers knew they were in danger of losing Rodgers if they didn’t make him the starter in the final year of his rookie contract. Rodgers is now destined for the Hall of Fame.

Of course, there are some significant differences here. Most notably, 39-year-old Tom Brady shows no signs of slowing down, while 39-year-old Brett Favre had taken a beating throughout his career and flirted with retirement for years before actually announcing in his retirement in March of 2008. When he wanted to come back, there’s no way the Packers could risk losing Rodgers when they couldn’t trust Favre to play past 2008. And this was without knowing how good Rodgers would actually become.

Also, the connection between Favre, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy was nowhere near as strong as the connection between Brady, Belichick and owner Robert Kraft — after five Super Bowls and all. If Brady wants to keep playing, he’ll likely get that chance. With that reality in mind, the Patriots must get what they can for Garoppolo now or they’ll lose him for nothing.

This is why you shouldn’t assume Garoppolo is just the next Matt Cassel if Belichick is willing to trade him. Of course, you probably shouldn’t assume he’s the next Aaron Rodgers either.

Listen Up

I would highly recommend listening to the rest of our interview with the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin who provided great insight on the New England side of the Garoppolo situation:

From The Draft Room

  • A Twitter follower brought up this interesting scenario:

It’s not a horrible idea. The Bears only have seven draft picks right now (they had nine last year) and if they have to give up a second and fourth round pick for Garoppolo, then they’ll only have five. That’s not ideal for a team with as many needs as the Bears (although they can justify it because they’d be addressing the most vital position via trade). Trading back in the first round would net the Bears more picks, which they would need. However, they’d also be sacrificing quality for quantity. The value is much better at No. 3 then, say, at No. 15. Depending on how the draft board is set up, the difference might not be worth an extra second or third round pick.

Quick hitters

  • Part of the reason why I support the Bears trading for Garoppolo is because I was very high on him coming out of Eastern Illinois. Here was my scouting report on him back in 2014:

Coming from an FCS school at Eastern Illinois, it was important for Garoppolo to perform well in each stage of the pre-draft process, and that’s exactly what he did. After being named MVP of the East-West Shrine Game, Garoppolo received an invite to the Senior Bowl, where he outperformed everyone except Derek Carr. He followed that up with a good NFL Combine and received good reviews after working out privately for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Texans coach Bill O’Brien at his pro day. Garoppolo has one of the quickest releases I have ever seen, and his arm is more than strong enough to succeed at the NFL level. Patience will be needed, however, as he will face much tougher competition and needs to break some habits from the Ferrari-like offense he ran at EIU. Where I would draft him: second round.

My biggest concern was Garoppolo’s adjustment from the offense he played in at Eastern Illinois to the NFL. One would think that adjustment has been made after three years of learning behind Tom Brady.

  • Where does Jay Cutler stand in all of this? Let’s not forget he’s technically under contract for four more years. It’s still the Bears’ preference to trade him, something that would likely happen after Garoppolo gets traded. Garoppolo will help set the market for Cutler.
  • Just for fun, here’s the prediction I’ll make (this is just a guess): Garropolo goes to the Bears, Kirk Cousins stays in Washington, Tony Romo goes to Houston and Cutler ends up in San Francisco. I’d love to hear your “quarterback roulette” predictions on Facebook or Twitter.
  • In a move the Bears knew they would be crushed for, they raised season ticket prices by an average of 2.6 percent. This was just bad timing for something they probably had to do. The Bears hadn’t raised prices since 2014 and you can’t keep prices steady forever. Still, they are 6-18 at home since the last time they raised prices, so you can understand the frustration from fans. And while there were tens of thousands of empty seats at Soldier Field late in 2016, most of those seats were already paid for. They’re the Bears, and for the most part, the seats are still going to sell, even if they sit empty come kickoff.
  • Congrats to former Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka who was hired by the Kansas City Chiefs as an offensive quality control coach. It marks the second straight year the Wildcats have sent their wide receivers graduate assistant to the NFL. Former Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees did the same thing last year as he joined the Chargers. Rees is now the quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame. Both Kafka and Rees worked under Northwestern wide receivers coach Dennis Springer and their duties included communicating with the quarterbacks on the sideline in-between drives.
  • Finally, my thoughts go out to former Northwestern and Chicago Bears running back Mike Adamle whose long sportscasting career has sadly come to an end because he is battling dementia. Adamle’s doctors believe he is already showing signs of CTE from his days of playing football. In an emotional and heartbreaking interview with NBC-5’s Peggy Kusinski, Adamle explained what is going on with him.

Adam Hoge covers the Chicago Bears for WGN Radio and WGNRadio.com. He also co-hosts The Beat, weekends on 720 WGN. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.