There should be zero hesitation if the Cleveland Browns believe Jimmy Garoppolo is the right quarterback.
The team that passed on a shot at Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Wentz, among others, can’t afford to pass on any more shots. The Browns have almost no choice; if they believe Garoppolo can be the guy, they have to trade the 12th pick in the draft to the New England Patriots to get him.
Whether the Browns use the 12th pick in a trade for Garoppolo or to draft a quarterback, the result is the same: a quarterback wearing an orange helmet. Except Garoppolo would have three years’ experience on the drafted player.
None of the draft-eligible quarterbacks is thought ready to play right away. Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer all need time, the thinking goes. In the same time that those three have been in college, Garoppolo has been learning behind Tom Brady and playing for Bill Belichick in New England.
Though Tyrod Taylor and Colin Kaepernick are options, Garoppolo seems to fit the vision of finding a young player ready to grow. If the Browns really will be active in free agency, as the early chatter suggests, they need to find a quarterback who can play right away so the position does not hold the team back.
Garoppolo was a 2014 second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois. Last season he started the first two games while Brady was suspended, and he played well, throwing for 469 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in six quarters before he hurt his throwing shoulder just before halftime of the second game. The injury is a red flag for some, but Garoppolo started 37 games in his final three college seasons.
Garoppolo has one year left on his contract. The Patriots have Jacoby Brissett, who could back up Brady. If New England is going to get something for Garoppolo, this would be the time.
If New England is willing to trade Garoppolo, the competition will be significant — and maybe the 12th pick won’t be enough.
CBSSports.com already has reported that the Bears will make a strong bid to acquire Garoppolo. If Chicago is willing to give up the third overall pick in the draft, it would prove that the price is rarely too high if a team believes it has its guy.
Garoppolo has a ton of leverage in this possible deal. No team will trade for him if he does not agree to a contract extension. Brock Osweiler’s tale could be a cautionary one. As Peyton Manning’s backup, Osweiler had some success in 2015 in Denver. Houston gave him $72 million for four years — $37 million guaranteed. For that money, Osweiler produced 15 touchdowns with 16 interceptions, an 8-6 record and a playoff appearance.
Garoppolo might want not warrant that large a deal, but it won’t be far off.
The argument against Garoppolo? Belichick has made a living of grooming quarterbacks and letting them go when he had a replacement. Names such as Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett come to mind. None had sustained, long-term success after he got a chance with other teams.
But it’s also true that Belichick has never drafted a quarterback as high as he did in 2014 in the second round with Garoppolo, who is now 25.
If the Browns decide Garoppolo’s the guy, he could be the guy for a long time. On the other hand, the draftees Cleveland could take might not be ready to start until they’re 25 as well.
Given all this, there should be no hesitation to deal the 12th pick.
With a trade, the Browns could draft a Myles Garrett or Jonathan Allen first, and their first round would net them a top defensive player and a guy they believe could be their quarterback. The rest of the draft could fortify the roster.
It would be nice if the Browns could acquire Garoppolo for the first pick in the second round. That deal would be a no-brainer, but it doesn’t seem realistic given the premium on the quarterback position.
The Browns at some point have to take a shot at a quarterback. Garoppolo is this year’s “it” guy. It will take a lot to get him and to pay him.
If the Browns decide Garoppolo is their guy, if they believe he is the answer, there is no reason not to give up the 12th pick to get him.