Being Tom Brady’s backup pays off. Just ask Matt Cassell, who filled in for Brady in 2008, was hit with the franchise tag for $14 million in 2009, and then cashed in with the Kansas City Chiefs for $62 million. He’s had only one winning season since.

That is the red flag when it comes to reaching into Bill Belichick’s program, the most successful in the NFL, and believing that his player will continue to thrive once he becomes your player.

Which brings me to Jimmy Garoppolo, Belichick spent a 2nd round pick on Garoppolo three years ago. Since then, Jimmy G has started a total of two games, which of course makes sense because he’s behind Tom Brady, and Brady’s behind one of the best offensive lines in football, so he rarely gets hit, much less hurt.

But Brady started this season at home, serving his four-game suspension for Deflategate, and Garoppolo got his shot. He won his first game, stunning the Arizona Cardinals in the opener, and then injured his shoulder in the second game.

That’s his body of work in the NFL. A game and a half. Still, he threw for 498 yards and four touchdowns in those six quarters, which is why he’s about to become the hottest free-agent QB on the market. Which is where the Browns come in.

You don’t need me to remind you that the Browns need a quarterback. They always need a quarterback. And until they get to the point where they don’t need a quarterback, they’re not going anywhere. Garoppolo is on their radar, and he should be.

The question is, how much are the Browns willing to spend to get him, and keep him? To get him, they’ll likely need to send the Patriots a first-round pick, which to me, if it’s the 12th pick overall, shouldn’t be a deal-killer, If the Browns believe he’s better than any
quarterback in this year’s draft.

To keep him will cost even more. Garoppolo’s deal is up after next season. You don’t give up a first-round pick for a guy who’s not going to stick around, obviously, so the Browns will have to work out an extension first.

If you’re wondering how much that’s gonna cost, well, Brock Osweiler hit for $72 million with the Texans after only starting seven games for the Broncos.

So the Browns need to decide if Garoppolo is that good, or if the Patriots’ system is that good. There’s a definite value to having studied and learned under Brady in the most successful system in the NFL, but learning under Brady doesn’t mean you are Brady.

Brian Hoyer came out of the Patriots’ system too, remember.  Garoppolo’s certainly more polished than Deshaun Watson and Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer right now, but who will be better in three years?

If the Browns believe Garoppolo will be, then try to get him. Give up a first-round pick. But the 12th overall may not be enough. The Bears are lining up, too. They have the 3rd overall pick.

Which doesn’t rule the Browns out. They’ll kick off the Draft at #1. But even for a franchise desperate to find ‘that guy’, the top pick in the draft is just too much to give up.

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