Mailbag: Is 2020 a Make or Break Year For Jimmy Garoppolo?

Plus, a look at how close the Bills are from a Super Bowl, the Patriots making moves to free up cap space, when Tua Tagovailoa might start and what will likely happen with the Jets and Jamal Adams.
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It’s July 1, and the NFL is, finally, on summer break. I will be soon, too. But first, let’s jump into the mailbag one last time.

From Vince Felice (@VinceFelice1): Is this a make or break year for Jimmy G??

Vince, on the surface, this is a fair question, given the tire kicking San Francisco did on with Tom Brady. And it’s also fair given the structure and relative affordability of Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract.

The 28-year-old has three years left on his deal at $25.2 million, $25.5 million and $25.6 million. Those years aren’t guaranteed, making Garoppolo a decent trade asset, or at least he would be one in a normal market environment (this year was out-of-whack with all the QBs available). Also, after this year, the Niners would have just $2.8 million in dead cap money to account for if they were to trade or cut him. Bottom line, there’s flexibility there.

Now for the important part—the Niners confronted this reality in March when the chance to sign Tom Brady came up and, as part of the process, GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan went back and broke down a boatload of Garoppolo’s tape over three or four days. Doing that, for the two of them, was instructive, which we covered in the May 4 MMQB, breaking down the Niners’ offseason.

“And I think we both came back and said, ‘You know what? We’ve got the long-term answer in our building right now, and we feel really strongly about that,’” Lynch told me then. “We felt like it was a responsibility to take a look [at Brady], because that’s a very unique situation. We did that, we talked with Jimmy, and told him just what we did. I think he appreciated that. And the great news is we’re more convicted than ever that Jimmy’s the guy that we want to work with going forward. We feel like he’s got a lot more in him.”

So yeah, they have flexibility with Garoppolo. But they also really like Garoppolo, which sometimes gets lost in the discussion.


From Agame (@WheresAlby): How far away are the Bills from the SB?

Agame, I’m going to give you the stock answer—this all rides on the development they get from Josh Allen. And I do think we’ve gotten good signs from Allen this offseason. His ability to bond quickly with new No. 1 receiver Stefon Diggs and get some 20 teammates down to Florida for a passing camp in May are among those. I also think OC Brian Daboll’s got a pretty good feel now for how to deploy Allen as a passer and an athlete.

That said, there’s still a lot of room to grow, and the Bills need Allen’s improvement to pace with the improvement of the roster around him, which has been steady since the team ripped the Band-Aid off a horrible cap situation in 2017. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better young defensive core than the Bills’ group (Tremaine Edmunds, Tre’Davious White, Ed Oliver, etc.). The offensive line is improving. The skill group has a nice mix of vets (John Brown, Cole Beasley) and young guys (Dawson Knox, Devin Singletary).

And so if Allen takes a big step forward, it’s not hard to envision this being a 12-win team, even with a tough schedule playing the AFC and NFC West on the docket. If we’re being fair to Allen, his first two years, things around him weren’t quite how things have been around Carson Wentz, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson or even Jared Goff (before last year). He’s closer to that than he’s been going into this year, so the time for Allen is now.

From ropese (@ropese34): Do you see the Patriots making a move soon before TC starts to free up cap space? Thanks.

Ropese, this is an interesting question, in that all teams may need a little more cap flexibility than they have right now. And the reason why is that, barring the league offering cap relief, a rainy-day fund is going to be necessary for potential in-season COVID outbreaks. Right now, four teams (Steelers, Rams, Bucs, Patriots) are under $6 million in space, and five more (Saints, Cardinals, Ravens, Raiders, Chiefs) have less than $10 million to spend.

The Patriots, as you allude to, are the only team with less than $5 million, and they were actually under $1 million in space before agreeing to terms with Cam Newton. On top of that, they’ve only got three guys on the roster—Stephon Gilmore, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon—with base salaries over $4 million and years left on their deals, which is generally where you’d be doing your restructuring.

So maybe you do a big restructure with one of those guys, or trim the fat in piecemeal elsewhere. The other thing about asking guys to do this is that they don’t have to, and may need a raise to sign off on it. Which might be something you’d ask for if you just won, say, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.

From (@DolphinsTalk): More reports are coming out of Tua being healthy and ready to go. If he is does he start Week 1?

Hey Dolphins Talk, I have no reason to believe Tua Tagovailoa won’t be ready to roll at the start of camp—even if he isn’t completely out of the woods on the hip yet. And it’d be pretty exciting to see him locked in a battle for the starting job. His ability to take reps from, and eventual the job of, an incumbent starter as an Alabama true freshman is a pretty good indicator that he’ll be fine moving up a level, adjusting and performing with the pressure there.

That said, I still think the odds are on Ryan Fitzpatrick starting Week 1. First, under the new CBA, the team will only have 16 padded practices in camp, a circumstance that favors a veteran and could make the staff feel like it needs to make a decision relatively early in order to get the starter and the offense ready for the opener. Second, I think Brian Flores is going to run the team with urgency, which, again, favors the vet. Third, Miami may wind up starting rookies at both tackle spots—not ideal for a rookie QB.

Add it up, and it seems like what’s best for the team to win games early in the season, and what’s best for Tagovailoa’s development, will likely be Tua sitting in September. Maybe the dynamics on those things shift in camp. Even if they don’t, I do think Tua will be starting at some point this year.

From Brandon Silva (@Brando_Puma): Is ownership trying to label COVID cases as an NFI-eligible injury and do you see a potential NFL/NFLPA standoff over it?

Brandon, I don’t think so. My belief is there will be a special COVID-19 list instituted that cuts out anything that might discourage a player from reporting symptoms, because that’s really the only way you’ll have a shot at getting the truth out of guys. It’s important to remember that testing still isn’t perfect, and guys might have symptoms even while testing negative, and if they don’t communicate those symptoms to the team as they come up, a much bigger issue could be created for the team in question.

The question then becomes how you incentivize guys reporting symptoms, and the best way to do that is to protect their jobs and their money. So my guess is that there’ll be a special COVID IR that allows for teams to put guys on, with the caveat being that they have to keep them there for a minimum of two weeks, and can’t come off without multiple negative tests. Those guys would be paid, which, again, could make teams having a rainy-day fund built into their cap space important.

Could there be abuse? Absolutely. The NFL’s competitive, so wherever there’s a rule, there’s a coach or 10 trying to figure out a way around it, and so maybe someone uses a player being “sick” as an excuse to give a guy a couple weeks to heal a sprained ankle. And if that’s the case, so be it. The priority needs to be on protecting the players here, and I’m not sure I see another way to do it in this case.

From Ryan (@tugboat31): Chances the Jets do nothing with Jamal Adams and he’s on opening day roster? If he does get traded what type of package could they acquire?

Ryan, I think the chances are pretty good that Jamal Adams is on the Jets roster, on his current contract come Week 1. The Jets would need something pretty great to move their best player, and it’d take a pretty serious commitment from another team to go through with that, in either of the two scenarios that could unfold in the event of a trade.

The first is that he’s dealt and gets a new contract. In this scenario, you’re forking over major capital (a first-round pick plus something significant) that would bring you cost-controlled assets, only to turn around and spill a ton of financial and cap capital into Adams. And you’d probably be resetting the safety market, since early indications hold that a standard, top-of-the-market deal at the position, in the range of $14 million per, won’t do.

The second scenario is that he’s dealt and comes in without a new deal, which would give him the leverage that Laremy Tunsil and Jalen Ramsey accrued when they were dealt on existing contracts to the Texans and Rams (with the premise being those teams had to re-sign the players, given the massive draft haul forked over). Since then Tunsil has blown up the tackle market with a deal at $22 million per year, and Ramsey remains unsigned.

Bottom line: If you’re going to do this, you have to believe the player you’re bringing in is an absolute franchise cornerstone, because in one fell swoop, you’re yielding draft capital, the cheap talent that capital can bring, and either a boatload of cash and cap space or a ton of leverage. Some guys are worth all that. Tunsil and Ramsey, for all Houston and L.A. gave up, play premium positions.

Adams is a safety. He’s a great one, but there’s little precedent for any team going to that sort of length to get one. Will someone see fit to do all that for Adams? I’m skeptical.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that this is GM Joe Douglas’s first major contract negotiation, and letting a player scream his way out of town would be a tough precedent to set given all that. There’s also the fact that the pandemic has caused cash issues and cap uncertainty for everyone. And all of that’s why it’s really, really hard to see Adams getting his wish here.


From Dave Shannon (@FanNorcal): Is this the year Goodell tells Dan Snyder to stick his racist team name up his racist ass?

Aggressive question, Dave! The truth, at this point, remains that neither Snyder, nor any high-ranking official in the franchise has given any indication that this will be or has ever been considered. Could the current climate in America change that? We’ll see.

My take on it’s pretty simple. If it offends people for a very valid reason, the team should just change the name on its own. This isn’t a church we’re talking about. It’s a football team, and Washington wouldn’t even be the first major pro sports franchise in its own city to change its name—I was a teenager when the Bullets became the Wizards, and life went on for everyone after that one.

Plus, the team name has already changed once, and the options out there are good ones.

They could go back to that original name, and become the Washington Braves (they were the Boston Braves in 1932, and moved to D.C. five years later). Or they could become the Washington Warriors. Each would allow them to keep some of their marks and the colors, and they could go back to their throwbacks with the spear on the helmet—which is an excellent look.

Which … I think makes a lot of sense. But again, there’s no real sign it’s actually got any chance of happening.

And with that, thank you all for bringing the questions all offseason. It’s been a different one, but you guys have kept coming, and I’m grateful for that. Now, with a little bit of luck, we’ll be talking training camp the next time we roll one of these out.

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