The Debrief  

 

The Debrief, 2017 NFL trade deadline extra: Winners and losers

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The San Francisco 49ers found their quarterback -- and all it cost them was a second-round pick.

Fourth-year Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is going west to try to help save the franchise that Tom Brady grew up watching. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Garoppolo only commanded a 2018 second-round pick from the 49ers in terms of compensation, a surprisingly low price tag, considering Garoppolo's pedigree and excellent, if brief, two-game stretch as the Patriots' starter early last season.

Rumors and reports about the cost of acquiring Garoppolo surfaced throughout the offseason, with little hard reporting on actual offers. While it was believed the Patriots wanted first-round picks in exchange for him, Rapoport reports that the Cleveland Browns only offered a second-round pick and change during the 2017 NFL Draft. The Patriots wound up passing on that deal before making this move six months later.

With the NFL trading deadline approaching Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, there has already been more action in the past few days than during many entire trading seasons:

-- The Carolina Panthers traded receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills for 2018 third- and seventh-round picks.

-- The Miami Dolphins traded running back Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2018 fourth-round pick.

-- The Houston Texans traded left tackle Duane Brown and a 2018 fifth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for a 2018 third-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick.

-- The Buffalo Bills traded defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a 2018 sixth-round pick.

Let's break down the winners and losers from the trade deadline, with special attention paid to the Jimmy G. stunner:

Winners

Jimmy Garoppolo's agent, Donald Yee: Tom Brady and Garoppolo share an agent, which always seemed like an unfortunate coincidence at best and a conflict of interest at worst. Now Yee's other quarterback joins a 49ers team presumably willing to let him start sooner than later, an opportunity Garoppolo has been waiting for since getting drafted in the second round in 2014 from Eastern Illinois.

Yee also has incredible leverage, with Garoppolo finishing out the end of his rookie contract. The 0-8 49ers wouldn't give up such a valuable pick unless they believed Garoppolo could be a long-term answer. The 49ers should only have made this trade if they were prepared to give Garoppolo a long-term contract or use the franchise tag on him in 2018. One bonus to the deal for the 49ers: They get to evaluate the prospective free agent in their building and on the field for the rest of the season.

Tom Brady's long-term future in New England: Questioning the job security of the best quarterback of 2017 feels strange, but Brady is 40 years old, after all. It had to make Brady a little edgy to contemplate a 2018 season in which Garoppolo was on the roster making big money as a backup behind him. That's not going to happen now.

Brady's refusal to age has helped ensure he's outlasted all the high draft picks taken behind him this decade: Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett, Jacoby Brissett. Based on the Patriots' track record, I'd expect them to draft another quarterback in 2018.

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers coach: Shanahan's track record as a coordinator makes it clear he's a difference-making offensive mind. But this season in San Francisco has helped to show the limits of any coach. NFL teams are always about the players, and this 49ers offense just doesn't have enough talent. It's not just that they're struggling; they're struggling mostly with players who won't be around if and when the team is ever good again.

Garoppolo gives Shanahan a base to build an offense from. A competent quarterback with timing and athleticism should help bring the best out of veteran wideout Pierre Garcon and rookie tight end George Kittle, who have both played well in difficult circumstances this season. This 49ers offense needs an identity, and Garoppolo gives it to them, rather than waiting to find out what's behind door No. 2 in free agency or the 2018 NFL Draft.

Brian Hoyer: Yes, Hoyer was informed of his impending release Monday by the 49ers, according to Rapoport. His tenure there was a disappointment. But if Hoyer was going to back up a third-round rookie like C.J. Beathard on a winless team, wouldn't he rather have the opportunity to sign elsewhere? Like, say, with a Patriots team that he's already familiar with and has no quarterbacks except Brady on the roster?

NFL fans: Perhaps Garoppolo will prove me wrong, but now we have one more team with an entertaining quarterback to watch for the rest of the season. Hoyer and Beathard were making the 49ers' offense tough to watch.

Tyrod Taylor, Bills quarterback: Buffalo has made do in the passing game using journeyman receivers like Deonte Thompson, Brandon Tate and Andre Holmes. Following the acquisition of wideout Kelvin Benjamin from the Panthers, Taylor finally has a solid starting wideout duo in Jordan Matthews and Benjamin. It takes pressure off struggling rookie Zay Jones and could make the Bills difficult to defend in the red zone, especially when injured tight end Charles Clay comes back.

Bills fans: It's time to start believing that this is the team that can end Buffalo's long playoff drought. The trade for Benjamin, paired with one of the defining defenses of this season, gives the Bills a great chance at double-digit wins.

Jay Ajayi, Eagles running back: Dolphins coach Adam Gase said the Dolphins had the "worst offense in football" and then punished his starting running back by trading him to ... the No. 1 team in the league? The Eagles were fourth in the league in rushing attempts after eight games, but only 15th in yards per carry. Even with left tackle Jason Peters out for the season, Ajayi should find far more running room in Philadelphia than he did behind the consistently poor Dolphins offensive line. He -- and his fantasy owners -- just shouldn't expect to see 25-plus carries a game any longer in a crowded backfield.

Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams, Dolphins running backs: Ajayi already had 138 carries on the season. Drake and Williams have combined for 22. Drake figures to be first in line because of his skill set, and Gase has called him the team's backup before, but yards have been hard to come by for any Dolphins offensive player. Translation: Prospective fantasy owners shouldn't expect miracles here.

Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone: Both men are clearly all in on the 2017 season after the deal for Marrone's former player in Buffalo, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. Tom Coughlin's presence in Jacksonville's front office made this feel like a win-or-else season for the brass below him. They are in fine position to ride their loaded defense to playoff contention, something that hasn't happened since 2010.

Duane Brown, Seahawks tackle: Brown, who held out for the first seven weeks of the season, clearly had problems with the Texans organization well before owner Bob McNair's remark at the NFL's Fall League Meeting. Brown now joins a franchise accustomed to contending for titles and handing out big deals to veteran players. Brown's desire for a new contract likely increased with the trade. (Brown should give a finder's fee to former teammate Jadeveon Clowney, who highlighted the pressing need for a new Seahawks left tackle during Sunday's game between Houston and Seattle.)

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson: One man can't save an entire offensive line, but Brown can at least fortify Seattle's biggest problem. Seahawks left tackle Rees Odhiambo was the lowest-graded player by Pro Football Focus at any position by far through eight weeks. This is a roster ready to win a Super Bowl this season, and Brown gives Wilson a better chance to spin some magic with his young group of receivers.

Texans general manager Rick Smith: The Texans won their staredown with Brown when he returned to work without getting any extra money, going 3-3 without him along the way. Then the team got incredible value in return for Brown and a fifth-rounder: a second-round pick in 2019 and a third-round pick in 2018, a source informed of the deal told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

Brown has been one of the greatest Texans players of all time, but he's 32 years old, and his future in Houston seemed unlikely to last beyond 2017, considering all the acrimony between him and the team. This is a move that makes the Texans better long-term and gives them a much-needed extra cornerback for this season.

Losers


Deshaun Watson, Texans quarterback: It's uncomfortable to write Watson's name even near the word "loser" after his jaw-dropping performance in Seattle on Sunday, but the Texans made his life harder by trading Brown. The team appears to have faith in backup Chris Clark, who is coming off an injury and was ranked No. 56 out of 73 tackles by Pro Football Focus this season. Texans right tackle Breno Giacomini is ranked No. 72.

Watson takes pressure off his offensive linemen with his running ability, but the Texans could be asking too much of the rookie quarterback. While the move makes sense long-term for Houston, the team's chances to win a third straight AFC South title went down a tick after this trade.

Kirk Cousins, Redskins quarterback: Don't cry for Kirk, but he lost some leverage in his next contract negotiations with Washington. The 49ers were always believed to be the most likely Cousins destination if he ever hit free agency, because of his history with Shanahan. Barring a total meltdown by Garoppolo, the San Francisco job appears to be taken. For Cousins, who is set to potentially hit the market in 2018, it's less about losing any dollars and more about losing perhaps his best chance for success with a coach who accentuates his strengths.

Cleveland Browns: They went after Garoppolo during the 2017 NFL Draft, according to Rapoport, but couldn't close the deal. Seeing him go to San Francisco for less than they offered back in April has to be frustrating for a fan base that watched the team pass on Carson Wentz and Watson the last two years, among other quarterback options. All of the Browns' moves or non-moves make sense in a vacuum, but there's something to be said for having the conviction to find a quarterback they truly believe in. Add Garoppolo to the long list of players who weren't that guy.

Cam Newton, Panthers quarterback: Kelvin Benjamin looked better this season than at any previous point in his career. Now he's gone. The Carolina running game hasn't existed outside of Newton. The passing game has been erratic, and now the team just traded away its No. 1 receiver. I didn't think it was possible to put more on Newton's plate with this offense, but the trade of Benjamin for two future draft picks did it.

Dolphins' playoff hopes: As bad as the team's offense has looked all season, Dolphins backers have been able to point to a 4-3 record and hope for better days ahead. The trade of Ajayi, one of the team's most popular and talented players, takes some air out of that theory. Getting a fourth-round pick in exchange for a young starter is a clear look to the future.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles running back: In an Eagles backfield that also features Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement, Blount figures to lose the most work following the acquisition of Ajayi. Blount had just 77 yards on 30 carries over the last two weeks and wasn't getting the job done in his usual goal-line hammer role. On 11 carries inside the 5-yard line this season, Blount rushed for only one yard and one touchdown. At this point, he might be only Ajayi injury insurance and possibly inactive on game days.

Rex Ryan, former Bills coach: Buffalo continues to trade away many of Rex's key players -- Dareus, cornerback Ronald Darby and linebacker Reggie Ragland -- and the Bills are playing far better defense without them.

C.J. Beathard, 49ers quarterback: The third-round pick out of Iowa could get one more start in San Francisco as Garoppolo gets up to speed with the offense, but Beathard's stay in the top job will turn out to be brief, with some grisly numbers to show for it (completed 58 of 110 passes for 647 yards, two touchdowns, three picks, 11 sacks and a 65.2 passer rating in four games -- two starts).

AFC South running backs: The book was out on the Jaguars' defense. Their pass defense is ridiculously difficult to handle, but teams could do some damage against them on the ground. The acquisition of Dareus will make that endeavor tougher when the Jaguars put him next to Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson in their front.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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