When New England deemed Jimmy Garoppolountouchable in trade talks early this offseason, the NFL cognoscenti were left to wonder what Bill Belichick's plan is going forward.
Are the Patriots willing to devote $24 million to their backup quarterback via the franchise tag in 2018? Would they attempt to revisit the tag-and-trade route that sent Matt Cassel to the Chiefs in 2009? Is there a possibility of signing Garoppolo to a contract extension to continue operating as premium Tom Brady insurance?
Garoppolo addressed the latter possibility on Tuesday, acknowledging that he is keeping his options open.
"I'll entertain any possibility," Garoppolo explained. "I'm not really thinking about it too much right now. There's just so much going on with OTAs and training camp right around the corner. That's where my focus is. We'll cross that bridge when we get there, I guess."
Signing Garoppolo to an extension is easier said than done. Common sense suggests his asking price would start with the franchise-tag figure, including a promise that the Patriots wouldn't use the tag again in 2019.
Appearing on Tuesday's edition of Inside Minicamp Live, NFL Network's Mike Garofolo shot down the likelihood of an impending contract extension.
"I don't get an indication like that is a possibility any time soon with Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots," Garafolo said.
Considering Brady's oft-statedvow to playinto his mid-to-late forties, Garoppolo can hardly be blamed if he'd rather test the market in the next season or two than waste the prime years of his career holding a clipboard.
"Obviously, I want to play," Garoppolo added, via USA Today. "That's just the competitor in me. I think everyone out here wants to play. And we come out here and compete every day for that opportunity. If you go out and earn it, it's yours."
That said, the 25-year-old quarterback is content to remain in New England as long as the Patriots control his rights.
"I love it (here)," Garoppolo said. "It's a very fortunate situation to come into a place and get drafted here. They're good people all around the building, from support staff to the lunch ladies and everything. I know it sounds crazy, but it's just a good group of people and it rubs off on each other."
Even with the substantial salary-cap increases of recent years, paying both Brady and Garoppolo as franchise quarterbacks will prove challenging in 2018.
So where does that leave Garoppolo's future?
With the luxury of Brady under center, Belichick has constructed the league's strongest roster. What he craves most is another Lombardi Trophy or two to cement his legacy. Why decrease the odds of a return trip to the Super Bowl by trading the one quarterback capable of keeping the offense afloat should Brady suffer a major injury?
As impressive as Brady has been in his lopsided battle with Father Time, Belichick understands that legendary quarterbacks don't turn stale over time; the fall is sudden and steep.
It should come as little surprise that Belichick is willing to go year-to-year at American sports' most important position, taking the view that 2017 does not represent a deadline for a decision on the future of either quarterback.