Patriots Named Among Best Fits for QB Who’s ‘Prime Jimmy Garoppolo’

Jimmy Garoppolo

Getty The New England Patriots are a fit for a veteran free agent QB who's "prime Jimmy Garoppolo."

Ample salary cap space and the third-overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft means the New England Patriots have multiple ways to solve their quarterback problem. One would be to target Ryan Tannehill in free agency, a veteran passer described as “prime Jimmy Garoppolo” by Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports.

The comparison to former Patriots backup Garoppolo might not excite many fans in New England. Yet, Benjamin was referencing Garoppolo’s success with the San Francisco 49ers, whom he led to the 2020 Super Bowl. Garoppolo, currently a member of the Las Vegas Raiders, made the Niners a contender as a reliable game manager, similar to what Tannehill did for the Tennessee Titans.

As Benjamin put it, “Tannehill has managed just 20 ugly starts since 2022, battling injuries and turnover sprees behind a crumbling O-line. Before that, he resembled prime Jimmy Garoppolo with the San Francisco 49ers: solid enough as a play-action game manager to lead playoff runs, but more dependent on his supporting cast than most.”

Although Tannehill may still have mileage as a starter, Benjamin believes “he’s probably best suited as a high-level fallback plan.”

The Pats might need one of those if they opt to draft a new QB1. Starting a rookie has risks, negatives that can be offset by having a proven signal-caller next up on the depth chart.

Ryan Tannehill Has Enduring Value for Patriots

Tannehill’s enduring value comes from his experience operating a run-first offense for the Titans. He often played the supporting act to two-time NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry in Tennessee.

What Tannehill brought to the offense was underrated mobility and deceptive efficiency off of play-action. He displayed the latter quality during his most productive season in 2020.

Tannehill threw for 1,541 yards off of play action, per Pro Football Reference. It was the first of three-straight 1,000-plus-yard tallies in the play-action game for Tannehill.

The 35-year-old showed he’d lost none of his knack in this area during a win over the Los Angeles Chargers, “completing 7 of 9 passes for 168 yards,” per Next Gen Stats.

Tannehill’s skills fit a Patriots offense still reliant on its running back rotation for big plays. Getting Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott going shouldn’t be a problem for coordinator Alex Van Pelt, who built a dominant ground attack around Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt during two years calling plays for the Cleveland Browns.

Van Pelt would surely welcome having Tannehill as an example of how to run the offense for a first-year passer. Tannehill could even take the starting reins early if the Patriots draft a project at football’s most important position.

Patriots Could Use Jimmy Garoppolo Draft Strategy

The No. 3 pick might not be enough to select one of the draft’s top two passers, USC’s Caleb Williams or Drake Maye of North Carolina. Perhaps LSU’s Jayden Daniels is an option, but it’s just possible the Pats could adopt a Garoppolo-like strategy.

He was taken 62nd overall as a second-rounder in the 2014 draft. Garoppolo looked like the successor-in-waiting for Tom Brady, but things didn’t play out that way.

There were moments, like when Garoppolo opened the 2016 season with a 2-0 record, playing mistake-free football, per CBS Sports HQ.

He joined the 49ers a year later and eventually moved to Las Vegas in 2023, but a two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance policy leaves his future in doubt.

That won’t matter to the Patriots, who could wait until Round 2 to draft their quarterback of the future. A prospect like Spencer Rattler of Michael Penix Jr. will surely be available with the 34th pick.

Either QB could develop patiently while Tannehill starts early. That plan would make it easier for the Patriots to move on from Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe.

Landing a quarterback after taking Marvin Harrison Jr. to be a go-to receiver in the opening round would represent a draft coup for the Patriots.

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