The Patriots reportedly view Jimmy Garoppolo as their quarterback of the future, and things are going to get awkward

Tom Brady's excellence has provided the New England Patriots stability at quarterback for years, but from the sounds of it, they may soon have some tough decisions to make.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said on The Boston Globe's "Season Ticket" podcast that the Patriots view backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as the "future franchise quarterback."

According to Rapoport, the team never seriously considered trading Garoppolo this past offseason as teams like the Cleveland Browns called about him. That dedication to Garoppolo also sets up an unclear future at the quarterback position.

See the young quarterback throughout his career: 

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Jimmy Garoppolo through his career
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Jimmy Garoppolo through his career
FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 22: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots smiles after defeating the Carolina Panthers in a preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 22, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo talks to the media in the Patriots locker room before practice on January 22, 2015. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 28: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots passes the ball during the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 28, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 12: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots warms up before the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 12, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
BOSTON - FEBRUARY 4: Patriots quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo, left, and Tom Brady, right, enjoy the Patriots Super Bowl victory parade with Brady's son, Benjamin, from atop a duck boat. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 21: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots smiles during pre-game before playing the Oakland Raiders at Gillette Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JULY 30: The Patriots camp training camp was held at the practice field next to Gillette Stadium. Jimmy Garoppolo throws a pass. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FAIRHOPE, AL - JANUARY 20: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the South team participates in drills during a Senior Bowl practice session at Fairhope Stadium on January 20, 2014 in Fairhope, Alabama. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 21: Former Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo speaks to the media during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 21, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 16: Jimmy Garoppolo of the Eastern Illinois Panthers speaks during the Sports Network's 27th Annual FCS Awards Presentation at the Sheraton Society Hill on December 16, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Aug 22, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter of a preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, MA - SEPTEMBER 14: New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo talks with the media about his first win as a starting quarterback at practice at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Sept. 14, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots communicates at the line of scrimmage during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 30: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warms up before the game against the Buffalo Bills on October 30, 2016 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. New England defeats Buffalo 41-25. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 01: New England Patriots Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) warms up on the field before the start of the NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins on January 1, 2017, at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. (Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 01: New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) answers questions from the media during the New England Patriots Press Conference on February 02, 2017, at the JW Marriott Galleria, in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: (L-R) Jimmy Garoppolo #10, Tom Brady #12 and Jacoby Brissett #7 of the New England Patriots run on the field prior to Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: Quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo of the New England Patriots during the Victory Parade through the streets of Boston on February 7, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate winning Super Bowl LI. (Photo by Richard Cashin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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Garoppolo will be a free agent this offseason. As Rapoport noted, it would be "far-fetched" to think the Patriots would let him just walk in free agency, particularly after turning down draft picks for him in trade offers. If they wish to re-sign him, however, there will be some hurdles, namely, Brady's future.

Brady has stated that he would like to play into his mid-40s. At 40 years old this season, Brady hasn't shown any signs of declining, but the Patriots know that day will eventually come. And when it does, Garoppolo could be the replacement, a quarterback in the mold of Brady who won't turn 26 until November.

Another hurdle is Garoppolo's motivations to stay in New England considering Brady hasn't shown signs of handing the reins over. When the 2017 season ends, spending another year of his prime behind Brady can't have much appeal to Garoppolo.

In July, Garoppolo told The MMQB's Albert Breer of his role: "I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated. Eager to play is probably a better way to put it. I’m just not used to being a backup. I want to be a starter, and compete to be a starter."

The Patriots must now decide how to handle Garoppolo's free agency. Rapoport suggested the Patriots could place the franchise tag on Garoppolo and then trade him — because "everyone has a price" — but that he believes it to be unlikely because Garoppolo could be their answer at quarterback for the foreseeable future.

ESPN's Mike Reiss and The MMQB's Peter King debated in September whether the Patriots could get creative with Garoppolo's free agency by tackling it sooner. Reiss wondered if the Patriots might offer to pay Garoppolo the full $20 million franchise tag, but split it over two years, lessening the cap hit, delaying his free agency by a year, and engendering goodwill with Garoppolo.

"I think that's something that would be very Patriot-like, to me, to buy them more time," Reiss said.

But would Garoppolo accept either of those options, particularly if it means sitting behind Brady for another year? Brady is under contract through the 2019 season. The Patriots are likely sensitive to the optics of making a long-term commitment to Garoppolo and how that might impact Brady.

See the two quarterbacks together: 

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Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo
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Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 22: Tom Brady #12 and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots run onto the field before a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JUNE 17: The New England Patriots held a minicamp at the practice field at Gillette Stadium. Quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo kick their legs up during warmups. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
June 19, 2014: Patriots' Jimmy Garoppolo (10) tosses a pass under the watchful eye of Tom Brady (12). The New England Patriots held their Mini Camp at the Patriots Practice Facility in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images)
RICHMOND VA, AUGUST 4: New England quarterback Tom Brady (12), left, fires off a pass as back up quarterback's Ryan Mallett (15), center, and Jimmy Garoppolo (10) wait their turn during day 12 of the Washington Redskins training camp practicing with the New England Patriots in Richmond VA, August 4, 2014. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 29: New England Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo head on to the field for pre-game warm-ups before they played the Kansas City Chiefs on September 29, 2014. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - OCTOBER 5: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, Matthew Slater and Jimmy Garoppolo warm up before the game between the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014 at Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots take the field prior to Super Bowl XLVIII at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 30: Quarterbacks Tom Brady #12 and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots take the field for warm ups to the NFL game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 30, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Patriots 26-21. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
February 4, 2015: The Patriots quarterback tandem, Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady. The New England Patriots paraded through the streets of Boston to celebrate their Super Bowl victory. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
27 DEC 2015: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) prior to the game between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford,NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 3: Quarerbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady hung out after practice to work together on some long passes. The New England Patriots continued their Training Camp on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. on August 3, 2016. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JULY 29: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, and Jimmy Garoppolo managed smile as they were back at it during passing drills on the second day of New England Patriots training camp at the practice fields at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on July 29, 2016. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 9: Quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talk on the sidelines during the final minutes of the second half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 9, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Patriots defeated the Browns 33-13. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 30: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warms up before the game against the Buffalo Bills on October 30, 2016 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. New England defeats Buffalo 41-25. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 13: Tom Brady #12 and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots warm up before a game against the Seattle Seahawks at Gillette Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 5: Jimmy Garoppolo congratulates Tom Brady after the Patriots' win. The Atlanta Falcons play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium in Houston on Feb. 5, 2017. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: Quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots during the Victory Parade through the streets of Boston on February 7, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate winning Super Bowl LI. (Photo by Richard Cashin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JULY 28: New England Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett run an agility course during the second day of training camp at the Gillette Stadium practice field in Foxborough, Mass., July 28, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 31: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady #12 react before a preseason game with the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium on August 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 25, 2017: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a pass to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo #10 prior to a preseason game on August 25, 2017 against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. New England won 30-28. (Photo by: 2017 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 22: Tom Brady #12 and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots walk through the tunnel before a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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If Brady were to show signs of decline as the season goes on — he has already taken more sacks this year than he did all of last season — the Patriots will have to begin pondering their choices. Do they anticipate further decline from Brady and make a commitment to Garoppolo? Or would they let Brady play out his career until it's truly obvious that he has nothing left in the tank? At this current rate, that may take years, something Garoppolo surely isn't interested in signing up for.

Garoppolo's options are somewhat limited. He could refuse to sign the franchise tag, effectively causing a holdout, which would cause the type of distraction Bill Belichick and the Patriots hate. He could also reason with himself that one or two more years of backup work could be worth it to take over the Patriots.

This matter is unlikely to resolve itself soon, but it only figures to become more intriguing if Brady continues to play well as Garoppolo's free agency approaches. However it plays out, it seems unlikely that it will be resolved in a manner that satisfies all three parties.

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