Now that Tony Romo has left Houston holding the bag at quarterback, might former Patriots assistant Bill O’Brien tempt New England into softening the stance that Jimmy Garoppolo is off the table in trade talks?

“Of course Bill O’Brien would love to acquire someone as talented as Jimmy Garoppolo,” NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport said on Thursday’s edition of Up to the Minute. “It would make a lot of sense. The system would be the same, the transition would be easy, everything would match up.”

There’s only one problem.

“From my understanding, the Patriots do not want to deal Jimmy Garoppolo,” Rapoport continued. “They really just don’t, whether it’s to the Browns, whether it’s to the Texans. Their stance right now … is they do not want to give up someone who they consider a franchise quarterback for a pick this year.”

While there’s sentiment among skeptical football observers that Bill Belichick is simply playing hard to get in an attempt to initiate a bidding war, reports have remained steadfast that the Patriots simply will not trade their premium Tom Brady insurance.

If any organization is going to put together a godfather offer, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo pointed out, it would be Cleveland as opposed to Houston.

The Browns have stockpiled eight combined picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts, extraordinary ammunition that the Texans cannot come close to matching.

When Cleveland and New England discussed Garoppolo around the time of the NFL combine in late February, Garafolo added, the Patriots offered no indication that the former Eastern Illinois star would be available.

We’ve been hearing for weeks that Cleveland’s front office has yet to give up the Garoppolo ghost.

“The Browns may make a late run at Garoppolo,” Rapoport explained, “but they do not seem to believe there’s any hope there.”

The Patriots are in the Super Bowl business. If Brady suffers a major injury or takes a turn for the worse at age 40, they believe they can still reach the promised land with Garoppolo.

Just as importantly, Belichick understands he can retain Garoppolo’s rights via the franchise tag next offseason.

Unless Belichick is persuaded to alter that viewpoint, the Texans will be exposed — once again — as AFC pretenders, while the Browns suffer through another lost season.

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