49ers must hold on to QB Jimmy Garoppolo for now | Bleacher report
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Like nearly every year, the NFL’s quarterback carousel has dominated offseason talk. Whether it was Tom Brady’s retirement, Aaron Rodgers’ decision to remain in Green Bay, or a series of big trades, the news was all about the middle boys.
What’s all but unprecedented in 2022 is the number of big names that have moved. The arrival of Deshaun Watson in Cleveland puts Baker Mayfield out of business as an odd man and most certainly moves elsewhere. Mitch Trubisky is in Pittsburgh. Marcus Mariota is in Atlanta. Two quarterbacks who started a Super Bowl (Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson) were traded.
There has been no shortage of speculation about the possibility that a third could join them — although they led the 2019 San Francisco 49ers to a berth in Super Bowl LIV and a berth in last year’s NFC Championship Game, just about every team has a need to become a quarterback linked to the San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo in recent weeks. After all, the 49ers have mortgaged the future of the franchise in the 2021 draft to step up and select Trey Lance third overall.
But time has passed, and as the musical chairs rolled on at quarterback, some of those openings have been filled. As the market has shrunk, so has the compensation the Niners could receive if they traded Garoppolo. And a tipping point has been reached between that and the question marks surrounding Lance’s willingness to lead a playoff-caliber Niners team.
Yes, it would be nice for the 49ers to recoup some of the draft capital lost in the Lance trade and get most of Garoppolo’s $27.0 million salary cap off the books. But at this point, if San Francisco truly emerges as a Super Bowl contender, it would be even better to just stick with Garoppolo — at least for now.
The market for a Garoppolo trade may have shrunk, but it hasn’t necessarily disappeared entirely. On Monday, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that 49ers general manager John Lynch told interested teams that San Francisco had an offer on the table of two second-round picks for Garoppolo, who passed in 2021 for 3,810 yards and 20 points .
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But that could have just been Lynch’s demeanor. It could also be that the team making that offer was the New Orleans Saints or Atlanta Falcons, who filled their holes under center with Jameis Winston and Mariota, respectively.
If Lynch really has that offer on the table and the team intends to get rid of Garoppolo one way or another, he should take it. After watching Ryan just pick up a third-rounder and the number of teams in need of QBs dwindling, the offers don’t get any better from here. Not for a while.
Basically, three teams come to mind as potential landing spots for Garoppolo. All three (Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks) are closer to rebuilding this fight. One is in the San Francisco division, and while quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb and Drew Bledsoe have been traded within their division, such a deal is rare.
With these teams as potential buyers, it’s not ideal that Garoppolo is a 30-year-old with a history of injuries following shoulder surgery that will cost him most of the offseason program and who also has a $25 million cap.
Which brings us back to the idea of keeping Garoppolo on the team.
Given Garoppolo’s robust cap hit and the boatload of picks (including a trio of first-rounders) the team sacrificed to get Lance, most just assumed Garoppolo’s 49ers would move on. But as David Bonilla wrote for 49ers Webzone, so did Lynch speak 49ers Podcast that there was always a contingency plan that included keeping Garoppolo on the list.
“If we have the two back and let them compete against each other, then we’ll be happy to do that too. And we’re able to do that with our hat,” Lynch said on March 3. “Compromises for sure, but we budgeted for a lot of different things with Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and one of those scenarios — a couple of different ones of those scenarios — involved Jimmy. So yes, we can do it, limit what we can do, the aggressiveness that we have free rein.”
The Niners haven’t been particularly active in the free hand, but they did make a big deal, inking former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward to a three-year, $42 million contract. At this point of free choice, San Francisco really doesn’t need plenty of space for the cap. There are some big additions on the horizon, but these are for players who are already on the team. If the 49ers want to add another free agent or two, finding a little more wiggle room wouldn’t be so difficult with a restructured contract or two.
It’s understandably frustrating for fans to see $25 million “wasted” on a player who supposedly wouldn’t start. The Niners have needs on both sides of the ball, whether it’s along the inside of the offensive line or in the defensive backfield. But the team has already spent on the latter and there are some experienced options in the former like Quinton Spain and Trai Turner who were relatively cheap.
This year, spending massive amounts of money on free agency a la Trent Baalke of the Jacksonville Jaguars is making headlines. But it doesn’t necessarily make teams better. Especially when a roster is already in good shape and massive expansions are on the horizon with essential players like edge rusher Nick Bosa and wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
It can also be argued that no money is “wasted” on Garoppolo at all. Because while Lance holds promise, there’s also uncertainty.
Lance’s athletic advantage is through the roof. He is mobile and has a cannon for his right arm. There’s a reason Lynch sent all those picks to Miami. As Bonilla shared, pundits like PFT’s Mike Florio have wondered aloud if Lance could be on the verge of a second-year breakout.
“I think it was BetMGM that had a lot of action on Trey Lance for their MVP base at pretty high odds, but they lost quite a bit on the bets that were placed on Lance,” Florio continued The Rich Eisen Show. “That’s quite a surprise [for] a first grader. But, you know what? Look at the past few years. Sophomore quarterbacks just appear out of nowhere and become MVP candidates. We saw it in 2018 with Patrick Mahomes. We saw it in 2019 with Lamar Jackson. Both have won MVP. We’ve seen Kyler Murray have had some in 2020 [early] MVP buzz. So it’s not out of the question that Trey Lance could take the league by storm like some of these other guys have.”
Is that possible? For sure. But Lance is also a 21-year-old quarterback from an FCS school who looked a lot like a rookie at times last year. Lance has started all three games since the 2019 season. He’s absolutely talented. He’s also inexperienced.
If the 49ers were willing to take a chunk, that would be one thing. But they came just one game from their second Super Bowl in the last three years. The 49ers have legitimate playoff ambitions. postseason Expectations.
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And it was Garoppolo who guided the 49ers to all of these successes in recent years. Say what you will about Garoppolo’s low ceiling. About his occasional wrong decisions. Or even about QB victories as a bad game barometer on the position.
But Garoppolo is 31-14 as a starter for the 49ers. That’s a higher win percentage in the regular season than Aaron Rodgers at the Packers.
That’s a damn good insurance policy against Lance, who isn’t ready.
That’s not to say the time won’t come this summer when getting rid of Garoppolo will make sense. Lance will have all the OTAs and minicamps (while Garoppolo rehabs the shoulder) to show he’s ready for that sophomore jump. All it takes is one injury to another quarterback at camp or preseason for Garoppolo’s trade market to potentially heat up.
When Teddy Bridgewater suffered a horrific leg injury in 2016, a panicked Minnesota Vikings team traded a first-round pick in 2017 and a conditional pick (which ended up being a fourth-round pick) in 2018 for Sam Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Bradford’s NFL resume was nowhere near Garoppolo’s. But the Eagles have a first for him.
If push came to shove, the team could just fire him – the $1.4 million dead cap hit remains the same through Week 1. Per Chris Biderman from the Sacramento Beeis there a $7.5 million injury guarantee if Garoppolo fails a physical which the Niners would not recoup until/unless another team signs him (and pays him $7.5 million -dollars or more).
In other words, San Francisco can now set him free and rake in $18 million (temporarily, at least). Or wait until he’s healthy and clean everything up. Or just keep him on the roster into the regular season.
Right now, patience is the wisest course of action. The 49ers have moved well through the free hand with Garoppolo’s salary on the books. The market for its services appears to have dried up. There’s a real possibility that the landing spot that offers Garoppolo the best chance of making a difference in 2022 is where he’s at right now. And while Lance is many things, a safe bet isn’t one of them.
Circumstances could change, and Garoppolo could still be moved. But as things stand, dropping the experienced Signalcaller just like that could cost the Niners more than it brings them.