The San Francisco 49ers entered the offseason feeling pretty good about their chances of trading quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and acquiring valuable capital in return. Then one of the craziest offseasons in recent memory occurred.
Aaron Rodgers remained with the Green Bay Packers. Russell Wilson headed to the Denver Broncos. There was the almost laughable blink-and-you-missed-it retirement of Tom Brady. Carson Wentz landed with the Washington Commanders. The Houston Texans shipped Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns. Lastly, Matt Ryan found himself with the Indianapolis Colts.
The significant list of potentially quarterback-needy teams quickly dwindled, and with it, Garoppolo’s trade value. Then, of course, there was also the surprising shoulder surgery that the 49ers quarterback recently underwent, making him untouchable for teams hoping to ensure their new quarterback had sufficient time to get comfortable. Garoppolo won’t be cleared to throw again until closer to training camp.
Earlier this month, shortly before the start of free agency, John Middlekauff had heard that the 49ers had an offer of a second-round pick on the table for Garoppolo. Everyone felt San Francisco would be crazy not to take it, if true. Then Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk dropped the bombshell that general manager John Lynch was telling other teams that the 49ers have an offer of two second-round picks. Again, it would have been considered lunacy for the Niners to turn down an offer from a team willing to overpay that much for their often-injured quarterback.
Of course, it’s possible that the 49ers received such offers from teams for which Garoppolo was unwilling to play. San Francisco has been trying to do right by their starting quarterback of the past four-and-a-half seasons, especially considering how he handled what must have been an awkward 2021 campaign, starting while his eventual replacement watched from the sidelines.
“If they did [have an offer of two second-round picks]they surely don’t have it now,” Florio wrote in a recent column for Pro Football Talk that examines the remaining options the 49ers have with Garoppolo.
As for the remaining quarterback-needy teams, Florio points to the Texans, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, and Seattle Seahawks as potential trade destinations. However, the Falcons seem content with moving forward with newly-signed quarterback Marcus Mariota. They may be out on Garoppolo. Jason La Canfora recently reported that the Texans are uninterested in Garoppolo. Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer told reporters that his team hasn’t had recent discussions with other teams about a potential quarterback trade.
As for the Seahawks, an in-division trade seems unlikely to occur. Although, such a move isn’t unprecedented.
It’s become increasingly likely that the 49ers will be patient and wait, hoping that another team becomes desperate enough down the road to inquire about Garoppolo. Perhaps an offseason injury could cause such a desperate move.
“With none of the money guaranteed, they can squat on him until the eve of the start of the regular season, waiting for an injury elsewhere to create an immediate need for Garoppolo or ultimately cutting him,” Florio wrote.
That wouldn’t be the ideal move and is something the team has been looking to avoid. The 49ers would obviously prefer to get something in return for Garoppolo rather than simply cutting him loose.
There is one more option that Florio touches upon—an almost unthinkable one considering the 49ers invested significant draft capital last year to acquire Trey Lance and have pointed toward the second-year quarterback being their starter in 2022. No one felt Garoppolo would be on the 49ers roster beyond March 16, the start of the new league year. Yet, here we are. His hefty salary—over $25 million—can be used elsewhere to ensure that Lance has a strong supporting cast around him for years to come.
Earlier this month, Lynch has said that the 49ers holding onto Lance and Garoppolo isn’t unthinkable. Although, everyone saw that as extremely unlikely and a last resort.
“If we have the two of them again, and let them go compete, then we’re happy to do that as well,” Lynch told NBC Sports Bay Area. “And we’re capable of doing that with our cap. … we budgeted for a lot of different things with plan A, plan B, plan C, and one of those scenarios—a couple of different of those scenarios—has included Jimmy. And so yes, we can do it.”
Florio sees the once-unthinkable option as a potential one.
“They could keep him,” Florio wrote. “They could even re-do his deal to convert some of the money he’s due to earn into incentives, based on playing time and/or performance. Let him compete. If he’s better than Lance, let him play.
“Lance is the great unknown in this analysis. Only coach Kyle Shanahan knows if he’s ready to entrust the offense to Lance. If Shanahan is, goodbye Jimmy. If Shanahan has doubts, and if they can’t get a good return for Garoppolo, maybe they keep him for another year.”
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