It’s been a wild ride for Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco, to say the least. He’s been nothing short of a savior for the franchise, returning them to their status as a powerhouse in the NFC. But all good things must come to an end, and that time has officially come.
When the 49ers selected Trey Lance, the writing was on the wall for Garoppolo. Kyle Shanahan and 49ers GM John Lynch decided that the young and inexperienced Lance, who only played one full season at North Dakota State, was going to sit and learn during his first year in the NFL. That year came and went, and it’s now time for Lance to take the reins.
Lance has dual-threat capabilities that made scouts salivate at the idea of placing him into Shanahan’s offense. He has great football instincts, a cannon for an arm (conflicting reports are wrong; just watch the tape), and was just 20 years old when the team traded multiple first-round picks to grab him. A project for sure, but one the 49ers felt was the missing piece to take this team from Super Bowl contenders to Super Bowl champions.
Only one problem: Garoppolo is still on the roster.
It was no secret that the 49ers wanted to trade Garoppolo entering this offseason. And it was expected he would be one of the top quarterbacks on the market, due to the weak rookie class and the lack of talent on the trade market. But then, Garoppolo had shoulder surgery, and has been stuck on the 49ers’ roster ever since.
The 49ers must do what they can to unload Jimmy G and his nearly $27 million cap hit, and prove to Lance that they have full confidence in him as the starter come Week 1.
So here’s how they can do that:
If Deshaun Watson is suspended for a significant amount of time (especially if it’s a full season), the Cleveland Browns would be a perfect landing spot for the 49ers quarterback. Garoppolo, whose contract is up at the end of this season, would be the ideal win-now rental for the Browns as they await Watson’s potential return. He would keep them afloat in the talented AFC North, and shouldn’t cost more than a middle-round pick at this stage of the offseason. According to the NFLPA, the Browns are the only team that could absorb Jimmy G’s salary.
If Watson isn’t suspended, the 49ers could turn to a familiar situation for their quarterback. Tom Brady retired and then un-retired this offseason, and made no long-term commitment after this season. He reportedly has a 10-year, $375 million contract waiting for him from Fox Sports, and may just be ready to step into that role as soon as 2023. The Buccaneers would then be left to somewhat start over, even though their roster would be in win-now mode. A trade for Garoppolo would demonstrate incredible foresight from the Bucs, as he could take a year to learn the playbook, and would be prepared to be the team’s quarterback of the future when Brady calls it quits.
Then there’s the Seattle Seahawks. A team who has had the 49ers’ number the last few years — a division rival who has won 14 out of the last 16 games against them and hasn’t lost the season series since 2011. Would the 49ers really help the Seahawks out the same offseason they traded franchise quarterback Russell Wilson? The answer is probably not, but if the 49ers get desperate to unload Garoppolo, especially if Watson isn’t suspended for long, there’s a chance they get a deal done. (Plus, he’d be an upgrade over Geno Smith/Drew Lock).
One final and somewhat interesting proposition is the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins wouldn’t make a move until the trade deadline, so that would take out the idea of ridding this roster of Garoppolo before Week 1. But if Tua Tagovailoa struggles — which is a real possibility based on the way his career has begun — new Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, the former offensive coordinator of the 49ers, may want to bring in a guy he’s familiar with. The Dolphins went somewhat all in this offseason, and put together a roster they feel is ready to compete in the AFC right now. Tagovailoa should have a relatively short leash, and could lose his job as early as this season if he doesn’t come out much, much better. Miami is definitely a destination to keep an eye on if Garoppolo remains on the 49ers’ roster to open the season.
It’ll be an interesting next couple of weeks (and maybe months) for the 49ers, but one thing is certain.
Trey Lance must be the starter come Week 1.
So allow me to officially welcome you to the Trey Lance era. The 49ers are his team now.