San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch spoke to the media from the NFL meeting site in Palm Beach, Florida earlier this week. Needless to say, one of the main topics of conversation was the status of veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
It wasn’t until Feb. 1 that Garoppolo held a press conference shortly after San Francisco fell to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game that appeared to be his last as a member of the 49ers.
Fast forward two months and Garoppolo remains on the roster. That comes with the market for quarterback needy teams drying up following blockbuster trades in the NFL world. It also led to increased speculation that San Francisco might just be forced to release the Super Bowl quarterback.
Speaking to the media, Lynch pushed that back in a big way.
“I don’t foresee that. He’s too good a player. I think Jimmy will play for us or play for somebody else,” Lynch said Monday of the 49ers potentially releasing Garoppolo, via ESPN Nick Wagoner. “He’s too good of a player not to be.”
It’s very good and dandy. It’s also a public relations strategy on the part of the 49ers’ front office. Financially, there’s no scenario in which the 49ers can reasonably field Garoppolo and his capped $26.95 million for the 2022 season. That’s especially true with San Francisco gearing up for the No. 3 pick. of 2021, Trey Lance, to start under center.
The San Francisco 49ers still seem to be looking for a trade with Jimmy Garoppolo
Lynch covered the financial aspect of this situation when addressing the media, ultimately indicating that they would be fine if Garoppolo was on the books in Week 1.
“We appreciate the strength in this position,” Lynch said. “To be completely blunt, though, when you do a trade of this magnitude (for Lance), most of our options didn’t include Jimmy on our books. On our team. But you still have to adapt and a streak A lot of things happened that it didn’t work out. But that’s not a bad thing, though. We feel positive about it. And we’ll make it work.”
The overriding conclusion here is that San Francisco is sending a message to the limited number of teams that might be interested in Garoppolo that he won’t be available in free agency. On the contrary, they will have to abandon the capital project. From there, said team would then have to restructure or expand Garoppolo to lower his 2022 cap number. Whether any team will take the bait remains to be seen.
A series of circumstances prevented San Francisco from trading Garoppolo earlier in the offseason. In addition to the hit trades I mentioned above, the quarterback recently underwent shoulder surgery. According to Lynch, that also played a role in keeping Garoppolo on the 49ers’ books.
“I think ultimately the teams that we were closest with, the surgery gave them a break and they ended up going in other directions,” Lynch said.
The idea of giving up draft picks to a high-priced quarterback entering a contract season and recovering from shoulder surgery can’t be considered appealing to rival teams. Even then, the 49ers’ public stance that Garoppolo won’t be released ups the ante a bit.
Jimmy Garoppoo Trading Market Limited
This is the major backdrop that Lynch and Co. cannot publicly ignore. Garoppolo’s service market has thinned since reports of his shoulder injury became a public record.
The Indianapolis Colts were previously tied to Garoppolo. Earlier in March, they completed a trade for Atlanta star Matt Ryan. The Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints were also on a potential Garoppolo trade. Cleveland completed a blockbuster for Deshaun Watson while the Saints re-signed Jameis Winston to be their likely Week 1 starter.
None of that takes into account the Denver Broncos making a move for former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson and the Washington Commanders jumping in by trading for a struggling Carson Wentz.
Where does that leave the 49ers when it comes to Garoppolo’s trade market? Not in a great place. The Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans are three teams with questions left at center ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft in late April. Neither Carolina nor Houston seem interested in Garoppolo. Meanwhile, it’s foolish to believe that two division rivals in the 49ers and Seahawks would pull off a trade of this ilk.
In an attempt to publicly sway the dynamic, Lynch told reporters Monday that a number of teams are still in contact with San Francisco regarding Garoppolo, but those conversations are “fluid.”
Outside of a surprise team like the New York Giants showing an interest in Garoppolo, this should be limited to the three organizations I mentioned above as needy entities.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s finances remain on the books of the San Francisco 49ers
In an interesting development, Lynch told reporters that Garoppolo’s status has no bearing on the NFL team’s free agent plans.
“Our plan was our plan and we were able to do everything we set out to do in free agency,” Lynch said. “We knew we wanted to fill that corner role, and a number of other deals that we could put together. And that was our plan whether we got Jimmy or not.”
Some will point to San Francisco’s focus on signing All-Pros Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa to massive contract extensions this offseason. Given the large receiver market, Samuel is looking at well north of $25 million a year. As for Bosa, his next contract is expected to exceed the record $28 million that TJ Watt received annually in his extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Those who point the finger at finances here and conclude that Garoppolo staying on San Francisco’s books prevented anything from happening are missing the point. Any new deals for Samuel and Bosa likely wouldn’t increase their salary cap too much for 2022. Rather, the big money would come in 2023 and beyond when the NFL’s salary cap is expected to rise significantly with the new TV deal bringing in record revenues.
That said, it’s foolish to believe that reaching Garoppolo’s $26.95 million cap for the 2022 season hasn’t impacted San Francisco’s free agent plans. The team’s only significant signing came in the form of former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward. Other than that, the 49ers have been largely inactive in free agency — bringing in second-wave options on cheap contracts.
Currently just $1.92 million under the cap, it’s hard to fathom that the cap Garoppolo hit hasn’t directly impacted the 49ers in free agency.
Either way, it’s something San Francisco will need to work out before and after the 2022 NFL Draft. In its current cap situation, this team wouldn’t even be able to sign their draft class.
None of this takes into account the dynamic that would come with Garoppolo remaining on the 49ers roster heading into the offseason program. San Francisco used three first-round picks and replaced Lance last year. They gave him the keys to the kingdom. Garoppolo took it like a champion last season. Expecting the same to ring true this summer and in training camp just doesn’t seem likely.
Regardless of what the 49ers brass want us to believe publicly, the Jimmy Garoppolo situation is soon coming to a head here one way or another. It’s the simple reality.