Despite what the San Francisco 49ers’ brass might want us to believe, a Jimmy Garoppolo trade could be coming between now and the 2021 NFL Draft in late April.
San Francisco made the surprising decision to move up to the No. 3 pick in the draft from 12th overall. In the process, general manager John Lynch and Co. gave up two future first-round picks and a third-round selection in 2022. The 49ers have also made it clear that they will select a quarterback with the third pick.
Whether it’s an attempt from Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan to up the ante in a potential Garoppolo trade or something else, the 49ers have publicly stated they expect him to be their Week 1 starter.
There’s multiple reasons why this makes sense. Garoppolo is a couple years removed from leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl. He also boasts a 22-8 record as San Francisco’s starter since being acquired midway through the 2017 season. However, there’s also a plethora of reasons why the 49ers will trade Garoppolo. We check in on them below.
Prior to pulling off the aforementioned blockbuster trade up to the third pick, San Francisco was in on then-New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold ahead of his trade to the Carolina Panthers earlier this week. New York just wasn’t ready to pull the trigger.
There’s absolutely no reason to believe that the 49ers were interested in Darnold to either back up or compete with Garoppolo for the starting job during training camp.
The struggling former USC standout saw his 2022 option picked up by the Panthers for nearly $19 million. San Francisco would not have yielded multiple draft picks in order to let the situation play out and allow Darnold to hit free agency next March. Given Garoppolo’s combined cap number of $53.38 million over the next two seasons, it was not financially viable to roster both players. Acquiring Darnold would have led to the end of Garoppolo’s tenure in San Francisco.
Shockingly, the Jets were able to pick up a sixth-round pick in 2021 as well as second- and fourth-rounders in 2022 from the Panthers for the struggling young quarterback.
It’s no secret that San Francisco is demanding a first-round pick in exchange for Garoppolo. While that initially seemed to be out of bounds, it now makes some more sense. Heck, no objective observer believes Darnold is anywhere near as good as his more-veteran counterpart. Just look at their career stats:
Sure some of this has to do with talent level on their teams. That’s fine and dandy, but Garoppolo is heads and shoulders above Darnold. Given how San Francisco shook up the top of the 2021 NFL Draft, quarterback-needy teams such as the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos could come calling while offering up the equivalent of a first-round pick. If so, the 49ers are going to have to listen. It’s that simple.
Garoppolo is set to count $26.38 million against the cap in 2021. San Francisco can save a whopping $23.6 million by trading him. This is no small deal given that the NFL salary cap decreased in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving off Garoppolo would enable the 49ers to potentially add another star player in a trade — Allen Robinson, anyone? In turn, they could potentially target a cheaper option in Gardner Minshew to be the stopgap quarterback.
It’s also well-known that Garoppolo was not happy once he heard that the 49ers moved up to three. San Francisco’s brass made that clear during a recent post-trade press conference. How would a potential training camp battle between the veteran and an unnamed rookie look? Given how much support Garoppolo has from his teammates, it could lead to some major drama.