The 49ers are running out of cards to play in the ongoing Jimmy Garoppolo saga. It appeared the Carolina Panthers were the best bet to land the QB, but they traded for Browns QB Baker Mayfield and slammed the door shut on one of the final landing spots for Garoppolo.
San Francisco still has a handful of options, although none are particularly appealing. The Browns are eating part of Mayfield’s salary and only acquired a conditional fifth-round pick to make the choice. It’s likely the 49ers would also need to absorb some of the $25.55 million just to get a late Day 3 selection.
Lets run through the few options San Francisco has left with Garoppolo:
Trade to Seahawks
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This is probably the least-desirable option for San Francisco. Sending their starting quarterback to a division rival that currently has a sub-par QB battle raging is likely not worth the minimal draft compensation they’d receive.
Trade to Cleveland Browns
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The Browns after trading Mayfield now have Deshaun Watson and Jacoby Brissett on their roster at QB. If Watson is suspended for some or all of 2022, Cleveland may want a better option than Brissett and Garoppolo may present that. It’s hard to imagine the Browns giving up an asset to add a QB who may not be better than their current backup, but it’s on the table after Mayfield was dealt.
Jan 16, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws a pass in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The 49ers built trap doors in Garoppolo’s contract for situations like this one. They can release him once he’s healthy and eat just $1.4 million in dead money. Garoppolo has a $7.5 million injury guarantee so releasing him prior to being cleared to return from offseason shoulder surgery could cost the 49ers some money. Offset language in Garoppolo’s contract means San Francisco would be off the hook for that $7.5 million if he signs a deal up to or beyond that amount. If he signs for less than that, the 49ers would be on the hook for the difference.
Keep him, Version A
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There’s always a chance the 49ers wind up holding on to Garoppolo instead of making him an unrestricted free agent and granting him his release. In Version A, they simply hold him as their QB2 and go into the year with the most expensive backup signal caller in history. In this version Garoppolo might even prove to be the better option under center for the 49ers, but this is probably something the club would want to avoid. He could conceivably rework his deal to take less to come back as the backup, but it’s hard to envision a world where either party wants to bring that story line into the locker room.
Keep him, Version B
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In this version, the 49ers keep Garoppolo on the roster in hopes of being able to trade him during camp. Whether he’d participate in team drills would depend on the long-term plan, but there’s a greater chance of a starting gig opening up once training camps are rolling. This would put Garoppolo behind the curve in getting ready for the year, but any team making a veteran addition in late July or early June is already in pretty big trouble and desperate. This would just invite speculation about the team’s confidence in Lance and may wind up with Garoppolo being cut anyway. This one is an option, but it’s tough to see it playing out this way.