How Broncos' Teddy Bridgewater trade affects 49ers, NFL draft

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Josh Schrock
·4 min read
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How Bridgewater trade affects 49ers, Jimmy G and NFL draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Everyone knew the Carolina Panthers were looking to find Teddy Bridgewater a new home, and they finally did Wednesday when they shipped the quarterback to the Denver Broncos for a 2021 sixth-round pick.

There's no doubt that Drew Lock and his turnover-prone nature had to drive coach Vic Fangio, a defensive head coach, crazy. In Bridgewater, he gets a veteran quarterback who takes care of the ball and can allow his offense to be a complimentary piece to one of the top defenses in the NFL.

The Broncos' decision to acquire Bridgewater could impact more than the quarterback picture in Denver and how comfortable Sam Darnold feels in his new digs in Carolina, though.

With little over 24 hours until the start of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Broncos' move eliminates a possible trade destination for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and could signal a shift seismic shift throughout the top 10.

First, let's start with Garoppolo, the oft-injured signal-caller who is good when he is on the field but struggles with the best ability -- availability.

Recent rumors have suggested the 49ers, who own the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, will look to move Garoppolo this weekend, preparing to hand the keys to Kyle Shanahan's offense and the 49ers' 2021 season in the hands of a rookie quarterback, expected by many to be Mac Jones.

Garoppolo carries a $25.5 million cap hit next season, which made the list for potential landing spots very small unless Garoppolo, who has a no-trade clause, agreed to restructure his deal upon a trade being agreed upon. Before the Broncos acquired Bridgewater, Denver and the Jacksonville Jaguars were the only two teams with enough cap room to absorb Garoppolo's contract as it currently is structured.

That means that list now stands effectively at zero since the Jaguars are slated to draft Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick.

Most people still believe Garoppolo eventually will be headed back to the New England Patriots, but that would take two things: First, the 49ers would have to lessen their demands in a deal (they reportedly have been asking for a first-round pick), and Garoppolo would need to agree to a big restructure to return to the kingdom he was supposed to rule after Tom Brady exited stage left.

Any hope the 49ers have for a Garoppolo deal now rests on the 29-year-old's willingness to restructure his contract to land in a place where he can start. The list of teams in need of a starting quarterback on the eve of the draft also is slim, with the Patriots, Chicago Bears and Washington Football team appearing like the only potential destinations. But the Bears and Football Team don't appear to be likely dance partners with offseason signings Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick slated to start for their respective franchises.

In short, unless the Patriots and 49ers can work out a deal, Garoppolo probably is staying put.

RELATED: Schrock's seven-round mock draft

Which brings us to part two of this half-baked domino theory.

Most believe the 49ers have targeted Jones as their quarterback of the future at No. 3 overall. Jones is seen by many scouts, but not all, as one of the more NFL-ready prospects in the class. That expectation is driving the thought that the 49ers would not want their "NFL-ready" new face of the franchise to sit behind Garoppolo if he could start and take their offense to a new level, and instead now want to ship Garoppolo out to pave the way for Jones.

But if Garoppolo is stuck in San Francisco, could that alter the 49ers' plans at No. 3 overall? I don't know, but it could be a fly in the ointment as Shanahan's franchise-altering decision nears.

If the gap between Jones and Trey Lance has narrowed in the 49ers' building as ESPN's Adam Schefter suggested, then the certainty of having Garoppolo around could give the 49ers the excuse they are looking for to draft a young, toolsy quarterback who needs a year to sit and develop but has a higher pro ceiling than Jones.

For my two cents, if you're making this legacy-defining choice, I'd just go with your first choice regardless of Garoppolo, Steve Young or Joe Montana being in the building or not.

It's likely the Broncos' move impacts the top-10, but the ripples don't touch the 49ers. But the difference between selecting an all-time great and a bust are often razor-thin, and any number of things can sometimes sway a franchise in one direction or another.

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