Deshaun Watson suspension: Jimmy Garoppolo now clear Browns QB upgrade

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Jimmy G offers Browns clear upgrade after Watson suspension originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

EAGAN, Minn. — An hour or so after news broke that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson would serve an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on personal conduct, 49ers general manager John Lynch scanned his incoming messages.

The Browns had yet to reach out.

Time is of the essence. If the Browns want Jimmy Garoppolo, it benefits them to start getting him acclimated to their offense sooner than later.

The 49ers continue to hold the contract rights to Garoppolo, who has the distinction of being the best-available NFL quarterback with a little more than three weeks until the start of the regular season.

Garoppolo did not make the trip to Minnesota, where his (former?) teammates took part in practices Wednesday and Thursday against the Vikings.

The veteran quarterback has been cleared following shoulder surgery in March. He goes through daily throwing sessions to continue to build strength in his throwing arm. However, he does not attend meetings, and he does not have access to the team’s updated playbook.

He is a quarterback without a team. The 49ers continue to hold onto the hope they will be able to trade him before the start of the regular season.

San Francisco has given no indication of what they plan to do with Garoppolo if they are unable to trade him.

The most likely scenario is the 49ers would hold onto Garoppolo until the time when NFL teams must trim their rosters to 53 players on Aug. 30 at 1 p.m.

Once he is released, the 49ers would wipe him off of their payroll, and any interested team would be able to sign him without providing the 49ers with any compensation.

Of course, the 49ers could keep him on their roster beyond Aug. 30, too. But that would require the team to expose a player to the waiver wire that they would have otherwise kept on their 53-man roster.

The next date the 49ers could opt to release Garoppolo is Tuesday, Sept. 6. On that day, the team would owe Garoppolo one game check of approximately $1.35 million for Week 1 of the regular season.

Or, the 49ers could drag it out a few more days. They could wait as long as Saturday, Sept. 10, to release him. That would be the last opportunity to avoid being on the hook for his entire scheduled $24.4 million base salary.

It benefits the 49ers for any interested team to believe they will block Garoppolo from going to the team of his choice (oh, say, the Seattle Seahawks) until the day before the start of the regular season.

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Any team that wants Garoppolo can acquire him right now for the right price -- or, perhaps, any price.

And that goes for the Cleveland Browns, whose quarterback depth chart for the first 11 games of the season is currently comprised of Jacoby Brissett, Joshua Dobbs and Josh Rosen.

The Browns have a strong roster and could contend for a spot in the AFC playoffs.

Now they have finality. They know Watson is going to be ineligible to play most of the season. And if they are looking for an upgrade at quarterback, Garoppolo is their only option.

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