What does 49ers big trade up in the draft mean for Jimmy Garoppolo?

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Kyle Madson
·3 min read
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Jimmy Garoppolo’s already shaky future with the 49ers now comes with even more uncertainty after San Francisco dealt three first-round picks and a third-round selection to the Dolphins in exchange for the third overall pick in this year’s draft. He appeared poised to at least go into 2021 as the starter, but now with the third overall pick likely to be used on a quarterback, the team’s calculus under center gets a massive overhaul.

Their first option is to keep Garoppolo in as the starter while their draft pick marinates for a year and operates as the upgraded backup the 49ers have coveted. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this is the 49ers’ intent, and it’s one that would make a lot of sense. Garoppolo can still lead San Francisco to a Super Bowl, but his long-term prospects as an elite quarterback were in question. The 49ers can keep him this year to compete in 2021, then move on next year while saving $25.6 million against the salary cap.

A gap year for the rookie would give him a full season of development in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system while also getting the opportunity to dip his toes in the NFL water should Garoppolo be unavailable.

They theoretically could’ve done this same thing with a pick later in the draft, but Shanahan needed to take a swing and upset the status quo a little bit. Quarterback is too important of a position to try to continue plugging mid-round picks in and hoping to strike gold. They needed to make a significant move, and this is it.

Another option is they find a trade partner for Garoppolo this year. Perhaps the Bears or Patriots are willing to part with a second-round pick (or even a first) to pry the veteran signal caller away from San Francisco. This may not be something the 49ers even want to entertain though.

They made a series of one-year deals in free agency that should allow them to compete in 2021. Moving off a quarterback who can get them to the Super Bowl to install either a rookie or a veteran with no track record of winning would effectively be punting a year where San Francisco expects to contend for a championship.

The third way this can go is the 49ers outright cut Garoppolo to save $23.6 million against the cap this year. Given the situation laid out above, this seems unlikely. San Francisco would aim for some compensation for the quarterback if they’re going to move on. Just letting him go would be a gross mismanagement from the front office.

Then there’s a fourth, and perhaps unlikeliest scenario. They moved up for something other than a quarterback. Given the talent in this year’s draft and the 49ers’ needs, this is all but impossible. A player like Nick Bosa, who’s a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, might be worth moving up for. Other than that it’s hard to find value in moving three first-round picks for any other position. So, maybe the 49ers want a different position, but that’s something close to an impossibility.

Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco is going to be up soon, but without the 49ers receiving significant compensation for him in a trade, he’s going to be the starter in 2021. Beyond that, his future is much less clear.

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