The 49ers’ nightmare scenario with Jimmy Garoppolo is playing out as the NFL’s offseason churns on. What looked once to be a potentially robust market for the veteran signal caller has dwindled with multiple trades and the likes of Mitchell Trubisky and Marcus Mariota snagging cheaper deals as unrestricted free agents. So what happens if San Francisco can’t deal their QB?
First off, it doesn’t mean they have to keep him. While a limited trade market certainly pushes the door to his return open wider than it would’ve been had multiple teams been bidding for his services, it’s still not a likely route for San Francisco. They’re looking to move on from the Garoppolo era. They’d prefer to trade him and get some sort of compensation, but it’s not a must.
If the 49ers do hang on to Garoppolo he carries a $26.95 million salary cap hit along with a whole bunch of baggage that would’ve made this year’s quarterback conversation seem tame. Perhaps San Francisco’s front office and coaching staff are fine with a QB competition that pits Garoppolo against presumed starter Trey Lance, but that seems like a difficult situation to navigate – especially coming off a 2021 season where question marks hung over center.
Should the trade market never develop for the 49ers, they have the option to release Garoppolo outright. If they do it before he’s healthy they’d save $18 million against the cap with a $7.5 million dead cap hit because of the amount he has guaranteed for injury. When he signs with another club, the amount he signs for offsets against that $7.5 million. So if he signs for $7.5 million or more, there’s no dead cap. If he signs for $5 million, there’s $2.5 million in dead cap money left over.
It seems for now the 49ers are content with holding onto the QB since there’s no pressing need for the cap space he would clear. The first wave of free agency is over and they didn’t seem to be in a hurry to add any of the more expensive talent on the market. They opened some space via restructures instead of letting go of Garoppolo.
This saga isn’t over, and for the 49ers it couldn’t be going a lot worse. Now they’re in a little bit of a holding pattern though and there’s no major consequence for keeping Garoppolo for now. That could eventually change, but San Francisco will have options as they move forward even if they’re not the options they were hoping to have.