SANTA CLARA, California. — At some point, relatively soon, the tenure of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo comes to an end.
This is evident after the seismic exchange between the Dolphins and Miami Dolphins a week ago, when San Francisco finished 12th. pick in 2022, waived the first-round pick in 2022 and the third-round pick in 2023 to get the third-round pick. 2021 NFL Draft pick.
It’s not a question of if, but when. The Niners’ proposed plan to keep Garoppolo this year to coach a rookie quarterback who was drafted third has drawn many different reactions.
To some, this is a logical decision for a team that thinks it can get back into the race. It doesn’t make sense for others to invest so much capital in the draft to improve their quarterback position, only to have that quarterback wait all year (although it worked for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs).
So far, at least, the 49ers are saying they want to keep Garoppolo and let the person they baptize sit back and learn. If she really stays.
Here’s a look at why Garoppolo should stay for the season and why he should move sooner rather than later.
Against retention of Garoppolo
A chance to be back in the race in 2021: 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch said Monday that the main reason they want to keep Garoppolo is because he gives them a better chance to win in 2021 than any other starting quarterback. The Niners have contracted many of their key veterans to have another shot at the Super Bowl, as well as most of the 2019 core team. With a few more injuries, the 49ers clearly believe they can get back into the NFC playoff race.
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The rookie is unlikely to be ready: No starting quarterback has ever started, let alone won, a Super Bowl in the general era. That hasn’t escaped the 49ers. Shanahan said the Niners aren’t there yet and bringing in a new player gives them a better chance to win and not get there. They need to see the young quarterback on the field and in the classroom before they can confidently put him in the starting lineup. Shanahan said it would take something special to change that aspect.
The off-season program may be virtual or mostly virtual: Asked about possible ongoing COVID-19 restrictions that limit the offseason program to virtual work, Lynch said it’s something all teams are interested in. It’s no small feat for a rookie quarterback to come here and study Shanahan’s extensive playbook – during the regular offseason. If a starting quarterback gets only a limited number of field reps, or none at all, before training camp, it will be difficult for him to play early.
Garoppolo’s value could rise, for him and for the team: Let’s assume Garoppolo can stay healthy and the 49ers make another playoff run while putting up similar numbers to 2019 (3978 yards, 27 TDs, 13 INTs). He would only have one year left on his contract, but it would certainly be a better deal for him than now, a year where his team is hurt, knowing they will eventually move on. As a bonus, Garoppolo’s no-trade clause will be lifted next year, which could open up other opportunities. If he plays well in 2021, Garoppolo could get a contract extension with his new team.
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The 49ers have an offer they can’t refuse: This is more important than anything else on the list. Signing Shanahan and Lynch Garoppolo won’t go beyond the best offer they get. If a quarterback team offers a first round pick or even a fairly early second round pick, that’s what the 49ers will think. That might make it harder to win in 2021, but it would allow them to recoup their lost draft capital, and they might even find another much cheaper veteran quarterback to start while the rookie finds his stride.
You could save a lot of money: The 49ers have plenty of room to make additional moves, sign their draft class and extend linebacker Fred Warner. If we sell Garoppolo, we save $23.6 million on salaries. If they wait and do it next year, that’s $25.6 million. Do the Niners need the money now? Most of the big free agents are already at the end of their contracts, but it doesn’t hurt to have that buffer and be able to turn the rest around next season. One of the biggest advantages of a starting quarterback is his contract. Keeping him on as long as possible will only help build up the rest of the team and keep key players in place.
Retaining Garoppolo could lead to controversy at the quarterback position: Shanahan said Monday that Garoppolo handled the news of the trade well, and Shanahan expects Garoppolo to remain professional. He also said Garoppolo was upset about the trade and suggested it might help Garoppolo in 2021. It is possible, but it is also possible in the other direction. Everything Garoppolo does will be under the microscope, as a highly skilled rookie awaits in the wings. The ongoing quarterback controversy could torpedo another season.
Garoppolo’s value could go down: It’s also possible that Garoppola’s value could plummet. One more injury on the schedule would mean missing three games in four years, and the injury-prone label would stick to him permanently. What if he’s healthy and fighting? That wouldn’t help much either. Whatever the Niners choose to do with Garoppolo probably won’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s better than nothing.
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