Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Could 49ers inquiring about Teddy Bridgewater be a tactic to reduce Jimmy Garoppolo’s salary?

Mar 2, 2021 at 9:56 AM--

The report that the San Francisco 49ers inquired about Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater raised some eyebrows. While Joe Person of The Athletic speculated that general manager John Lynch and company, based on previous comments, might be looking to bolster the depth chart behind Jimmy Garoppolo, some wondered if Bridgewater was being viewed as a potential replacement rather than an added piece to the roster puzzle.

Bridgewater is making starting quarterback money over the next two seasons, earning base salaries of $17 million in 2021 and $20 million in 2022. Even if a trade meant San Francisco was only on the hook for the quarterback's guaranteed salary of $10 million in 2021, that is still a significant chunk of the salary cap being devoted to two quarterbacks.

The 49ers are estimated to have about $13 million in salary-cap space. The team is set to dish out $25 million to Garoppolo this year. A trade for Bridgewater might not leave much left to make other moves, including re-signing some of the 32 remaining players scheduled to become free agents.

The most likely explanation for the inquiry is that San Francisco is doing its due diligence. Maybe the 49ers are just evaluating the market value of passers around the league. It's not inconceivable to think that the organization is asking about several NFL quarterbacks. After all, it reportedly engaged in talks about Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz without making offers for either.

On Tuesday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk threw out another possible explanation. Maybe San Francisco calling about Bridgewater was a negotiating tactic meant for Garoppolo's agent.

"Maybe this is just a step toward eventually going to Jimmy," Florio told PFT Live co-host Chris Simms, "and saying, 'Hey, we can't pay you 25 (million dollars) this year. We can't do it. That's why we called about Teddy. He's coming in at 17 (million dollars). Jimmy, have your agent, Don Yee, call around, see if there's anyone out there that would pay you 25 million if we cut you because there isn't.'

"I think that's part of it. If you keep Jimmy Garoppolo, you cannot pay him 25 million this year. He hasn't earned it because he can't stay healthy."

Of course, this is all speculation at this point. One can understand the 49ers considering Tom Brady last offseason and even Stafford this year. Bridgewater might be a bit of a head-scratcher if the team considered him a replacement for Garoppolo and not a backup.

Lynch was recently asked if there is any doubt that Garoppolo would be the 49ers' quarterback in September, should he be injury-free.

"No," Lynch responded. "Not at all. I really believe that."

That's when the general manager commented that the goal is to improve the depth behind Garoppolo, so the drop-off to the next player on the depth chart isn't so significant, should the starting quarterback miss time again.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan didn't sound too concerned about Garoppolo's salary when asked about it in December.

"People talk about Jimmy's salary," Shanahan told reporters. "Jimmy is like one of the middle quarterbacks in the league right now in terms of salary. That's just how much they cost. So, it's not like it's something ridiculous or anything like that. So, we can work all that out."

Shanahan also noted that while Garoppolo was expected to be the starter in 2021, there are no promises regarding roster building.

"Guys, you can't say anything with certainty," Shanahan commented. "You don't sit here and make promises on anything. We build a football team. It's your job to put the best team together year in and year out."

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