Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Did the 49ers overplay their hand with QB Jimmy Garoppolo?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Mar 24, 2022 at 10:15 AM--

Following the Matt Ryan trade to the Indianapolis Colts, the San Francisco 49ers continue to roster their veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who they've actively tried to move on from this offseason.

Having been left without a trade partner, did the 49ers overplay their hand with Jimmy Garoppolo?

The quick answer is: yes, but it's not entirely that simple.

Backtracking to the earlier stages of the offseason when the Seattle Seahawks dealt star quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, the 49ers were in a prime position to deal Jimmy Garoppolo, as, at that moment, he was the most attractive option on the open market.

For those arguing about the no-trade clause dictating where Garoppolo would end up, the clause was merely a formality; Garoppolo technically didn't have a say in where he landed because his no-trade clause expired on the day that the trade would become official, rendering it worthless in actuality.

However, it seemed apparent that the 49ers wanted to "do right" by their veteran, as earlier in the offseason, Garoppolo himself made it clear that his camp and the 49ers' brass were working together to find him a new destination.

But, following the Wilson trade, it seemed that, should the 49ers be willing to unload his contract, and not be stubborn on the return, the 49ers would be able to find a suitor for their quarterback.

Heck, Carson Wentz, who objectively played worse than Garoppolo in 2021 and carried a bigger contract, got traded for a couple of midround selections to the Washington Commanders.

Now, three weeks later, the 49ers are stuck holding their $26.95 million Garoppolo contract without any imminent suitors or draft capital, and seem un-inclined to cut him at the moment.

However, there were some unexpected obstacles along the way.

Nobody could've expected the Deshaun Watson news–it was anticipated that his deposition would get moved back to April 1st, when the Grand Jury would be expected to release a statement regarding his criminal cases. However, his team's motion to delay the deposition was denied, and Watson was cleared of criminal charges on March 11th, just a few days after the Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz news.

Had Watson's news occurred on April 1st, his suitors may not have been as inclined to pursue him, given that they'd have to wait until after free agency without the certainty of acquiring him.

Additionally, the Watson rumors opened up the possibility of a Matt Ryan trade after the Falcons became the rumored favorite to land the former Texans QB. Nobody anticipated Ryan being available this offseason, especially given the dead money charged to the Falcons if they moved him and the fact that they didn't land Watson, but the Falcons ended up trading Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts, which removed yet another suitor from the Garoppolo mix.

But, the biggest obstacle ended up being Garoppolo's shoulder surgery, which interestingly occurred just a week prior to free agency, raising concerns amongst his potential suitors.

Garoppolo's shoulder injury was a confusing phenomenon as it occurred against the Dallas Cowboys in the wild-card round of the playoffs, but the injury was ultimately removed from the injury report ahead of the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams, leaving just the thumb injury that still remained. Ironically, it was the torn UCL that was expected to require surgery in the offseason instead of the shoulder, but the reverse occurred.

Garoppolo initially chose to rehab the shoulder with physical therapy, an acceptable course of action for the type of injury he sustained. However, the timing of the decision to pursue surgery was certainly interesting, given that Garoppolo had just $1.4 million in guaranteed money in 2022, but a $7.5 million injury guarantee should he have been cut while unable to pass a physical.

If Garoppolo was traded, he'd likely earn the entirety of his $27.5 million salary for 2022, as well as a potential extension, because his new team likely would prefer to lower his 2022 cap hit in order to maximize their current window.

If Garoppolo was cut, he would have the $7.5 million injury guarantee in his pocket, as well as the possibility to choose his next destination and earn a relatively high salary in 2022, getting the best of both worlds and having the certainty of getting his money.

But, the quarterback's camp overplayed their hand as well, as they miscalculated the quarterback market, as he almost certainly will not make close to $18 million annually on the open market, meaning the best solution for him to earn the maximum money in 2022 is via a trade, which he hurt with his late surgery.

And, with teams already having concerns over Garoppolo's inability to be on the field during the offseason in a new system due to the injury, there is a good possibility that teams would prefer other safer options in free agency, leaving the 30-year old veteran in the dust, like his current situation.

Garoppolo should not be on the 49ers roster in 2022. The team paid backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld $2 million in guaranteed money, indicating their plans to move forward with Lance and Sudfeld in 2022.

While the 49ers may not have signed free agents with the money acquired via a Garoppolo move, it provides clarity and removes the toxicity regarding the quarterback controversy that clouded the team over the past year. Sharing praise about the quarterback of your future, but also clinging on to a piece of the past doesn't necessarily scream confidence heading into 2022, which sends the wrong message to a team in San Francisco that should be contending for a Super Bowl.

To answer the earlier question—yes, the 49ers overplayed their hand. The situation unfolded as it has due to the 49ers' decisions, but also the Watson surprises and Garoppolo's own camp misread of the market.

And now, the waiting game continues.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

1 Comment

  • BigAl
    Ill tell you this- I would school you in cards. Your falling for okey dokes. Dont listen to a word 49ers say publicly, or any other NFL team. Its politics. Watch their actions A) The 49ers dont want JG and know hes not good enough B) The rest of the league agrees. His salary doesnt match his abilities or ceiling By not having a hand to begin with their only chance was to bluff or hold out to hopefuly create a demand. I mean eventually he will be the best QB available? (Although Nick Foles and Minshew are still out there somewhere, under the radar) I think ppl like you who dont have great player evaluation skills or analysis, ( listing pff grades or any stat isnt the same thing) frame of reference, or familiar with inner workings of successful football teams and what they look for.....All thought the league would want JG, because you guys blamed his coach alot instead of him...Instead of admitting you were wrong, its easier to now say the 49ers bungled it. I could care less what Grant Cohn or Barrows or Fowler say. If a team thinks a qb is good enough, they dont care if hes a sexual predator. So guess what? They dont care about a shoulder injury either
    Mar 25, 2022 at 9:15 AM

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