Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What the Jimmy Garoppolo Deal Means for the 49ers

Aug 29, 2022 at 3:56 PM--

Jimmy Garoppolo will remain a 49er.

News of a restructured deal, which broke earlier today, confirms that Garoppolo and the 49ers have come to terms on a one-year deal that will make him Trey Lance's backup for the remainder of 2022.

Before today, Garoppolo's pending 2022 salary of nearly $27 million made keeping both him and starting quarterback Trey Lance on the same roster a difficult proposition. The 49ers maneuvered their salary cap to keep Garoppolo in the picture—with restructured deals for George Kittle, Arik Armstead, and the since-released Dee Ford earlier this year. But with the NFL's 53-man roster cutdown looming on August 30, San Francisco faced the challenge of using both extensive salary cap resources and a valuable roster spot to keep Garoppolo in the picture.

Now, however, the 49ers have the best of both worlds.

The most immediate impact of the deal is that it frees up nearly $20 million in salary cap space, which will allow the 49ers to better leverage their financial future in both the near and long term. In more practical terms, they now have space to sign or trade for a veteran interior lineman or two for this year, which will likely be necessary with, effectively, three rookies in Spencer Burford, Aaron Banks, and Jason Poe set to start at the two guard positions between veteran tackles Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey. But it should also allow them in-season flexibility to trade for a star player should a prominent talent like Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner, or Charvarius Ward suffer a major injury. And with Nick Bosa still seeking a contract extension to keep him in San Francisco after this year, rolling over a chunk of additional cap space will make it easier to retain both him and rising talents like Brandon Aiyuk and Dre Greenlaw in future years.

However, the benefit of this reworked deal doesn't end there. Now, with Garoppolo on a significantly more affordable contract, the possibility of an in-season trade to recoup some of the draft capital lost in the Trey Lance trade is now better than ever. Garoppolo's new deal includes a full no-trade clause, which protects both parties from their worst-case scenarios. San Francisco no longer has to entertain the thought of trading or releasing Garoppolo to the quarterback-hungry Seahawks, and Garoppolo has no fear of being shipped off to Washington, whose organizational inadequacies—ranging from sexual harassment scandals to improper medical care to sewage spilling into the stadium—helped sink trade talks earlier this offseason.

How did we get to this point?

After the 2019 season ended in a crushing Super Bowl loss, and Garoppolo's injury-marred 2020 campaign helped scuttle that season, the 49ers began looking for alternatives to upgrade their quarterback position to among the NFL's elite. To that end, the 49ers traded three first-round and two third-round picks, to move up from pick no. 12 to pick no. 3, and selected Trey Lance. Lance was given a brief chance to upend Garoppolo in training camp last year, but given his young age and inexperience, Kyle Shanahan elected to keep Lance on the bench to learn behind Garoppolo. Despite a rough start to the season, Garoppolo helped lead the 49ers to a Wild Card berth with a come-from-behind Week 18 win over the Rams. Despite playing through a severe shoulder injury, Garoppolo led the team through a Wild Card victory over the Cowboys and a wintry Divisional upset of the Packers at Lambeau Field, until narrowly losing out to the Rams in the NFC Championship Game. Despite some inconsistencies, Garoppolo nevertheless cemented himself as an effective quarterback that could lead a team deep into the playoffs in the face of major adversity.

Once the offseason began, the 49ers indicated their desire to trade Garoppolo for a set of draft picks commensurate with a better-than-average quarterback in order to clear the way for Trey Lance. But with the rare availability of superstar talent on the trade market, offers for Garoppolo's services were minimal. Garoppolo decided to undergo shoulder surgery instead of rehabbing the injury, making it unlikely he would have been able to pass a physical until early August. At that point, most quarterback situations were clarified: Denver (acquired Russell Wilson), Indianapolis (acquired Matt Ryan), and Carolina (acquired Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield). With time running out until Garoppolo's nearly-$27 million salary became fully guaranteed, Garoppolo and the 49ers have found common ground that will likely keep him a relevant figure in the league through the next offseason.

If there is any downside to this new deal, it's that the 49ers must continue walking a tightrope that they've navigated for the past year and a half. Had Garoppolo been traded for a Day 1 draft pick, the 49ers' plans for the next two years would have been set in stone for months now. But with Garoppolo still on the roster, the 49ers open themselves up to the possibility of a quarterback controversy if Lance struggles, a decision on whether to trade Garoppolo mid-season, and the potential ramifications of those decisions. The Lance-Garoppolo saga will continue to be the most heated quarterback discussion, if not controversy, since the days of Montana-Young. But ultimately, this is an incredible opportunity for the 49ers franchise. If Kyle Shanahan can continue to cultivate Trey Lance's emerging talent while deftly utilizing Garoppolo's presence, and if John Lynch can dexterously manage the opportunity cost of any upcoming Garoppolo decisions, the 49ers could be the league's most dangerous team this upcoming season. Play it wrong, and the Niners could bite the dust trying to look a gift horse in the mouth.

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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

  • Nickolas Andrade
    What this means is the Niners don't have confidence in either Sudfeld or Purdy to take the reins if Trey gets injured. Jimmy took a deal like Mariotta with the Raiders. It works out for both Jimmy and the Niners. At this late stage Jimmy would have a hard time going into a new organization. More than likely he would sit out the season if he didn't restructure. The Niners followed Farve's advice and got some insurance for a super bowl run.
    Aug 29, 2022 at 8:54 PM

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