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How the 49ers' Jimmy G Situation Could End

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonContributor IJuly 8, 2022

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 30: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers looks to pass in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game at SoFi Stadium on January 30, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After the Cleveland Browns traded Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers Wednesday, many have wondered how that deal impacts Jimmy Garoppolo's 2022 season outlook.

Only two teams had been connected to Mayfield, the Panthers and Seattle Seahawks, though NFL Network's Ian Rapoport disputed reports that the latter club had a strong interest in the former Browns quarterback. According to The News Tribune's Gregg Bell, the Seahawks planned to have a quarterback competition between Geno Smith and Drew Lock all along.

With the quarterback seats filled across the league, the San Francisco 49ers don't have any potential trade suitors for Garoppolo, or do they? Is it time to cut him and most of his $27 million cap hit as the coaching staff prepares Trey Lance to start in the upcoming campaign?

Not so fast.

In the coming days or weeks, the 49ers should reach out to the Browns. If the league suspends Deshaun Watson for several games or perhaps the entire 2022 season, Jacoby Brissett would be in line to start under center.

Watson's disciplinary hearing for alleged sexual assault and misconduct involving 26 cases with women (masseuses) concluded last week. According to Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal, the NFL will push for an indefinite suspension.

With Watson's short-term future unclear, the Browns can bridge the gap between the present and their starting quarterback's return to action. Garoppolo has more big-game experience than Brissett, having started in six playoff games including a Super Bowl two years ago.

Garoppolo is on the mend from shoulder surgery, but he's scheduled to throw this month, per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. The Browns can bring him in as a viable option to start at some point during the upcoming campaign.

Per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Rapoport, the Panthers gave up a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick for Mayfield, and they'll pay him $4.9 million for 2022. Per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, the Browns will pay Mayfield $10.5 million, and he agreed to trim about $3.5 million from the base salary of his rookie contract.

Though Garoppolo has a 31-14 record as a starter for the 49ers, he shouldn't cost that much more than Mayfield because of his spotty availability and low-volume production.

Garoppolo has fewer career starts than Mayfield (47-59) with more than six starts in just two out of eight campaigns. He hasn't thrown for 4,000 yards or eclipsed 27 passing touchdowns in a single term. Lastly, his QBR has dropped every year since 2019.

San Francisco may not receive much in return for Garoppolo, but something is better than nothing. As for the Browns, they have $48.5 million in cap space, which allows them the financial flexibility to roll the dice on a battled-tested quarterback. From Garoppolo's perspective, he would have a chance to run a viable offense that features a strong offensive line, four-time Pro Bowl wideout Amari Cooper, athletic pass-catching tight end David Njoku and a pair of productive running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. A deal could work out for all parties involved.

If the Browns choose to put their faith in Brissett, the 49ers should hold Garoppolo through training camp because injuries could put teams in desperate situations for a quarterback.

With that said, head coach Kyle Shanahan floated the idea that Garoppolo could remain on the roster in 2022. That scenario raises questions about how the team views Lance's progression. Why would the 49ers keep a $27 million backup if they think their young signal-caller is ready to take over the starting job?

At his price tag, Garoppolo seems unlikely to finish the 2022 season with the 49ers in a reserve role. The front office may entertain offers before the trade deadline in a last-minute effort to dump him.

As a midseason trade partner, the New York Jets make sense if Zach Wilson struggles through October. Jets offensive play-caller Mike LaFleur worked with Garoppolo for four years between 2017 and 2020 as the 49ers' passing game coordinator.

Though Gang Green has backup quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Mike White, the front office may look for a new bridge-gap option for 2023 if Wilson doesn't show any progress this year. Flacco and White have contracts that expire next offseason, and the Jets' current regime may only get one more year to right the ship. The team's decision-makers would probably bet on a veteran who's in his prime to save their jobs in that scenario.

As the 49ers play the waiting game, the decision to cut Garoppolo should be a last-resort option.

According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, general manager John Lynch had an offer on the table for Garoppolo.

"As we hear it, 49ers G.M. John Lynch is telling interested teams that he has an offer in hand of two second-round picks for Garoppolo, a player the team acquired in 2017 for one second-round pick. (At least one interested team reacted to the news, we’re told, by concluding that, if the 49ers have two [second]-round picks for Garoppolo, they should take it.)."

Based on what we know about the compensation for Mayfield, Lynch either made a huge mistake to pass on two second-round picks, or he embellished the reported package for Garoppolo.

Of course, rosters have changed over the past four months, but Lynch isn't going to see Garoppolo's trade value increase without injuries across the league. At this point, he'll be fortunate to get a middle-round 2023 pick in exchange for an injury-prone quarterback who's coming off surgery on his throwing arm.

In order to put full confidence behind Lance and show the team a clear direction at quarterback, the 49ers should part ways with Garoppolo before Week 1. If 31 other general managers feel comfortable with their players at the position, San Francisco can cut Garoppolo and save $25.5 million.

As a free agent, Garoppolo fits with three teams.

The New York Giants could sign Garoppolo for a bridge-gap position if they want to turn the page on Daniel Jones, who's in a contract term. Big Blue can try to re-sign the ninth-year veteran next offseason and draft a quarterback to groom behind him in 2023.

San Francisco probably wouldn't trade Garoppolo to a team within the division, but Seattle may be interested in him if Smith and Lock fail to establish themselves as starters. Like the Giants, the Seahawks don't have a long-term quarterback plan. Garoppolo can be a Band-Aid for them between the 2022 and 2023 campaigns.

Perhaps Garoppolo goes back to the New England Patriots where his career started in 2014. They have Mac Jones, but the second-year quarterback still has more to prove to secure his long-term future with the franchise.

Furthermore, according to ESPN's Seth Wickersham, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn't want to trade Garoppolo to the 49ers in 2017.

"The meeting ended with a clear mandate to Belichick: trade Garoppolo because he would not be in the team's long-term plans, and then, once again, find the best quarterback in the draft and develop him. Belichick was furious and demoralized, according to friends. But in the end, he did what he asks of his players and coaches: He did his job."

Belichick would probably welcome Garoppolo with open arms as a backup plan in case Jones isn't the quarterback of the Patriots' future. On a lesser deal, he's an upgrade over Brian Hoyer and rookie fourth-rounder Bailey Zappe in the primary reserve spot.

With a quiet buyer's market for quarterbacks, the 49ers have no choice but to exercise patience with potential trade partners, but Garoppolo shouldn't fret if the team releases him. He could have a chance to pick the best landing spot for a starting opportunity in 2023.

Team salary cap and player contracts are provided by Over the Cap.

Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.