Reassessing Jimmy G’s Landing Spots as Trey Lance Takes Over, NFL Training Camps Open

Brent SobleskiJuly 29, 2022

San Francisco 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo thorws during the first half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
AP Photo/Aaron Gash

The words everyone needed to hear finally came out of Kyle Shanahan's mouth.

Everyone already knew the San Francisco 49ers were transitioning from Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey Lance as starting quarterback. But confirmation is the first step toward moving on, and the franchise's head coach uttered the obvious for the first time.

"We have moved on to Trey," Shanahan told reporters Tuesday. "We think Jimmy would have been traded if the surgery didn't happen. He needed to do it; there's no ill will there at all. It's good to see that he is healthy, but now it's about seeing how all this will end up.

"We'll always think about Jimmy. He knows we have a team to think about too. We'll work together to find the best thing for that."

With the proclamation, the Niners can officially go about severing ties with their starter of the last four-and-a-half seasons. The organization granted permission for Garoppolo's representation to seek a trade last week, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The two sides had to wait because the quarterback chose to have surgery on his throwing shoulder in March. As Shanahan noted, the correction was necessary. Now that Garoppolo is getting up to speed after starting to throw earlier this month, he is an attractive option for multiple teams.

Financially, Garoppolo's deal has a $24.2 million base salary this year.

If San Francisco releases the quarterback before the start of the regular season, the team saves $25.6 million toward this year's salary cap, which can be rolled over to next year or used as part of other contract negotiations. The 49ers aren't forced to make this move since they can still afford both quarterbacks, which gives them leverage in a potential trade scenario, but not much.

A suitor can propose a trade with the intention of renegotiating Garoppolo's deal to lessen that 2022 figure to fit under the salary cap and possibly give the quarterback some guaranteed money since none is left on his contract.

Garoppolo will draw interest from all over the league as a strong veteran backup option if released. But these three landing spots are best-suited for the 30-year-old veteran to immediately step in and serve as the starter this fall.

Houston Texans

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 01: Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine on March 1, 2022, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A connection to the Houston Texans is glaringly obvious because Nick Caserio is the team's general manager. Caserio previously served as the New England Patriots director of player personnel and helped evaluate and then select Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 draft.

Houston is also without a set option behind center.

The team said all the right things this offseason about Davis Mills and giving him a fair shot. To be fair, the 2021 third-round pick played well above expectations when thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie. He showed composure in the pocket, made tough throws and improved as the season progressed. According to Pro Football Focus, Davis posted the best accuracy percentage among the '21 crop of quarterbacks.

"Mills just doesn’t have enough help around him, but I do like him and his coaches, and he knows how to play the position," a source told PFF's Doug Kyed.

The supporting cast hasn't gotten much better this year, though the Texans did improve their offensive interior to help with overall protection.

Houston's pursuit of Garoppolo comes down to one factor: Do the Texans believe they can compete sooner rather than later? Those on the outside can easily argue they're one of the league's worst teams. Mills presents some potential, but Garoppolo can be a steadying presence for a franchise still in transition.

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith throws a pass during NFL football training camp Thursday, July 28, 2022, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

"Pump the brakes. The 49ers aren't going to trade a starting quarterback to another team in the division."

If that's your first reaction, ask yourself the following question: Is San Francisco afraid to face the quarterback it chose to dump after drafting his replacement a year ago?

Think of this as a possible Donovan McNabb-to-Washington scenario.

Yes, Garoppolo is a proven starter. At his best, he's a mid-tier signal-caller. For the Seattle Seahawks, who feature Geno Smith and Drew Lock as their top two options, that's a significant upgrade. For the 49ers, they shouldn't feel threatened by a Garoppolo-led Seahawks squad.

Seattle can also slow-play this situation like others around the league. Because the Seahawks already have Smith as the temporary QB1—a veteran they are comfortable with, as he has been in the system for three years—they can wait to see if San Francisco releases Garoppolo and then sign him relatively cheaply as a free agent.

The real question in Seattle doesn't have anything to do with Garoppolo at all. Is the franchise going to fully embrace a rebuild and aim for a top pick in next year's draft, or will head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider try to win now after trading Russell Wilson?

If the latter is the answer, Garoppolo is the team's best opportunity to compete in the short term.

Atlanta Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - JULY 27: Marcus Mariota #1 of Atlanta Falcons runs through a drill with Desmond Ridder #4 during a training camp practice on July 27, 2022 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons may have the league's worst roster. If not, it's pretty darn close. The moment they chose to trade Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts and eat the largest dead cap hit in NFL history, the direction of the franchise wasn't in question.

Atlanta isn't tanking, per se. But it could easily end up with next year's No. 1 overall pick.

Marcus Mariota and third-round rookie Desmond Ridder don't inspire much hope for a quick resurgence. Maybe Mariota will finally find the magic that made him the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2015 after returning to Arthur Smith's offense or Ridder will get his shot and surprise with his performance. Neither scenario seems too likely, though.

Last season, the Falcons remained competitive primarily because of Ryan. The veteran still played relatively well despite a suspect supporting cast, and the squad somehow managed seven wins.

The additions of Bryan Edwards via trade and eighth overall draft pick Drake London make the skill positions more tantalizing with standout tight end Kyle Pitts.

Those targets should intrigue Garoppolo and make Atlanta an interesting landing spot, even if the Falcons are still trying to establish an identity.

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.