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SANTA CLARA, California – The clock began ticking on March 26, 2021, when the San Francisco 49ers swapped the Miami Dolphins for No. 3 in the NFL Draft.
It picked up speed when the Niners used that choice on quarterback Trey Lance on April 29th.
And now, despite quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers’ best efforts to delay the inevitable, the top half of the hourglass is almost out of sand. Aside from a significant price change, his time with the Niners is almost over.
When that happens, it will end a five-year run full of ups and downs and usher in the start of the Lance era.
But before we get there, it’s worth taking a closer look at how we got here, the implications of such a significant change in the game’s main position, and how it could all unfold.
Why is it likely that the 49ers will swap Garoppolo?
The Niners made it clear they were ready to move on from Garoppolo as they swapped three first-round picks and a third-round pick to move up nine spots in the draft for Lance. There were several reasons, but at the top of the list was Garoppolo’s injury history.
For a team that rightly thought it was in a Super Bowl window, the idea of losing another season due to a quarterback game below average was no longer acceptable. Garoppolo missed 13 games with a torn ACL in his left knee in 2018 and 10 more in 2020 due to ankle injuries. In 2021, I missed two matches, one with a torn ligament in my right thumb and another with a calf problem.
“We’ve had Jimmy here for five years and he’s going to play full time in two of those seasons,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And before this year, it was only one out of four years, and it was our big concern that we could not go into another year where he did not make it.”
Of course, injuries are not the only cause of the change. Garoppolo has mostly played in line with league averages in the almost two full seasons in which he was a starter, but his post-season numbers have been overwhelming (four touchdowns, six interceptions and a 49.3 QBR in six games) and his penchant for expensive revenue maintained.
The Niners have been close to winning a Super Bowl with Garoppolo twice – and that counts a lot – but in both defeats after the season, the primary takeaway was that Garoppolo was good enough to knock on the door of a Lombardi trophy, but not good . enough to break through it.
Is there any chance that Garoppolo will stay with the 49ers?
Despite Shanahan and general manager John Lynch alluding to the possibility, it is undoubtedly a long shot. Garoppolo said he “would never close all doors completely,” but sounded like a man heading out to his postseason Zoom news conference Tuesday.
“It’s hard to put all the scenarios into play right now, but I think those things will resolve themselves,” Garoppolo said. “We have to see what happens, I think.”
When does a trade take place?
There is no set deadline, but it makes sense for all parties to try to have something in place before the new league year starts on March 16th. Getting a deal completed before then would allow Niners to know how much room they have for pay ceilings. work with and give the team acquiring Garoppolo a chance to draft a contract extension so it can also handle additional offseason deals.
Trades may not be official until that day, but they can be agreed, which seems like a strong option in this case as it would bring the necessary security to all parties.
What are the wage ceiling consequences of a trade?
Garoppolo is estimated to count $ 26.905 million against the Niners’ ceiling in 2022. Separating from him would save $ 25.505 million with $ 1.4 million in dead money.
The acquiring team would inherit the $ 25.505 million and would likely like to draft an extension first. Another reason why an agreement is implemented sooner rather than later.
Who could be interested?
Among the teams that have a clear need for quarterbacks: Pittsburgh, Washington, Denver, Carolina, New Orleans, Houston and Tampa Bay. Minnesota, Las Vegas and Indianapolis could also decide to make a change.
Depending on what happens to people like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, Garoppolo could be one of the best quarterback options in a market where demand far outweighs supply.
That so many of these teams have playoff-caliber lists with even a middle quarterback should mean a lot of interest to Garoppolo, especially if they can make the necessary contract adjustments.
Although Garoppolo’s no-trade clause is technically active, it will not be when a trade can become official. Still, he will probably have some input on where he lands.
“I just want to go to a place where they will win,” Garoppolo said.
If the Niners follow up on doing right by Garoppolo, a team like the Steelers, coached by Mike Tomlin, a close friend of Shanahan, would make lots of sense.
What do the 49ers get back?
Much of this will depend on who else becomes available, either in trade or free agency, and how the league views what is generally considered a downward year in draft quarterback prospects.
Mike Tannenbaum, ESPN’s NFL front office insider and former New York Jets general manager, believes about a dozen teams will need a quarterback in the offseason, meaning San Francisco could pick up a second or third round for Garoppolo.
It could come with an additional, future choice between mid to late rounds, but that will depend on the number of teams involved in the bidding.
“He’s an incipient NFL quarterback,” Tannenbaum said. “He is not worthy of a first round, but there are many teams that will look at him and say he is upgrading us to the most consistent position.”