The Cleveland Browns may consider trading for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, per a stunning report from Mary Kay Cabot. Cleveland’s interest in Garoppolo allegedly hinges on the outcome for would-be starting quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Earlier this month, Watson was suspended six games by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson following an investigation into his off-field behavior. The league officially appealed Watson’s suspension on Aug. 3. Former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey will oversee the league’s appeal in pursuit of a year-long suspension for Watson, commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed earlier this week. Should the league hand down such a ruling, the Browns should make an honest effort to acquire Garoppolo.
The Browns have immediate postseason aspirations. That was obviously the driving force behind their controversial decision to acquire Watson in the first place and sign him to a fully-guaranteed contract worth $230 million. Garoppolo, who has taken the 49ers to one Super Bowl and another NFC Championship Game in recent seasons, is a better Plan B than current in-house option Jacoby Brissett. The Browns have built a roster worthy of maintaining postseason hopes even if Watson’s absence would limit their ceiling.
Awaiting the results of the league’s appeal of Watson’s suspension makes sense before Browns general manager Andrew Berry decides how to proceed at quarterback. If Watson’s initial six-game suspension holds up, the Browns could conceivably survive through a weak part of their schedule with Brissett overseeing a run-heavy approach under center. If Watson is suspended for an entire season, however, Brissett is unlikely to spearhead a postseason push throughout the course of a 17-game season. Garoppolo would increase their playoff hopes in such a scenario.
Garoppolo comes with his warts, but few would argue Brissett is a better quarterback. The Browns improved their passing game by acquiring Amari Cooper and drafting David Bell in the offseason. The one-two backfield punch of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt remains in place. Garoppolo is no stranger to operating an offense that leans on production from its running backs. Kevin Stefanski’s offensive scheme is different from Kyle Shanahan’s, but it wouldn’t take long for Garoppolo to understand his assignment. The Browns wouldn’t ask Garoppolo to consistently drop back on 35-plus occasions on a game-by-game basis.
Garoppolo’s contract adds a difficult layer to potential discussions with the Browns. Garoppolo is entering a contract year where he’s set to earn a base salary of $24.2 million, per Spotrac. Garoppolo’s representation would prefer to accept a trade to a destination that would be willing to negotiate a long-term extension for his services. The Browns probably wouldn’t have interest in engaging in such discussions, being that Garoppolo is likely viewed as a one-year bridge option should Watson have to serve a 12-month suspension. Watson remains Cleveland’s quarterback of the future no matter the immediate outcome.
Alternatively, Garoppolo is swiftly running out of options with Week 1 soon marking its arrival. Accepting a one-year reworked proposal from the Browns may present itself as his best option for 2022. Enjoying a career-best season while surrounded by a strong Browns supporting cast could ignite Garoppolo’s free-agent market in 2023. The 49ers would likely have to eat a large chunk of Garoppolo’s salary in all scenarios given their overall lack of leverage. Luckily the Browns currently possess a league-high $46.3 million in cap space, per Spotrac. It’s a situation both sides could figure out if necessary.
The Browns are anxiously awaiting news regarding Watson’s outlook. Garoppolo is a better bridge-type option than Brissett is. Should Watson miss a full season, acquiring Garoppolo would be a wise decision.