The San Francisco 49ers witnessed their season reach a disappointing end following Sunday's 20-17 defeat to their divisional rival Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers held a two-score lead (17-7) entering the fourth quarter, but Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was able to lead a furious comeback en route to confirming his first career Super Bowl appearance. The Rams will meet the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo received the ball back with under two minutes left to play but failed to orchestrate a game-winning drive. Garoppolo had a 3rd-and-long pass batted into the air which was promptly intercepted by Rams linebacker Travin Howard. The Rams took the field in victory formation and officially punched their ticket to Super Bowl LVI.
Garoppolo's future with the franchise hangs in the balance as the 49ers enter a critical offseason. The 49ers essentially committed to North Dakota State signal-caller Trey Lance when general manager Jon Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan traded a plethora of future draft capital in order to position themselves to secure Lance's services.
Garoppolo will undeniably find himself on the trade market. Here are three teams that should consider acquiring Garoppolo this offseason.
The Steelers are entering their first offseason in nearly two decades without Ben Roethlisberger as their quarterback following his retirement. A changing of the guard will occur in Pittsburgh in more ways than one, as long-time general manager Kevin Colbert is set to join Roethlisberger in retirement following the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Fifth-year quarterback Mason Rudolph currently projects as next year's starter, but the Steelers would be wise to add some competition to the fray. Head coach Mike Tomlin understands he needs to receive better quarterback play in 2022 than he did in 2021 if his Steelers hope to contend in a new-look AFC North that features Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson.
The Steelers are unlikely to part with multiple first-round picks in pursuit of an elite quarterback who may find themselves on the move such as Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, or Aaron Rodgers. It's just not the Steelers way.
Garoppolo may be available via trade for a lot less, such as a second-round selection. It qualifies as much more affordable and reasonable terms, and the Steelers should have plenty of interest this offseason.
Head coach Matt Rhule will likely enter the 2022 campaign on the hot seat. Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer must find a quarterback this offseason capable of elevating the Panthers to the next level in what could be a wide-open NFC South should Tom Brady confirm his retirement.
Rhule appointed former New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo as Carolina's next offensive coordinator in what should be viewed as a last-ditch effort to improve an offense that received woeful play from its quarterbacks last season. A trio of quarterbacks in Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, and P.J. Walker received significant playing time under center for the Panthers in 2021 as injuries and poor production forced Rhule to play musical chairs with the most important position on the field.
Garoppolo's reputation may have taken a hit following Sunday's postseason defeat to the Rams, but he undoubtedly represents an upgrade on what Darnold gave the Panthers in 2021. The Panthers would have to get creative with how they allocate their cap space in 2022, as Darnold's fifth-year option will pay him north of $18.8 million in 2022. Acquiring Garoppolo would tie up a significant amount of funds in the quarterback position (barring a Darnold trade), but Rhule must attempt *something* at the QB position this offseason.
General manager Nick Caserio and executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby were both members of the New England Patriots when Garoppolo entered the league as a Patriot via the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Caserio worked as New England's Director of Player Personnel at the time and played a large role in Garoppolo's drafting. Garoppolo routinely received high praise from several high-ranking members of the Patriots' staff before he was reluctantly traded to the 49ers in 2017.
The Texans continue to lean heavily into their Patriots ties. In addition to the presences of Caserio and Easterby, their head coaching vacancy has been consistently linked with several former and current Patriots including ex-Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and current inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo.
Rookie quarterback David Mills performed rather admirably in 2021, but a changing of the guard may request a quarterback of his own choosing, and familiarity often wins out in these situations. Should the Texans continue to morph into the Patriots of the south, look for Garoppolo to be linked with a move to Houston all offseason long.