It’s been just over a week since the 2022 league year began, and we’ve already seen a ton of quarterbacks change teams. Russell Wilson is a Bronco, Carson Wentz is a Commander, Matt Ryan is a Colt, and Deshaun Watson is a Brown—and that’s without mentioning free agent signings like Mitch Trubisky (Steelers) and Marcus Mariota (Falcons). One very notable quarterback who hasn’t changed teams is the San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo.
Simply put, San Francisco cannot go into 2022 with Garoppolo still on their roster if they truly believe Trey Lance is their guy going forward.
When the offseason began, it didn’t seem like a question of if Garoppolo would be traded but when. Lance, still quite raw as a player, sat behind Garoppolo for almost all of 2021 with the expectation that he’d take over as the starter in 2022. That would give Lance some extra time to develop while Garoppolo increased his potential trade value.
The 49ers traded four picks—including 2022 and 2023 first-rounders—to move up nine spots to the third overall pick in last year’s draft to draft the North Dakota State quarterback. That level of investment certainly suggested the 49ers had a lot of faith that Lance could be the franchise’s definitive answer at quarterback in the future. Having him sit for yet another year might portray a lack of faith in the young quarterback, so moving Garoppolo has to remain San Francisco’s top priority this offseason.
Of course, a big issue for the 49ers is that the quarterback market moved so quickly early on, so most teams that needed a new starting signal-caller have filled the position already. The Colts, Commanders, Falcons, Steelers, Browns, and Broncos have all made a change, and the Buccaneers and Packers held on to Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, respectively. That pretty much leaves the Carolina Panthers as the only legitimate trade candidate for Garoppolo. While the Seahawks could also use an upgrade at quarterback, they’re within the division. Whether the Panthers would be interested in trading for Garoppolo at all is another question. They hold the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, so they may draft a quarterback, and they might be leery of trading for the 49ers’ starter anyway.
A big wrench in any potential trade plans is the fact that Garoppolo needed surgery to repair the labrum in his throwing shoulder. Any surgery is likely to make potential trade suitors wary, and that’s especially the case for a quarterback owed $25.5 million next season.
Those factors make the current situation for the 49ers especially hard to navigate. It’s a bad look if Garoppolo is still around in 2022 since it gives the sense that the team doesn’t have faith in Lance. It would also sting if San Francisco got stuck paying Garoppolo in 2022 just for him not to start. As it stands now though, not many teams still need an upgrade at quarterback, and of those that do, none seem comfortable making the financial and potential draft capital investment in the 49ers’ signal-caller.
If the 49ers truly want Lance to be their guy, Garoppolo can’t be on the roster in 2022. If no team is willing to trade for him though, that might mean San Francisco will have to cut Garoppolo instead.
On one hand, cutting the quarterback would be an unfortunate outcome in the sense that it leaves the 49ers without any immediate return. Where they might have been able to get some draft capital compensation in a trade, cutting him won’t provide any help in that department. It would hurt a little extra knowing any team could swoop in to sign Garoppolo for less than what he’d otherwise be owed and without having to give up anything else.
On the other hand, that route wouldn’t be all doom and gloom. Cutting the signal-caller at any point this offseason would immediately give the 49ers $25.5 million in cap space. That would then allow San Francisco to double down on their belief in Lance as their future by continuing to build around him with more cash freed up.
Regardless of how the 49ers resolve Garoppolo’s situation, it’s unlikely he’ll be on the roster for the 2022 season. It’s time for San Francisco to move into the Trey Lance era, and cutting ties with Garoppolo one way or another will make it official.