SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Under contract, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is still a member of the San Francisco 49ers, and somehow, the side has remained faithful throughout the offseason, when they were supposed to part ways in March.
Up to this point, neither the Niners nor Garoppolo have been in a rush to find a solution, largely because Garoppolo’s right shoulder surgery derailed early offseason trade plans. But Garoppolo and the Niners have been reluctant to part ways at the 53-man roster deadline on Aug. 30. Making the first roster would guarantee his salary in terms of cap space.
“I think everyone does [want to find an answer]Coach Kyle Shanahan said: “I think he did great, but it’s the reality of this business. It’s the reality of everything. Sometimes you have to wait for things, and I think he understands that. You always wish it was different, but this is a business and he understands that.”
Garoppolo reported to the start of training camp on Tuesday and passed his physical, which gets the Niners off the hook for the $7.5 million injury guarantee in his contract. He is not practicing with the team, but is participating in a detailed throwing program that will prepare him for when he lands elsewhere.
Garoppolo has permission from the team’s facility to come and go as he pleases. He mostly does his recovery and throwing program and then gets up for the day. On the opening day of camp, he was seen in the team’s weight room and was seen doing some running and conditioning on the sidelines, but did not stop for practice or participate in meetings.
“Jimmy is working hard, he’s getting the buzz off the ball,” Shanahan said. “I don’t want to tell you guys everything that’s on my mind, but you know when I say we have to do what’s right for this organization. And we’re going to do everything we can to do that. It’s as good as possible for Jimmy, while always doing what’s right for this organization at the same time.”
With DeBo Samuel’s contract up, all eyes turned to Garoppolo’s situation. Here’s what we know and what’s next:
How long does the transaction take?
A combination of shoulder surgery and the number of better and healthier quarterbacks available in the offseason made it difficult for the 49ers to trade. When Garoppolo opted for surgery in March and began throwing in late June, most of the open quarterback spots were filled.
Despite speculation that the Niners were holding on to Garoppolo because of second-year running back Trey Lance’s doubts, Shanahan made it clear that wasn’t the case when the team announced Lance as the No. 1 quarterback on the day the team reported to camp.
Will Garoppolo play in the 49ers’ preseason games?
There is little reason to believe Garoppolo will practice or play for the Niners again. Shanahan said as much, and there are financial problems if Garoppolo suffers another injury. He is scheduled to count $26.9 million against the 2022 salary cap with a base salary of $24.2 million. However, no amount is guaranteed.
But Garoppolo’s salary could be guaranteed if he were hurt again, which is why Shanahan threw out so many scenarios that he would play for the 49ers again.
“I’m not going to give away anything, so yeah, I’m sure I can come up with the situation,” Shanahan said. But I think I’ve said this before and I still feel that way.
What are some potential landing spots?
The prospect list narrowed significantly in the offseason, with Baker Mayfield finally being traded from the Cleveland Browns to the Carolina Panthers.
Incidentally, the most likely landing spot appears to be Cleveland, although that will depend on the suspension — and the length of the suspension — for quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Browns will give Garoppolo a chance to join a contender and adjust his value and provide the Browns with a proven option.
The Seattle Seahawks could also be an option, though their position in the NFC West complicates a deal. But there is precedent for a quarterback trade in the division, led by Shanahan. When Kyle and Mike Shanahan were in Washington, they traded for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Such offers may be difficult to cancel but not impossible.
Teams that could be interested in Garoppolo at a discount (both in terms of trade and financial compensation) include the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants and Houston Texans.
“We’re not trying to kid ourselves or play any games,” Shanahan said. “I think the whole league understands that. But you can’t just make one of the best pitchers in the league available to the world for no reason.”
The notion that the 49ers should eat his salary the same way the Panthers did with Mayfield doesn’t hold much water without Mayfield’s salary being warranted. It makes sense for Garoppolo to rework his deal in a trade, even if it gives him the chance to earn some guaranteed money, which he currently has none of.
Should the Niners finally release Garoppolo?
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch stressed that Garoppolo would not be given away for free. But this has been delayed for far too long and now the doomsday is on the horizon. Barring injury, the only way Garoppolo’s salary is guaranteed in 2022 is to make the first 53-man roster on Aug. 30.
If a trade doesn’t come together by then, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers keeping Garoppolo at a high guaranteed salary.
Garoppolo, meanwhile, has refrained from asking for his release yet, but the longer he waits to join a new team, the less likely he is to win a job or play at his next destination.