Jimmy Garoppolo is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL. He is also one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league.
Garoppolo remained as the starter in the 2021 season over No. 3 overall rookie Trey Lance in the 49ers’ return to the playoffs. Garoppolo has rebounded well from a missed 2020 season due to injury to help lead San Francisco to Super Bowl 54 two years ago.
But with Lance’s first-round youth pedigree looming next season, the 49ers have a decision to make with Garoppolo. Either they keep him as a contingency for Lance in the final year of his contract and accept a $26.4 million salary cap, or they trade or release him for $25.5 in cap relief.
Although going the latter route seems like a no-brainer, the 49ers may feel that Lance, only 21, needs another backup prep before starting full-time. At the same time, there will be several QB-needy teams willing to make a reasonable deal for Garoppolo, so lean toward him leaving San Francisco.
Here’s an early look at Garoppolo’s best fits in the 2022 offseason:
Ranking of Jimmy Garoppolo’s landing spots
1. New Orleans Saints
Kyle Shanahan, Garoppolo’s coach in San Francisco, has an offense almost related to the one Sean Payton runs for the Saints. Taysom Hill turns 32 in August and there is no certainty that he or Jameis Winston will keep the job, with the added concern of durability issues for both. The Saints will consider QB i in the 2022 draft, but since they picked late first (No. 18 overall), a veteran route might be better, as they can win big again now if they improve the passing game, given their career and strengths. defensive.
The Saints still need to work out more cap issues, but a system-savvy QB like Garoppolo would be nice, allowing them to use a first-rounder on a needed new No. 1 wide receiver. It would be a quick study for Patyon after clicking with Shanahan and also Josh McDaniels in New England.
2. Denver Broncos
Unlike the Saints, the Broncos are in the process of finding a new coach and offensive scheme, but they won’t go into next season with a combination of Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock as their top choice again. Denver is another team loaded with talent and can support Garoppolo with a good offensive line, a solid running game with Javonte Williams and a nice combination of wide receivers and tight ends.
The Broncos with the No. 9 overall pick are better positioned than the Saints in the first round to land their QB target of choice. For free agency, his cap space is also very favorable and he could take on Garoppolo in the short term at market value with no problem. Denver has a tough decision to make about how and who, but Garoppolo should have some consideration among possible solutions.
3. Washington football team
Washington is a better position for a top quarterback in the draft than New Orleans, taking No. 11 and two spots behind Denver. Taylor Heinicke shone as plans for the Washington Bridge faded with Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hip injury. But between a veteran journeyman and a limited youngster, the stability of Garoppolo, who turns just 31 in November, should have immediate middle ground appeal for Ron Rivera and Scott Turner.
New Orleans, Denver and Washington showed they weren’t too far from a playoff spot, with the quarterback holding them back. They’re ranked here, but they’re all pretty solid, including options for Garoppolo after San Francisco.
4. Houston Texans
The Texans, with former Patriots staffer Nick Caserio as their general manager, are the only bottom-feed team to watch Garoppolo, the Patriots’ former replacement for Tom Brady. Third-round rookie Davis Mills shined enough to get a broader look as a potential long-term replacement for Deshaun Watson in Year 2, but the Texans would be smart to create veteran competition with a solid contingency.
Houston appears 50-50 on whether using the No. 3 overall pick (its only first-round pick) on a QB is a worthy investment, given that the pass-rusher or offensive lineman is best matched with the best available. Caserio should be intrigued that Garoppolo is a competent and experienced jumper. Garoppolo should see a tight contract in that case and the Texans can create enough salary-cap relief by shedding some expensive veteran starters, led by faded left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Garoppolo won’t play in Canada in 2022, but he could be playing for Canada: Matt, the Steelers’ offensive coordinator. Pittsburgh, for now, picks No. 20 as the AFC playoff team, at which point, barring a trade, up to four QB targets can go off the board. The Steelers are also poised to win big now under Mike Tomlin, with obvious improvements to the offensive line and run defense in the offensive season. They have more than $41 million in cap space.
The Steelers could hope for another rookie who can help them win a lot of games like Roethlisberger did in 2004. Or they can also think about how far Garoppolo can take a team that has solid pieces overall elsewhere, like he did with the 49ers in 2019.
6. New York Jets
Let’s mention here first teams that don’t make sense. The Vikings and Colts already have their expensive veteran situations. The Panthers and Lions are better off keeping their current bridges, assuming they both target QBs in the first round. The Browns should stick with the Baker Mayfield re-sign instead of giving up something for Garoppolo. The Bears, Garoppolo’s “hometown” team, will bet on Justin Fields in Year 2.
So why the Jets, soon to be second-year first-round QB Zach Wilson? Between Mike White, Joe Flacco and Josh Johnson, they had a carousel of backups for offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Garoppolo knows the system well, as LaFleur was Shanahan’s passing game coordinator in San Francisco, working with Garoppolo from 2017 to 2020, plus coach Robert Saleh was the former defensive coordinator for the 49ers.
The big questions that arise are whether Garoppolo would accept a wait-and-see situation like Ryan Tannehill’s Tennessee and whether the Jets, even with their large projected cap space, can find a contract that works for a Wilson contingency. But there is no denying that it fits very well and cannot be ruled out.