In the 2022 NFL offseason, many trades changed the league-wide landscape at quarterback position.
It started when Russell Wilson joined the Broncos after a decade with the Seahawks. Then in March, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson and Matt Ryan all moved to new teams to continue their careers. After that, things were quiet for a few months before Baker Mayfield left Cleveland for Carolina to fight for the Panthers starting job.
Now the dust has largely settled and every disgruntled passerby has found a new home for the 2022 NFL season.
Except for Jimmy Garoppolo.
The 49ers quarterback has remained in San Francisco, although the team has announced that Trey Lance will be its starter this season.
It makes sense that the Niners would want to give Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, a starting shot. However, it has created a pretty awkward situation for Garoppolo as the 49ers couldn’t find a suitor for the veteran passer in a trade.
The clock continues to tick on a potential Garoppolo deal as Week 1 of the season draws closer. But with Jimmy G’s trading clock slipping into the 11th hour, there’s reason to believe the preseason could finally result in a move. Here’s why.
MORE: How the Baker Mayfield trade affected Jimmy G’s future with the 49ers
Injuries could create a quarterback need for a team
Let’s start with the obvious when it comes to breaking down a potential Garoppolo trade: Injuries could dramatically change the NFL landscape as both training camp reps and live-game action intensify.
Sure, right now most teams in the NFL know who their starting quarterback will be while the others compete for the job. So many teams feel like they have a plan for the position.
But what happens when that starter misses preseason – or training – and suffers an injury that will sideline him long-term? Then some teams might consider hitting the panic button.
We’ve seen this before, with the most recent notable example being when the Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater to a devastating knee injury during practice on August 30, 2016. Just days after that, the Vikings were desperate enough to send a first-round pick for Sam Bradford to the Eagles. This allowed them to avoid starting Shaun Hill or some guy signing off the street as the team’s #1 quarterback.
The Eagles were uniquely positioned to trade Bradford, their predicted starter, because they had No. 2 overall Carson Wentz in the starting blocks. It mirrors the situation the 49ers have with Garoppolo and Lance, and San Francisco has been vocal about its desire to start Lance in 2022.
Rest assured that John Lynch will be keeping a close eye on quarterback rooms throughout the NFL. When a notable starter goes down or even gets beaten up, Lynch doesn’t hesitate to call and offer Garoppolo.
Jimmy Garoppolo could prove healthy
The health equation goes both ways in Garoppolo’s case. He’s recovering from off-season surgery on his throwing shoulder and that may have been part of what stalled any potential trade.
Garoppolo passed his physical and avoided being put on an injury list ahead of training camp.
And per NFL Network’s Ian RapoportGaroppolo appears to be making ‘good progress’ with his recovery, although it is not yet complete.
When we saw him, he looked good throwing the ball onto the rehab field, but not quite 100 percent. [He] has yet to build up the stamina in his arm before it can be fully and finally cleared.
While Rapoport speculated that Garoppolo was “a few weeks” away from clearance, John Lynch has stated that Garoppolo has been cleared for full exercise; He just doesn’t do this with the 49ers as he waits for a trade.
That could be a problem for any potential trade with Garoppolo as he doesn’t have an opportunity to show he’s perfectly healthy if he doesn’t play in preseason. It seems unlikely that he would be suitable for the 49ers given that he doesn’t train with them.
Still, Garoppolo’s ability to practice is good news for any potential trade. It shows he’s making progress, even if potential suitors can’t see it on the field.
IYER: Where Trey Lance ranks among the NFL quarterbacks in 2022
A team might be unhappy with its quarterback competition
Injury issues aside, it’s also entirely possible for a team’s brain trust to look at their quarterback situation and say, “Yeah, we’d better do something if we want to keep our jobs.”
There are a handful of teams in the NFL that hold quarterback contests that could quickly go awry. The Steelers will field one of Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, or Mason Rudolph as a starter; The Panthers feature a gripping battle between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold.
Perhaps worst of all, the Seahawks are choosing between Geno Smith and Drew Lock to replace Russell Wilson.
If any of those three contests emerge without a clear winner, teams could at least consider calling the 49ers and trying to get Garoppolo. After all, the 49ers have been able to reach the Super Bowl and play in the NFC title game two of their last three seasons with him as a starter, allowing him to be a capable No. 1 quarterback.
The other team that could quickly become dissatisfied with their quarterback situation are the Browns. It has been reported that Cleveland could pursue Garoppolo if Deshaun Watson’s suspension is increased.
Cleveland initially appeared content to bowl with Jacoby Brissett, but at the time it was expected Watson’s suspension would be just six games. The NFL is now pushing for a one-year suspension from Watson. With Watson going on a long-term suspension, the Browns would have the cap space they need to acquire Garoppolo to add depth to their quarterback space.
MORE: Why the Browns could be chasing Jimmy Garoppolo
The 49ers are running out of time before the final cuts
The 49ers appear to be waiting for a suitor to show up in the Garoppolo sweepstakes. As Rapoport reports, “there is “no clear trading partner” for the veteran quarterback at this point, even with final roster cuts approaching Aug. 30.
Some may think the 49ers will hold onto Garoppolo beyond cut day, but in reality it will be difficult for the team to justify it. Why? Because according to Spotrac.com, Garoppolo will have a nearly $27 million cap hit in 2022. That’s way too much for a backup, but hardly any of it is guaranteed.
This allows the 49ers to cut Garoppolo to save nearly $25.6 million in cap space. That would allow them additional resources to use to build Lance in 2022 and beyond as unused Cap space rolls over into the next offseason.
The 49ers certainly want to regain an advantage for Garoppolo, although they could justify trimming it for cap savings alone. So the 49ers could lower their asking price on Jimmy G as they make a last-ditch effort to sell him for any type of asset.
It’s unclear what the price of the 49ers has been for Garoppolo so far, but a drop could spark more interest in him and help facilitate a deal. That’s especially true if the 49ers are willing to pay part of Garoppolo’s salary or if he is willing to negotiate a restructured deal with his new team.
Fans will soon see if Garoppolo is traded or released by the 49ers. Either way, it seems like the end of the partnership between the two sides is imminent.