When the San Francisco 49ers swung a massive deal to move up in the first round of the draft, it signaled in the end of the Jimmy Garoppolo era. Not even 14 months after Garoppolo started in the Super Bowl, the team is now willing to bring a new franchise quarterback on board and in turn move on from the quarterback.
There are some questions, though: Who will the 49ers pick at No. 3 overall? When will Garoppolo inevitably leave San Francisco? And, where will he end up?
As far as that third question is concerned, one potential landing spot keeps popping up: the New England Patriots, who originally brought Garoppolo into the league as a second-round draft selection in 2014.
Speculation about a potential reunion are nothing new and have gone as far back as that aforementioned Super Bowl that saw San Francisco fall to the Kansas City Chiefs — in part because of Garoppolo and the offense being unable to hold onto a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. With him now on his potential way out, the “Garoppolo to New England” trade rumor mill has started working again.
Peter King of NBC Sports, for example, floated the idea of a reunion on Monday:
It won’t surprise me if the Niners make Jimmy Garoppolo more available than he’s been. In other words, instead of trying to get a first-round pick for him, maybe considering taking a two for him. I wonder if the Patriots would deal the 46th pick in the draft, or their second-rounder in 2022, for their old friend.
The idea of bringing Garoppolo back has some intrigue from New England’s point of view. The 29-year-old showed considerable promise during his stint as a Patriot, but eventually was traded to San Francisco midway through the 2017 season: with Tom Brady showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon moving on from the young quarterback was the best course of action at the time.
A lot has transpired since then, though, and with the Patriots in need of a long-term solution at quarterback Garoppolo might become a target again.
This is where the “HOWEVAH!” comes in, though.
Let’s just take a look at the economics behind a trade. The 49ers’ reported asking price is a first-round draft choice, and it is highly doubtful the Patriots would be willing to pay that to get a quarterback aboard that has played just 28 of a possible 51 games over the last three years. Even if San Francisco, as mentioned by King, moves its price down there are still considerable questions tied to Garoppolo’s availability.
That is something 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan himself pointed out during a press conference on Monday.
“The biggest thing with Jimmy is his injuries,” he said. “It’s been very tough for us when he’s been hurt. This happened two of these three years. That’s where it starts. Jimmy knows that. I’ve been very up front with him with everything.”
While Garoppolo has looked like a quality starter when on the field, the process of actually getting there was a difficult one for him ever since he left the Patriots. As a side note: he only started two out of a possible four games in New England during Tom Brady’s suspension in 2016; he hurt his shoulder in the second contest and was unable to play the next two games before Brady’s return.
The asking price is just one part of the economics. There is also Garoppolo’s contract which has two more years left with cap hits of $26.4 million and $27 million, respectively.
Not all of that would transfer to the Patriots in case of a theoretical trade, but he would still have a cap number of $23.6 million this year even if moved. With New England currently $15.6 million under the cap, according to Miguel Benzan, adding Garoppolo via trade would be tied to a contract restructure.
Would Garoppolo and the Patriots both be willing to make such a restructure work? It seems possible, but the question about the compensation for the 49ers still remains.
Then, there are Shanahan’s statements about Garoppolo. While they might have to be taken with a grain of salt, he has made no indication that San Francisco is planning to part ways with him just because a new QB will be brought in soon. His statements last month and earlier this week both illustrated this again.
“It’s going to be hard to find a quarterback that gives us a better chance to win than Jimmy right now, especially even a rookie in the draft. Now, if someone wanted something for that and it can make your team better in a lot of other ways, you listen to that, but also depends on how good you feel about that rookie. We’re not there yet right now and odds are, we probably won’t be. That’s why we’re happy that we don’t have to be that way,” Shanahan said in March.
“We’ve got a guy in here who we know we can win with, a guy that our players love, that we love and we’re excited to have him this year and we’re excited to have a hell of a quarterback right behind him learning for when the time is his.”
Shanahan’s public stance on moving Garoppolo had not changed by this week: if the right offer comes along he is available, but trading him is not a priority for the club at the moment.
“I feel very fortunate taking a rookie quarterback that we do have a guy like Jimmy,” he said. “We didn’t sign a guy who’s capable of or has the history of being a starter right away. We have a guy, every time he’s been a starter, he’s played at a high level. So to have that with Jimmy with having a rookie quarterback gives us a lot of leeway into this. I’m not going to set anything into stone, but I know that’s the situation that would be hard to get rid of.
“When you take a rookie quarterback and you have a veteran like Jimmy who we know can win with, just to move on from that is something that’s not easy to do. That is a good situation for us and I think that is something that’ll be important to us this year.”
So, where does that leave the Patriots and trading for Garoppolo? Basically right where they were earlier this month when we wrote this about a potential reunion in light of New England’s rumored interest in its former QB:
Considering the 49ers’ insistence at keeping him, plus the compensation aspect for both the team and the player himself, it appears unlikely New England would do a trade at the moment. Things can change quickly, though, and San Francisco and Garoppolo himself might be more willing to make a move after fully evaluating its draft options at No. 3.
At the end of the day, however, it seems more likely that the Patriots’ former second-round pick will stay put in 2021: New England will probably not be willing to make a big enough offer for the 49ers to reconsider their current position and move on from Garoppolo.
Nothing can categorically be ruled out in the NFL, of course. That said, an injury-prone quarterback who might cost a second-round draft pick just to be brought in might not be the long-term solution Patriots owner Robert Kraft was talking about.
Obviously, though, that won’t stop the rumors — at least until New England makes a move for a quarterback prospect in the draft.