49ers embark on their quarterback quest for 2021

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks
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The fact that the 49ers reportedly made an attempt to trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford confirms what many have suspected for months. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo entering the outer years of his contract, with a relatively minimal cap charge associated with trading or cutting him, all options are on the table as the 49ers determine the identity of their quarterback for 2021.

The 49ers have only $2.8 million in unallocated signing-bonus charges arising from the contract given to Garoppolo three years ago. He has a $24.1 million base salary for next season, none of which is currently guaranteed — and none of which becomes guaranteed at any point before the start of the regular season.

Thus, the 49ers can treat Garoppolo like any other potentially available quarterback option that may be available to them. Whether it’s pursuing a free agent who may become available or whether it’s trading for an established option at the position, the 49ers can do whatever they want to do.

Last year, they considered adding quarterback Tom Brady. They decided to stick with Garoppolo. The fact that Brady has vaulted the Buccaneers in his first year with the team to the Super Bowl surely has the 49ers wondering whether they made the right call.

Yes, the rash of injuries sustained by the 49ers this year would have made it very difficult for the 49ers to thrive even with Brady. Still, Garoppolo once again failed to show the kind of durability that characterizes true franchise quarterbacks like Brady, who but for a fluke low hit in Week One of the 2008 season would be in the midst of a two-decade streak of showing up and performing, each and every week.

Garoppolo has missed 23 games in three full seasons with the 49ers. Although he performs well when able to play, the inability to play becomes a major factor in the ability of the 49ers to justify continuing to ride with Garoppolo.

So what will they do? A trade offer for Deshaun Watson remains possible, although the price will surely be high. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, the player whom 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan assumed the team would sign as a free agent in 2018 but for the Garoppolo trade, could be available in a trade. It’s not news that Shanahan would be interested in the player he and his father drafted nine years ago. The news will arise if/when the Vikings decide to move on from Cousins — and if/when the 49ers decide to absorb a contract that pays $56 million fully guaranteed over the next two years.

The Vikings first would have to be willing to trade Cousins. Before the Vikings would do that, they’d need to be willing to absorb $20 million in dead money for 2021. They’d also need to be confident that they have another viable option at quarterback.

If not Cousins, who would the Vikings quarterback be? Cam Newton? Andy Dalton? Mitchell Trubisky? Ryan Fitzpatrick? Jacoby Brissett? Jameis Winston? Alex Smith?

Minnesota could try to trade for Deshaun Watson, if he’d be willing to play there. But that would require multiple first-round draft picks (probably three) and maybe more.

Although Cousins has played well during three seasons in Minnesota, the Vikings have only one playoff appearance during his tenure with the team. However, absent someone in whom they’d have sufficient faith for 2021, they’d potentially be taking a step back, especially since they currently have no offensive coordinator.

The Vikings made an all-in move when they signed Cousins. There’s no similar all-in move they could make this year, unless they go ultra-all-in for Watson. Would a trade for someone like Sam Darnold make a difference in a year that likely will entail coach Mike Zimmer and G.M. Rick Spielman inching toward the hot seat? The Vikings pick too low to get one of the top incoming rookies, and placing full faith in a first-year player would entail significant risk.

From a continuity standpoint, especially if Klint Kubiak becomes the next offensive coordinator, it makes sense to keep Cousins. Barring a highly-unlikely decision by Tom Brady to ask for a trade or a release by the Buccaneers and a willingness by Brady to continue his career in his mother’s native state, there’s no obviously viable option who will help the Vikings do enough in 2021 to keep the power structure in place for 2022.

Even a trade with the 49ers that would bring Jimmy Garoppolo to Minnesota wouldn’t be enough to ensure that the Vikings will be competitive. Although there’s no reason to think the Vikings will suddenly become dominant if Cousins gets a fourth season, putting all eggs in a different basket could be the quickest way to get all of those eggs busted.

Thus, even though plenty of Vikings fans may be ready to move on, the coaching staff and the front office need to keep Cousins, if they hope to keep at bay the possibility of the Vikings pressing the reset button after the coming season. Only Cousins minimizes that risk.

By 2022, things could be very different. But 2022 may as well be 2032, as far as the Vikings are concerned. Despite the hard ceiling that seems to reside over Minnesota’s chances to contend at a high level in 2021, the folks who need to get as close to that ceiling as possible next season likely will decide that Cousins gives them the best chance to do so.

So where does that leave the 49ers? That remains to be seen, as the coaching carousel begins to spin, thanks to the kick start that the Saturday night news of a Lions-Rams quarterback trade has provided.

Regardless of where things end up, it’s obvious that the 49ers already have begun to explore all available options.

71 responses to “49ers embark on their quarterback quest for 2021

  1. Weren’t you saying a week or two ago the 49ers should trade for cousins? And now you’re saying it’s not possible?

  2. Cousins’ numbers are good but he often doesn’t come through in big games. I wouldn’t trade him for Jimmy G especially if 49ers have to give up draft picks or eat dead salary $.

    But Jimmy G is way too fragile. Even the year he was scheduled to start when Brady was suspended, he got hurt after two games.

  3. They have him. They found him. His name is Jimmy Garoppolo.

    All local Bay Area sport writers state Lynch never seriously pursued Stafford (and subsequently Watson) as their asking price was too exorbitant. Drafting and signing O-lineman in Free Agency will allow Jimmy G to succeed again, although I expect them to ask him to restructure his contract regardless.

  4. Thank you for stirring up the Kirk Cousins trade on the national level that Minnesota has been talking about all season. The real issue is Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman fighting for their jobs and looking short term, to the detriment of the team. However, they started this whole mess first by thinking short term and signing Kirk Cousins and settling for mediocrity. Which will then lead to being shown the door. So, they need to find a real QB ala Deshaun Watson and give themselves a real shot for 5 years and more rather than settling for 1 more wasted year under Cousins. Do it.

  5. Dak Prescott needs to sit up and pay attention. He has had the same amount of success as everyone mentioned in this article. Why he or his brother think he is worth $40 million a year is insane. I would love for the 9ers or any team give 2 #1’s to Dallas and see how he does……


    2 WATSON- Rickey williams or Herschel Walker trade…but not Bosa or Warner (or you basically turn the 49ers into the texans. Great O; horrible D)

    3 FITZMAGIC and draft MAC JONES (probably saves cap to help sign FA’s and replentish D-Backfield.

    4 NOT RYAN

    5 seems like Jimmy G situation is irrereparable, but if it isn’t, give him another chance with a hopefully healthy team

  7. The Niners should work with Dallas to get Dak. As a Dallas fan, who grew up in SF and No. CA., I would like to see it happen. I hope Dallas puts the non-exclusive tag on Dak and see if the Niners or Colts will give him the deal he wants.

  8. I don’t care what the Packers say about Rodgers, it only matters what Rodgers thinks, not says, that matters. He knows Brady switched teams and got to the SB. Guaranteed he more than noticed that.

    We’ll see what happens when those contract talks start in Green Bay. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Rodgers use those as his excuse to leave putting it on the contract, not him, of course, as to why he forced his way out.

    I refuse to believe Rodgers is going to watch his last chance to play for the team he grew up dreaming of playing for pass him by.

    Then, again, this would put him closer to his family, so maybe not.

  9. Fitzpatrick as a back-up to Garoppolo makes sense. If he’s not available again or performs poorly at least they’d have a proven winner to step in.

  10. Cousins is a lateral move talent wise for a lot more money, but the 49ers do pick up some durability with him. None of the other options looks like an upgrade. I say draft a QB and roll the dice with Jimmy G again. Or, trade him to NE for picks and reload. Winston could maybe sling it for a year effectively.

  11. The Vikings struggled last year because of the defense, that’s where they should be concentrating on fixing in the off season.

  12. Maybe not a three way trade persay, but try to deal him back to NE for whatever draft picks they can get, and then make a run at Matt Ryan. He seems to be getting left out of the QB discussion when it’s clearly time for him to leave Atlanta (with them about to undergo a rebuild) to try and make a run before his time runs out.

  13. Pay cut is coming whether from 49ers or elsewhere. A lot of players will face that. And make a good deal of his contract per game bonuses to limit the hurt when injury comes.

  14. He’s going to the Bears. They don’t have either the cap or the draft picks to pull a premium name and Jimmy G seems about the least mediocre of the mid tier guys likely to be available.

  15. Vikings made their bed and now have to lie in it. Until the Offensive line gets better, the Defense who purged themselves of to many vets gets a little older … Qb isn’t their biggest problem.

  16. I think Kyle wants a HOFer. He’s already been on the losing end of two Super Bowls because the winner had a HOFer. He’s watched his dad’s career up close. He’s seen what Andy Reid went through before he got Mahomes. He sees what Bill Belichick turned into as soon as Brady left, and he sees Bruce Arians in the super bowl with Brady. This isn’t nuclear science. These men are all great coaches, but if your goal is to win the super bowl, you need a HOF QB. People love to blame the coach when they lose, but the coach can only do so much. Kyle gets the same criticism Andy Reid used to get. I mean, did Bruce Arians suddenly become the GOAT, and Belichick forget how to coach? Yeah, right.

  17. Wow, this quickly turned into a Vikings article. I don’t get why many Vikings fan want to move on from Kirk. The one thing this franchise has lacked in all it’s years is stability at the QB spot. in 60 seasons, they have had stability at QB 2-3 times in the history, Tarkenton, Kramer and Culpepper and now we have it in Kirk and they want him out.

  18. The Vikings are just plain stuck in a situation where they’ll be “just good enough” as you have said Mike. The packers still own the division.

  19. Does it even matter when you are going to have guys like Bill Vinovich Phil Lucketting the game to one team at the end of the season anyways?

  20. This is what happens when you give a QB with 7 games under his belt a huge contract, SF did you learn nothing from the Seattle/Matt Flynn deal?

    Guess not!

  21. At least us fans have something to start with as the first domino has fallen. But who will be available, who will be drafted & will other teams sacrifice high picks to unload a monster contract?

    Wentz/Hurts, Prescott/Dalton, Jimmy G, Tua or Darnold involved in a trade with Houston, Cam, Fitzpatrick, Trubisky, plus possibility 4 QB’s selected in the first round/early 2nd.

    Wentz reunion with Reich in Indy? Watson to Miami & Tua to Houston? Jimmy G back to the Pats? Matt Ryan to SF?


  22. Until the Vikings learn how to draft, develop and trade for quality offensive lineman, it doesn’t matter who is taking the snaps.

  23. It would be San Francisco in the SuperBowl, had Tom went there. They really don’t want Jimmy G, I guess.

  24. I think both SF and Minnesota should keep who they have and draft QBs that they can develop behind their veteran starter for the next couple of years. Switching to a new QB always sets an offense back, it’s never an instant improvement.

    Yeah, Brady helped the Bucs get to the SB, but they looked rough in plenty of places during the season, and only toward the end did they start to gel as a team. Which is a worry for KC, I think.

  25. Mike, no one is taking Kirk Cousins off of the Vikings hands, you are stuck with him. The 49ers aren’t trading for Watson, not happening. The only QB they would want that is possibly an upgrade from Garroppolo is Matt Ryan, but he’s even more expensive than Jimmy G, and older.
    Also, no one has reported that the 49ers made an offer for Stafford, so what if they asked about the price. They asked about the price for Tom Brady too, like probably a dozen other teams besides Tampa Bay did.

  26. If Garoppolo comes back to NE , we’ll have to sign another QB to play when Jimmy is on IR. He is who BB wanted over Brady a few years ago. Now’s your chance Bill. You’ve done such a wonderful job with the roster.
    PS Good luck Sunday Tom. Some of us do miss you!!!

  27. How about Matt Ryan to the 49ers? you forgot to mention that one. He also played with Shanahan in Atlanta and went to the super bowl. I don’t see the Vikings moving on from Cousins as their are no better options other than Watson who probably dont want to play for the Vikings and the asking price would be to high. The Vikings are better off building up the Lines on both sides of the ball and giving Cousins more protection.

  28. PLEASE DO NOT bring…. Brittle….missed 23 games in last 3 years ….Jimmy G back to New England…Please don’t do this Coach Bill… look for Fitz magic or Maybe Jacoby or Matt Rayan any body but Jimmy….

  29. So Jimmy has played 31 games out of a possible 57 games, 26 games missed since being in SF, I guess that means Jimmy GQ has turned into Jimmy IR!

    There isn’t any QB that does his team any good that spends nearly half of his time sitting on the bench hurt, let him go!

  30. So let me get this straight, the QBs from the teams that lost the two previous Super Bowls have been traded (Goff) or are being shopped around to be traded (Jimmy G).

    But the QBs who didn’t even make it to the SB are terrific & not on the chopping block?

    Tough market.
    Coaching staffs needing scapegoats.
    Playing with monopoly money.
    All of the above.

    You decide.

  31. They should keep Jimmy G and draft a QB, maybe Trey Lance. Have him sit a year, and then say goodbye to Jimmy.

  32. Here we go again.

    The disrespect for Jimmy G is unbelievable. That “good coach” Kyle Shanahan that the media raves about wins 20% of his games in San Francisco when he doesn’t play.

    That’s with the “vaunted” defense that everyone raves about. The 49ers gave up 26+ points in 7 of their games. 19 teams had a defense that averaged less than 26 points a game.

    If this team does not have Jimmy as their starter next year they will not make the playoff. If they do they will. It is as simple as that.

    If New England is able to get him back they’ll be back on top of the AFC East.

  33. If the Bucs traded Tom Brady the Tampa Bay fans would burn Raymond James Stadium to the ground.

  34. jetsman36 says:
    February 2, 2021 at 8:06 am
    So an article about the 49ers was really an article about the Vikings?


    You should see the comment section of a Packers article.

  35. “It’s not news that Shanahan would be interested in the player he and his father drafted nine years ago.”

    This is like knowing your buddy is shopping for a new car and assuming he’s probably going to buy the exact vehicle he was looking at 9 years ago. 9 years is a LONG time in the NFL and absolutely nobody is as high on Cousins as they were a few years back.

  36. Florio, really…COME ON.
    Discussing the Vikings trading for third Tier Qbs for Cousins is truly ignorant of his performance. Yes, they have only made it to the playoffs one year with him, but really… you watch enough football to know that is not on Cousins.

    His passing efficiency, numbers have in fact been as good as any top 5 QB in the league, and this year with him being pressured on like 90% of drop backs!

    This Vikes need O-line help and D-line help, and THAT is where they need to focus. Not bringing in some schmoe like Dalton or Cam Newton.

    Really, sometimes you write articles like some guy in the bar who had way too many beers before he hits the keyboard…

  37. In the current landscape, not sure I see many things they can do or should have done. Stafford probably would have been a good idea as he has the main characteristic so far lacking in Garoppolo (durability), but it seems like Detroit & LA were set on one another.

    Who out there is a sure upgrade over Garoppolo? I know he gets a bad rap but the Brady ship has sailed and Watson would be overpriced.

    Probably best for them to build up the team around him and look keenly for a draft score. It’s a tough spot, now sharing the division with Stafford along with Wilson and Murray. Overall team strength and protecting the QB is probably their best bet to compete.

  38. Cousins is staying in Minnesota, as Florio got around to saying above. The current Vikings regime struggled to get a decent QB in place for years, and isn’t about to mess with trading Cousins, whom they’re happy with. They’re more focused on i,proving the defense, which took a beating last year due to injuries and turnover, and improving pass protection for Cousins.

    Cousins had the 2nd highest passer rating with a clean pocket last season, his 2nd year in the top 3. But he faced pressure the 3rd most often. Improving pass protection will pay more dividends than trading him, even for Watson given the huge cost to acquire him, combined with his 2nd most expensive contract.

  39. “He’s already been on the losing end of two Super Bowls because the winner had a HOFer. ”

    I see what you’re saying but in actuality he’s been on the losing end twice because both times he mismanaged the clock and failed to run the ball.

  40. Does anyone really “develop” a young QB behind a veteran? A young one who lasts? I am talking the rule, not the exceptions (Eli, Rodgers etc).

  41. The Niners need to get rid of Shanahan, not the QB, dude cannot win when it matters

  42. Why would it take so much draft capital to get Watson? Watson has a no trade clause, and it is in his interest for the team he goes to to NOT trade away picks, so all he has to do is say I am only going to the Jets, or the 49ers, or wherever he wants to go, and Houston will be stuck with whatever that team is willing to offer, unless Houston want to be stuck with an unhappy QB who can earn 35 million and just not play hard or say he is injured.

  43. The Cowboys and Patriots are lined up at center ice waiting for Garoppolo to drop like a hockey puke.

  44. I hear Aaron Rodgers name bandied about. By Rodgers agent of course. No seriously had to laugh yesterday when the pack were adamant they aint trading Rodgers. I got the impression they didnt tell him the Rams were calling and he may had wanted to be part of that discussion.
    He lives close to the Niners, knows the golf courses well and could join a team with a top notch defense, they would be heavy contenders next year with him.
    Still got to beleive he wants out.

  45. brownsince64 says:
    February 2, 2021 at 12:53 pm
    Why would it take so much draft capital to get Watson? Watson has a no trade clause, and it is in his interest for the team he goes to to NOT trade away picks, so all he has to do is say I am only going to the Jets, or the 49ers, or wherever he wants to go, and Houston will be stuck with whatever that team is willing to offer, unless Houston want to be stuck with an unhappy QB who can earn 35 million and just not play hard or say he is injured.
    No trade claus only means the team cant pick where ones goes. However, like you siad if he only wants a certain team/s and they are offering nothing, jokes on him, he aint going anywhere unless he is willing to go to somewhere the Texans can get a great deal, it goes both ways

  46. Garroppolo in 2021. Draft a QB at 12.

    Figure it out next off-season.

    This ain’t rocket science.

  47. 1. Pats send #15 to SF for Jimmy G, #44, and a 3rd or 4th. 2. SF sends #12 and #15, plus 2022 #1 and 3, to Houston for Watson. 3. Houston sends a first to NYJ for Darnold (or #12 and #15 for #2). Done and done!

  48. Does anyone know if Brady has an opt out clause? I have looked and it does not seem so but I was wondering. It would be hilarious if Brady went all “hired gun” on a yearly basis and sold himself to teams with the necessary components to allow him to continue to excel. That statement is not meant to take anything away from him I am just thinking, maybe the Niner’s this year, someone else the next and so on. What better way to cement a legacy than to show success in bringing teams to the playoffs?

  49. The issue with Cousins is he’s an average QB getting elite QB money. There probably isn’t a better QB option for them, but at least if they were paying him average QB money they’d be able to round out the other positions better.

  50. The issue with Jimmy G is injuries. Otherwise, the only QB out there who might be an upgrade is not Cousins and not Stafford, it’s Matt Ryan. To determine whether Jimmy G is good or not, look at the 49ers record with him and their record without him. They are terrible-straight trash-without him. They have won a lot of games and went to the Super Bowl with him. It speaks for itself. How have Stafford and Cousins done in big games, including the playoffs, by the way? The only way Matt Ryan is on the 49ers next year is if he takes a pay cut, anyway. He’s due way too much money, significantly more than Jimmy G.

  51. Last year, they [49ers management] considered adding quarterback Tom Brady. They decided to stick with Garoppolo.

    This is what is known in the business world as “a colossal screwup.”

  52. “We’ll see what happens when those contract talks start in Green Bay. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Rodgers use those as his excuse to leave putting it on the contract, not him, of course, as to why he forced his way out. ”

    There is no “contract talks” in GB. Rodgers is already under contract and he’s not going anywhere. Do you even ever listen to Rodgers interviews? His preference would be to play in GB his entire career. Facts are nice things if you look for them.

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