By clinging to Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers risk undermining Trey Lance

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When the 49ers traded up from No. 12 to No. 3 last March, most assumed that starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s days in San Francisco were numbered. They were. As it turns out, there was a very high number of them.

Now, 368 days after the trade was made, Garoppolo continues to be on the 49ers’ roster. They entered the offseason believing they’d be able to trade him, for something more than a low-round draft pick. As both G.M. John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have said this week, Garoppolo’s shoulder surgery — which he underwent without even telling the team — caused the market to dry up.

So now they’ll wait, carrying more than $25 million in surplus cap space for Garoppolo at a time when they’re presumably hoping to help Trey Lance take over at the most important position on the team. They’re surely hoping that a quarterback with another team will suffer a freak injury, creating a demand for Garoppolo at a time when one otherwise doesn’t exist.

They need to better assess the risk and the reward. The chances of having a quarterback tear an ACL during non-contact drills are small. (Not impossible, as Teddy Bridgewater would attest, but small.) The damage to the overall development of Lance could be significant. Garoppolo has taken the 49ers to a Super Bowl. He nearly took them to another. He’s beloved in the locker room.

Lance continues to be the new guy. He’s trying to win acceptance, to prove himself. Having his predecessor still on the team necessarily makes that harder.

Then there’s the Garoppolo angle. His decision to undergo shoulder surgery without telling the team sends a message in the form of a middle finger emoji. What do they expect from him now? Full cooperation as they try to facilitate a trade that suits their interests but not his?

At some point, any team that trades for Garoppolo will want him to adjust or extend his contract. All he needs to do is refuse to make any adjustments to the final year of his deal, and a trade isn’t happening.

The 49ers could respond by saying, “Fine. We’ll just keep you under contract until just before the start of the regular season, and then we’ll cut you when no one else will have a spot for you.”

But first the 49ers still need to get that point. What will they do once Garoppolo is cleared to practice and shows up for work? They can’t keep him away. If he gets injured while working out or at practice, they could be on the hook for his full salary for 2022.

It could get ugly, like it did between the Titans and Steve McNair in 2006. The Titans locked him out to avoid a potential injury that would have locked in his full salary. He fought it, and he won. As a result, teams can’t put a player on ice in the offseason, for fear of him suffering an injury.

That would be the ultimate irony for the 49ers. While waiting for another quarterback to get injured and create a trade market that currently doesn’t exist, Garoppolo gets injured and the 49ers are on the hook for his full salary.

Meanwhile, that $25 million in cap and cash space could be used to reward players like defensive end Nick Bosa and receiver Deebo Samuel, both of whom are due for new deals — and both of whom will want to be at the top of the market for their respective positions.

So what are the 49ers really doing here? They surely don’t intend to pay Garoppolo $25 million to be the backup to Lance. Unless they think Lance isn’t ready (which is possible), the sooner they clear Garoppolo off the roster, the better off Lance will be.

At best, it feels like a clumsy effort to save face. At worst, it speaks to the potential existence of a fundamental disagreement within the organization as to whether Lance is ready. If they think he is, or if they believe he will be, they need to quit chasing ghosts with Garoppolo and turn the page to the player in whom they have invested three first-round picks and a third-round pick.

Maybe Lance is the guy. Maybe he isn’t. Either way, they’ve already decided Garoppolo isn’t. So why are they clinging to him?

17 responses to “By clinging to Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers risk undermining Trey Lance

  1. There is nothing wrong with making Lance beat out Jimmy G. If Lance is so fragile he can’t handle the pressure of having Jimmy around than he isn’t your franchise QB. Why do so many think these guys need to be coddled? He isn’t so mentally weak he can’t handle the situation.

  2. But nobody’s going to take him right now until he can prove he’s recovered from surgery. Do you sell at an all time low to someone desperate or in-division? Or do you wait it out and part with him once he proves he can return to form and get better return on him? Lance needs more work, and having Jimmy G stick around isn’t a bad thing.

  3. It didn’t seem to hurt Aaron Rogers to sit for three years behind Farve … patience grasshopper.

  4. The 9ers knew they messed up big time even before the draft… After trading 2 1sts and a 3rd to move up 9 spots, they then tried using the 3rd overall pick in a package to trade for Rodgers, hoping GB would bail them out for their awful trade.

  5. Cut Jimmy G. They made their bed when they drafted Lance. The lost pick will stink, but the potential conflict and psychological games that will ensue if Jimmy G is on the roster can & might be worse. Use the $ to get the deals done and add to the roster. Move forward.

  6. Another aspect of this situation is that Lance is on a rookie-scale contract and the great thing about that is you have the cap space to build other areas of your team. If you have another quarterback making $25 million, you’re wasting the benefits of having a rookie-scale quarterback. In that sense, you have to get rid of Garoppolo.

    On the other hand, the 49ers are in win-now mode and turning the team over to a young QB who isn’t ready wastes the window of opportunity to win a championship. The best approach I think is to take both QBs into training camp and determine if you’re comfortable with Lance as your starter. If not, keep Jimmy and try to win games. If so, there’s a good chance you could trade him for something at that point. Other teams will be looking at their quarterback situation and decide they would be better off with Jimmy than what they currently have. Are the Seahawks going to love Drew Lock? None of the rookie quarterbacks look like they’ll be ready to step in right away. Patience is the key here.

  7. This wasn’t the narrative that was being written when it was “Tom Brady to the 49ers” now its “undermining?” It’s actually just called life & being in business. Up until a few weeks ago a certain person on this site didn’t mention nor care about the undermining part.

  8. Other than scheduling the surgery without notifying the team, Jimmy has been a true professional in all this and Lance honestly refers to him as one of his best friends. There is no reason to move Jimmy now. He won’t be cleared until training camp so wont effect Lance offseason learning and who knows what happens between now and then.

  9. If Trey Lance can’t beat out Jimmy G like Mac Jones beat out Cam Newton then Trey Lance is not the answer.

  10. Nothing from preventing from contracts being negotiated during the season. There’s a lack of quality qbs in the league… All it takes for an injury and they can get a 2nd or 3rd for the guy if his shoulder checks out by then.

    Unless deebo and bosa threaten to hold out.. No rush.

  11. If Trey Lance isn’t strong enough to handle looking over his shoulder at Jimmy G, then he isn’t strong enough to start for the 49ers in the first place.

  12. Jimmy isn’t great so nobody is going to pay what the 49ers are asking. That said jimmy is probably better then Trey, 49ers screwed the pouch on so many different levels here doubt that either one will get them high draft picks and or high end QB play

  13. Whats are the 9ers asking for then? Lynch was “offered” two 2nd round picks

  14. Oh Boo Hoo! Look what happened in Green Bay with Rodgers having to wait behind Favre and see how that worked out.

  15. Jimmy could still end up being traded or end up being the starter. Jimmy could also be the backup but ready to step in if Lance were to struggle or get injured. You just have to let these things play out. If the 49ers get a good offer for him I’m sure they’ll trade him. If they don’t, I think it is wise to hold on to him. He may still need to be the starter. They’d like for Lance to be ready to be the starter but there is no gaurantee that he’ll be ready. The roster is too talented to throw him in if he’s not ready.

  16. I think too many people discount egos and development of a QB. Undermining Lance is a real possibility, and sending him mixed messages doesn’t help his development. These are human beings, not robots. All this “if he can’t handle it then he’s not the guy” faux tough talk is just noise.

    The NFL is a cold, hard business, but pretending that managing human relationships isn’t part of that equation is just delusional.

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