It was oddly symmetrical on Tuesday for Jimmy Garoppolo. The only reason the quarterback found himself playing for the San Francisco 49ers the past five years is because of Tom Brady.
So it came to pass on Tuesday that the same day Brady announced his retirement from the NFL, Garappolo stood before the media and bid his own version of farewell.
It has been the worst-kept secret in the NFL that the 49ers want to move on from Garoppolo, whom they acquired from the New England Patriots in 2017, after Patriots owner Bob Kraft decided to keep Brady for as long as possible and instructed Bill Belichick to move the understudy.
But after the 49ers traded away three first-round draft picks last spring in order to move up in the 2021 NFL Draft and select quarterback Trey Lance from North Dakota State, it was inevitable that Garoppolo would be moved.
And not even leading the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game, despite some wildly inconsistent play from game to game and within games, was going to change that calculus for Garoppolo.
So, on the day Brady stepped away, the 49ers and Garoppolo essentially said their goodbyes, as well.
A change in Garoppolo’s contract status opens the door to a trade in mid-March
Once Lance was drafted, Garoppolo was a lame-duck quarterback. But he never let his precarious standing with the team affect his play, and general manager John Lynch was effusive in his praise of Garoppolo Tuesday during his own session with the media.
“I think Jimmy Garoppolo deserves a ton of credit. The way he’s handled this situation. The way he competed and the way he welcomed Trey. It speaks volumes as to who he is,” Lynch said.
A year ago, the 49ers were limited in their attempts to trade Garoppolo because the quarterback had a full no-trade clause in his contract. But when free agency opens in mid-March, that no-trade clause comes off the books, allowing the 49ers to trade Garoppolo to the team that offers him the best deal.
But if there was one theme that came out of Tuesday’s press briefings by Garoppolo, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, it’s that the team will try to at least respect Jimmy G’s one primary request.
“I just want to go to a place where they want to win,” Garoppolo said.
Financially, a trade makes the most sense for San Francisco financially. Garoppolo will count $26.91 million against the salary cap in 2022. The 49ers can save $24.5 million by trading him.
Garoppolo thanks his fans as he acknowledges his remaining time with the 49ers is short
It began coming out during the week of the NFC Championship Game that what had long been assumed was now a reality: Win or lose the rest of the way, the team was going to move on from Garoppolo in the offseason.
“No one wants to face the reality that this thing may be ending, Lynch told reporters Tuesday.
But face that reality is exactly what a classy Garoppolo did Tuesday. His head held high, his perspective in check, Garoppolo took the time to thank the fans who have been so loyal to him after he led the 49ers to Super Bowl 54 and almost did it again on Sunday.
“Faithful, thank you very much for everything,” Garoppolo said. “It’s been crazy, man. Just all the comebacks at Levi’s, comebacks on the road, ups and downs, it’s been a hell of a ride, guys. I love you guys. See ya.”
Washington, Pittsburgh, and maybe even replacing Brady in Tampa are on the list of destinations
Several teams will be looking for a starting quarterback this offseason, with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks having announced their retirements in the past week.
The Steelers, now without Ben Roethlisberger, are left with Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins as the only quarterbacks on the roster, so adding Garoppolo would be an immediate upgrade that would likely cost less than a trade with the Seattle Seahawks for Russell Wilson or the Green Bay Packers for Aaron Rodgers.
The Washington Football Team is another possible suitor after a season with Taylor Heinicke under center failed to reach the postseason.
And now there is the fascinating prospect of Garoppolo succeeding Brady in Tampa, five years since the Patriots sent Garoppolo to San Francisco in order to keep Brady’s role with the Patriots secure for two more seasons.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference