USA TODAY Sports
The clock keeps ticking on the 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. And the 49ers may not have much time, when it’s all said and done, to swing a trade.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the current expectation is that Garoppolo will be fully cleared after offseason shoulder surgery in mid-August. That will give the team roughly a month to find a trade partner for Garoppolo, unless someone is willing to trade for him before he receives final clearance to practice and play.
It also will limit Garoppolo’s opportunity to compete for a starting job by Week One. Although the problem will be solved for both the team and Garoppolo if a starter elsewhere suffers a season-ending injury during training camp or the preseason, starting quarterbacks rarely become lost of the year before the regular season begins. Between not being exposed to contact in practice and barely playing in the new three-game preseason, the wort-case scenario for one of the other teams (and, in turn, the best-case scenario for the 49ers) isn’t likely to occur.
So what will happen? Once Garoppolo is cleared, his $7.5 million injury guarantee for 2022 evaporates. He will be guaranteed nothing unless he’s on the Week One roster. Would the 49ers pay him that money at a time when they’re trying to turn the team over to Trey Lance?
It’s all pointing to the 49ers eventually offering Garoppolo a dramatically reduced deal to remain as the backup (and cutting him if he declines) or just releasing him outright. Either way, he’ll be in a far worse position than Baker Mayfield, who will have a full opportunity from the opening of camp to position himself to have the kind of season that sets him up for a starting job in 2023.
That doesn’t mean it’s over for Garoppolo, but 2022 could end up being a lost season if he doesn’t land in a place where he can work his way onto the field. Which means that he’ll potentially sign a modest deal with a quarterback-needy team in March, and then sweat out the very real possibility that his team will use a first-round pick on a new quarterback.
And that would put him in the same position he was in last year in San Francisco, forced to fend off a young player to whom the team has pinned its future hopes for some or all of the season.