Heading into the 2022 NFL season, few expected the San Francisco 49ers to retain Jimmy Garoppolo. The veteran signal-caller was reportedly being shopped around since March, with the Washington Commanders coming close to pulling the trigger before Garoppolo opted for offseason surgery, but free agency came and went, as did the draft, as did the post-draft period, and through it all, the 49ers kept their 2021 starting quarterback on their active roster.
Fast forward to Week 13 of the 2022 NFL season, and suddenly, everything has changed; Garoppolo has once again led the Niners to one of the better records in the NFL, his team is the favorite to win the NFC West – and all of their games moving forward, according to ESPN – and when free agency comes in 2023, the market is expected to be rich for the Eastern Illinois product.
But where will Garoppolo go? Will he leave the Bay Area for greener pastures? Or could John Lynch place the franchise tag on his long-time quarterback to keep him around as a bridge should Trey Lance not be ready to go in time for Week 1 of the 2023 season? Fortunately, David Carr, the Houston Texans quarterback-turned-analyst, weighed in on the situation for NFL.com and provided some very interesting analysis on three different ideal landing spots.
The Case to Stay With the San Francisco 49ers
On paper, the reasons to keep Garoppolo around in San Francisco are fairly obvious; he knows how to run the offense, is a known commodity in the Bay Area, and even if he and Kyle Shanahan haven’t been the best of friends through the years, the duo have made the most of the marriage to the tune of a 37-17 regular season record. Carr believes this pairing is why the 49ers should consider keeping Garoppolo around for at least one season longer.
Would it be the worst idea for the 49ers to just keep Jimmy G in the Bay Area? Sure doesn’t seem like it — not after watching how this season has played out.
Currently working his way back from a fractured ankle, Lance has just four NFL starts under his belt. And the 22-year-old still looked pretty raw when he began this season as The Guy in San Francisco. Therefore, from the Niners’ perspective, it could make plenty of sense for general manager John Lynch to re-sign the proven veteran with six years of experience in Kyle Shanahan’s offense to a one- or two-year deal. After all, Garoppolo has a 37-17 regular-season record and 4-2 postseason mark under Shanahan. He’s comfortable in the system and has built a rapport with his supporting cast. With what we’ve seen over the last month, there’s reason to believe the 49ers could go on another run this January with an absolutely loaded offense and DeMeco Ryans’ lights-out defense.
However, it won’t be as easy to bring him back this time around. With Garoppolo set to hit the open market, other teams will be interested in paying him starter money, perhaps on a longer-term deal.
Could another team swoop in to not only pay Garoppolo starter money but put him on a long-term contract? Potentially so, but if Garoppolo is committed to winning a Super Bowl on the field instead of the sideline, San Francisco may be his best bet.
Could the New York Jets Steal Another Key Member of the Niners?
If Garoppolo leaves the Niners, a logical destination would be to another team in the Kyle Shanahan coach tree, but which branch makes the most sense? Miami has an MVP candidate in Tua Tagovailoa, so they’re probably off the list, leaving just Robert Salah as a potential option.
Fortunately, Salah’s New York Jets just benched second-overall pick Zach Wilson, and unless the team wants to go all-in on Mike White as their quarterback of the future, the prospect of bringing in a veteran quarterback like Garappolo could be just what the doctor ordered to take The Big Apple into playoff country long-term, as Carr detailed in his story.
The Jets feel like a no-brainer here, with strong 49ers connections for head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. In fact, LaFleur worked very closely with Garoppolo as passing game coordinator in San Francisco from 2017 to 2020, so the veteran signal-caller would have an easy transition in terms of scheme and terminology — an aspect coaching staffs take into great consideration when signing a quarterback. Plus, the Jets are built much like the 49ers with a good offensive line, promising run game and playmakers on the perimeter, so it’s fair to think Jimmy G can win in New York.
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: Zach Wilson. The second-year quarterback was benched last week for fifth-year pro Mike White, but Saleh was adamant about Wilson still having a future with the Jets. Both White and Joe Flacco are set to hit free agency in March, which would open space in the Jets’ QB room. Garoppolo’s presence in New York would likely mean a QB competition in training camp. Honestly, this could create a great opportunity for both Garoppolo and Wilson, with Jimmy G hungry to remain a starter and Wilson, who could learn a lot from the vet, eager to prove the Jets did the right thing when drafting him No. 2 overall. Though Wilson might have a higher ceiling, Garoppolo’s veteran savvy and experience in the system would give him a good chance to win the starting job for a young team on the rise.
Would Garoppolo embrace an opportunity to compete for a starting spot opposite the player selected one spot ahead of Lance? Or would he rather have a more ready-made starting opportunity? Fortunately, there is a third option that presents just that.
Jimmy G In The Big Easy?
Theoretically, the New Orleans Saints should be in the market for a new franchise quarterback atop the 2023 NFL draft after failing to find a consistent starter under center since Drew Brees retired.
Unfortunately, the Saints already traded away their 2023 first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in a now-controversial swap that eventually netted them tackle Trevor Penning, and unless they can land the next Jalen Hurts in the second round or trade for an intriguing signal caller like Jordan Love or Zach Wilson, the team’s best bet may be to simply sign a player like Garoppolo in free agency. While Carr didn’t mention New Orleans’ lack of a first-round pick specifically in his draft profile, he did highlight that the Saints have a roster that could theoretically compete with a better QB under center.
The Saints were also one of my fits for Garoppolo in last year’s version of this article. (I bet they wish they would have taken my advice.) This season, the 4-8 team has yet to win back-to-back games, and neither Jameis Winston nor Andy Dalton has felt like the long-term answer at the game’s most important position. Winston, who re-signed with New Orleans on a two-year deal last offseason, went down in Week 3 with a back injury and hasn’t seen the field since. Given Jameis’ injury history in NOLA (his 2021 season abruptly ended on Halloween with a torn ACL) and lackluster play to start this season (4:5 TD-to-INT ratio, 79.5 passer rating), will the Saints really just look to run it back with the soon-to-be 29-year-old in 2023? Meanwhile, Dalton’s set to hit free agency after this season.
Garoppolo would be a good option for a Saints offense that brings back a majority of its core in 2023, including key starters along the offensive line, Alvin Kamara and rookie stud Chris Olave. We’ve seen how productive and efficient Garoppolo can be with playmakers around him.
Could either the Jets or the Saints steal away Garoppolo, or will the 49ers do their best to keep him under contract long-term? Only time will tell, but needless to say, the situation is worth monitoring moving forward.