The San Francisco 49ers have only listed two quarterbacks on their active roster through six weeks of the NFL season, but nevertheless, the quarterback room grows more crowded by the game.
Veteran Jimmy Garoppolo is undeniably this team’s past, while rookie Trey Lance is unquestionably its future. The Niners are 2-3 on the season, far from done for the year but also seemingly a distance off from a real threat to contend for the Super Bowl. So what’s the solution?
According to The Athletic’s Mike Sando, one NFL executive believes the answer is to cash in at value on Garoppolo now in order to add a future weapon for Lance.
“If you are the Niners and you lose a few games and you are moving on anyway, wouldn’t you try to save (money)?” the unnamed executive posed to Sando. “It would be curious if someone had their quarterback get injured. Or, say, Carolina if (Sam) Darnold continues to plummet.”
A Potential Trade Target Continues to Toil in Cleveland
The NFL’s 2021 trade deadline is set for November 2, which means up to two more games for the 49ers before any move would need to be made.
Sando pointed out, and correctly, that Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan has been reluctant to push Lance into a starting role. The rookie signal-caller only just turned 21 years old. He played only one full collegiate season for North Dakota State University, a prestigious program but also a member of the Football Championship Series (FCS) — college football’s version of the minor leagues.
While Lance was epic during that 2019 campaign, carrying the Bison to a National Championship and throwing 28 touchdowns against no interceptions along the way, his NFL game experience to this point has shown an unmistakable rawness.
He’s 25-for-48 passing thus far, including a 15-of-29 outing in his sole start on the road against the still unbeaten Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, October 10. He has thrown for 3 touchdowns and an interception, while also rushing the ball 27 times for 133 yards and a touchdown, according to Pro Football Reference.
A move toward Lance is a move toward the future, but it appears Shanahan also believes it to be a move that forfeits this season. However, that point could become moot should the Niners drop their next two games against the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears. Both are middling teams at best, but two losses put the Niners at 2-5 in one of the best divisions in football with their bye week already behind them.
In that scenario, the season is already essentially forfeit. In which case, the Niners could save some scratch while adding a former Pro Bowler as a weapon on the outside for their young quarterback in the form of Cleveland Browns wideout Odell Beckham Jr.
“What if Cleveland traded Odell (Beckham) straight up for Garoppolo?” the NFL executive posed to Sando in his piece for The Athletic. “Would San Francisco do that?”
Beckham for Garoppolo May Solve Multiple Problems for Both Teams
Sando’s NFL exec pulled no punches when talking about the issues between Beckham and quarterback Baker Mayfield in Cleveland. Beckham has often been injured during his time with the Browns and when he hasn’t been, the two have struggled to connect.
“It’s a big win for Cleveland if they can get (Beckham’s) money off the books,” the executive said.
Mayfield, in the meantime, re-aggravated an already troublesome injury to his non-throwing shoulder on Sunday against the Cardinals. The Browns are 3-3 after a brutal schedule, tied for last place in the AFC North. But high hopes remain for the banged up roster, which will be forced to stare down the Denver Broncos on Thursday night, October 21 coming off a short week.
Sando explained that a seasoned veteran at QB to bridge the health gap might be exactly what the doctor ordered in Cleveland. Ditching Beckham’s salary and chemistry problems with Mayfield, and the pressure his presence brings on the quarterback to force the ball to the once prolific wideout, would be marked as a win across all columns.
“If Mayfield breaks down physically over the next couple weeks, would the Browns consider making a play for Garoppolo?,” Sando posed. “Would Garoppolo, who has a no-trade clause for this year, want to join a team with a better shot at winning this season?”
The move, should it happen, doesn’t have to happen tomorrow. But both teams are significantly injured and facing a stretch of games that will serve as tipping points for their respective seasons.
With each loss, of both player talent and games on both sides of the proposed trade equation, comes a greater likelihood that a Garoppolo/Beckham mega-trade ends up a reality.