No matter how accurate and how much of a roll Jimmy Garoppolo has been on with the San Francisco 49ers, he and the 49ers faithful are stuck hearing this constant 2021 tune: Who will trade for Jimmy G?
Where will the 49ers quarterback, who is two seasons removed from taking the franchise to the Super Bowl, land in 2022? What is his value? What’s he worth giving up for? Those are the common questions among NFL fans and media while Garoppolo has elevated the 49ers to 8-6 and in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card spot as the NFC’s No. 6 seed.
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Now, the latest Garoppolo trade proposal released on Monday, December 20, involves this: San Francisco potentially receiving a former No. 3 overall pick who knows the West coast all too well.
The Proposed Deal
In a new column, “Realistic trade value and landing spots for veteran QBs,” Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus listed the Carolina Panthers as a possible trade partner for the 49ers.
Spielberger’s idea: The 49ers ship the 30-year-old Garoppolo to the NFC South in exchange for a 2022 fourth-rounder and a 2023 second-rounder.
Garoppolo has played well enough through the 2021 season to keep No. 3 overall pick quarterback Trey Lance on the sidelines, but this simply cannot continue into 2022 after the team traded three first-round picks and a third-round pick to go up and get him. Lance started for effectively just one season at FCS North Dakota State before declaring for the NFL, so it’s perfectly understandable that he would have a redshirt rookie season. Still, this offseason is the time to transition into the future in the Bay Area.
And that’s where this next idea comes in via the mind and writing of Spielberger: The 49ers get their backup quarterback in Sam Darnold.
That’s right. The former USC Trojans star who once went third overall behind Saquon Barkley and the top pick Baker Mayfield. And the same Darnold who was taken ahead of Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson in that same draft class. Spielberger dove deeper into the idea by sharing:
An interesting idea for the two teams to explore could be Sam Darnold going to San Francisco in this trade and serving as Lance’s backup, with Carolina retaining the majority of his fifth-year option salary in order to facilitate the move. The 49ers have shown with recent moves — such as bringing in former first-round quarterback Josh Rosen — that they like to see what they can get out of physically gifted depth options at signal-caller.
Should a move like this be made, it puts Darnold on his second NFL franchise in two seasons. Plus, it shows the downward spiral his career has taken through four seasons in the league, having been traded by the team that drafted him in the New York Jets and then losing his starting spot in Carolina to Cam Newton amid his return to Charlotte.
Would the Panthers Make Sense for Jimmy G?
Through 15 weeks, the Panthers sit at 5-9 overall, and a December 21 roundup from ESPN’s NFL Nation listed head coach Matt Rhule as having a “warm seat” with the potential to shift to a hot seat if Carolina loses out in its final three games of 2021.
However, if Rhule is retained, he’s an ardent believer in focusing on the run, as noted by Spielberger. This bodes well for Garoppolo — since he plays in an offense that’s running back first, quarterback second.
Most weeks, Garoppolo is only counted on to throw it 40 times, or 25 if the 49ers are efficient through the air and the ground game is struggling. But when Garoppolo has thrown the ball over the last eight weeks, he has finished every game with a QB rating north of 90, per CBS Sports. That’s three more than the next closest quarterback.
Garoppolo is racking up the aerial yards at a high average too, an NFL-leading 8.48 yards per attempt, according to CBS Sports.
If this is the end of an era in the Bay for Jimmy G, 49ers faithful should remember his efficiency and scrappiness after the team’s 2-4 start to 2021.