With Tom Brady retired, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could go with a “poetic” succession plan and sign San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
That’s the way CBS Sports analyst Tyler Sullivan described it as he listed the Bucs as one of the best landing spots for Garoppolo, a player once viewed as Brady’s successor. The New England Patriots drafted the former Eastern Illinois standout in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft as a potential successor to Brady, who was 36 at the time.
It didn’t work out that way in the northeast as Brady kept playing and the Patriots traded Garoppolo to the 49ers. Set to be a free agent in March, Garoppolo succeeded in helping the 49ers reach two NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. He had a 31-14 record in six seasons with the 49ers.
Garoppolo’s chances with the team simply wore thin as the franchise sought an upgrade at quarterback. The 49ers traded up to draft Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and rookie quarterback Brock Purdy turned into an overnight sensation in the 2022 season amid injuries to Garoppolo and Lance.
That leaves Garoppolo as the odd man out in San Francisco, which 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed in a Wednesday, February 1 press conference. Shanahan said he “doesn’t see any scenario” of Garoppolo staying.
“This would be poetic, wouldn’t it? With Brady now officially retired from the NFL, it’d be a weird twist of fate to see Garoppolo ultimately fulfill that destiny, but for the Buccaneers,” Sullivan wrote.
How Garoppolo Fits in With the Bucs
If Garoppolo heads to Tampa, it will look worlds different for him to succeed Brady there than it would have in New England.
Tampa Bay faces a crossroads amid Brady’s retirement, an offensive coordinator search, $55.7 million over the salary cap per Spotrac, and a bevy of key players to re-sign. If the Bucs keep to head coach Todd Bowles‘ statement of reloading on January 16, the team could contend for the NFC South again.
“Really, an addition of Garoppolo for Tampa Bay comes down to which way the franchise feels like going. Does it feel like it is a capable quarterback away from continued success in the NFC South? If so, then Garoppolo could be an ideal target,” Sullivan wrote.
“If they stand pat, jumping into a situation that features Mike Evans and Chris Godwin wouldn’t be a bad landing spot for Garoppolo,” Sullivan added. “That’s particularly true when you consider the pass-catching weapons that he’d be playing with and slotting himself into what was the worst division in football last year. If things stay the same in that regard in 2023, he could have an easier road to the postseason.”
However, speculation of a total rebuild has surfaced amid Brady’s retirement. A rebuild could nix Garoppolo as an option in that case, Sullivan noted.
“If the Bucs are looking to rip things down to the studs and rebuild the organization from the ground-up post-Brady, they may want to look elsewhere and that may be a situation that Garoppolo wouldn’t want to sign up for,” Sullivan wrote.
Can the Bucs Really Afford Garoppolo?
Garoppolo played under a restructured one-year $7 million contract with the 49ers this past season with a salary cap hit of $12.6 million, per Spotrac.
Overall, he made $137 million in five seasons with the team — an average annual salary of $27.5 million per Spotrac. Market value for Garoppolo’s play hasn’t gone down, either, as Spotrac projects it at $34.9 million.
For the Bucs to sign Garoppolo, it will take seismic maneuvering of the salary cap. With that said, the Bucs kicked the can down the road for the salary cap in recent years with voidable years on contracts. How much the Bucs can do this time around remains to be seen.