If Tim Kawakami, Editor-in-Chief of The Athletic’s Bay Area, and his predictions and inside knowledge of the San Francisco 49ers is to hold any weight, then it sounds like the trade market is starting to heat up for 49ers’ veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
With second-year quarterback Trey Lance, who was drafted No. 3 overall just one year ago, set to take over as the starting quarterback in San Francisco, Garoppolo is the odd man out, and from the sound of things he wants to get it over with quickly so he can get a jump on preparing for the starting job in a new location.
According to Kawakami, he expects the 49ers and Garoppolo to work quickly towards a trade and find one by the end of February, though official trades cannot take place until the start of the new league year on March 16.
“But I believe the 49ers and Garoppolo both are interested in clearing the decks relatively quickly,” Kawakami writers about the impending breakup in the Bay Area. “[John] Lynch and [Kyle] Shanahan will want maximum value for Garoppolo, which might extend trade negotiations, but I think they’re aware a bidding war is unlikely; they have to understand that an extra delay could make it seem like they’re hesitant to fully anoint Lance. And I don’t think they’re hesitant on this, actually.”
The landing spot for Garoppolo that Kawakami believes is in the Steel City.
Kawakami projects a trade between the Steelers and 49ers coming together quickly by the end of the month, with the Steelers sending a fourth-round pick in 2022 and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2023 that could become a second-round pick. That all sounds well and good, but the kicker here?
The Steelers currently don’t have a 2022 fourth-round draft pick, and won’t have one until compensatory draft picks are handed out closer to the 2022 NFL Draft. Whoops.
“At 30, with his injury history and given his occasionally hard-to-define worth, I think Garoppolo is likely to be viewed this cycle as a very good placeholder QB,” Kawakami writes. “An elite bridge guy, slightly above the Ryan Fitzpatrick level and solidly above the Teddy Bridgewater/Andy Dalton level. But not as a franchise-changer. You can obviously get to the playoffs with Garoppolo, if he stays healthy. But you might not be entirely comfortable with him all along the way.
“That means he’s best for a good team that just needs adequate-to-good QB play and real leadership for a year or two while it maneuvers for the QB of the future. And while Garoppolo will want more than that, I think a couple of years on a credible playoff team would be a very good situation for him.”
Garoppolo isn’t really going to move the needle in Pittsburgh, unless the Steelers invest heavily in the offensive line in free agency and the NFL Draft, though doing so in free agency would become much more difficult to do by taking on Garoppolo’s $24.2 million base salary.
He’s a quarterback that needs ample protection in front of him, and a good rushing attack behind him, taking a lot of the pressure off of him to win games. While he won a number of games in San Francisco under Shanahan, it’s important to take a step back and look at how reliant on the system and structure he was with the 49ers, which led directly to the team’s success.
When it matters most, Garoppolo can’t really make the big throw, which is concerning. He’s a fine bridge quarterback, but the Steelers would have to give up their third-rounder this year to even think about getting it done. That feels a bit too steep.