The 49ers wisely have decided to quit pretending that perhaps they’ll keep quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the 2022 season, opting instead to declare a de facto fire sale.
With the team now all-on on Trey Lance, they’ll squat on Garoppolo and hope for a trade opportunity to materialize. If it doesn’t, they will absolutely cut him before Week One, when his $24.2 million salary would otherwise become fully guaranteed as termination pay, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Along the way, the 49ers plan to keep Garoppolo out of practice (and, in turn, out of preseason games). This will eliminate the risk of Garoppolo suffering a season-ending injury, which would also lock in his pay as guaranteed.
“We don’t plan on practicing him with the team,” coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Tuesday. “We’ll take it day-by-day and constantly talk with him and hopefully can figure out the best for both.”
But what’s best for the team may not be what’s best for Garoppolo. As the 49ers wait for a trade to materialize, the clock keeps ticking. If Garoppolo eventually is cut as the regular-season opener approaches, Jimmy G may be SOL when it comes to finding another job. If his goal is to play this year, now is the time to get himself to the market.
On Tuesday, GM John Lynch was asked whether Garoppolo had expressed a desire to be released.
“No, he hasn’t had that,” Lynch said.
If Garoppolo did make that request, it looks like the answer would be no.
Said Shanahan on Tuesday, “[You] can’t just give one of the better quarterbacks in the league just to make him available for no reason to the whole world.”
They eventually will, however. The question is whether they get lucky through some other team’s misfortune via injury.
There’s another potential path. With the 49ers finally making it clear that they’re not trying to get a second-day draft pick for Garoppolo, a team that has refrained from engaging in trade talks could take a flier with a late-round offer. Although the Garoppolo contract also would have to be renegotiated, it’s entirely possible that a team that otherwise wouldn’t have been interested sees an opportunity to get Garoppolo at a good time.
In expressing a hope that the situation gets resolved sooner than later, Shanahan makes it even more clear that the time has come to make the 49ers an offer.
Barring a quick trade, Garoppolo’s easiest move is to wait. But what if he’s willing to flip his “nice guy” reputation and insist on getting a fair chance to practice in training camp and play in the preseason? At some point, the union could get involved. Before that happens, however, Garoppolo would have to want to try to bring the situation to a head, by making a push to get himself on the field.