One year after blockbuster trade to reboot at QB, why are 49ers still toying with keeping Jimmy Garoppolo?, News NFL – Flix Sport Media

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That’s certainly not what anyone would have expected when the franchise made its decisive move, trading three first-rounders and a third-rounder for the right to take Lance at No. 3 overall. But 12 months and three days after that initial trade, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan spent Tuesday morning suggesting that the quarterback situation is still undetermined, possibly even to the point of Jimmy Garoppolo once again being on the roster in 2022.

This feels like gamesmanship, of course. That’s the most logical assessment, that the 49ers are hanging tough in a remarkably soft market for both Garoppolo and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield — neither of which is drawing much interest at the moment. But San Francisco appears to be exercising a luxury that Cleveland realistically can’t: conveying to other teams that their 2021 starter could still come back into the fold. The Browns’ situation with Mayfield is more combustible and untenable, so they can’t conceive of a scenario where Mayfield is sharing a room with Deshaun Watson and Jacoby Brissett. San Francisco doesn’t have that kind of problem, even though it makes little sense from a salary cap standpoint.

So for now, it’s a mostly painless chess move, particularly with Garoppolo healing from surgery on his throwing shoulder and not slated for anything close to a practice environment anytime soon. As long as he’s on the mend, there’s little threat to Lance. But the longer this goes on — the more the Garoppolo chess move lingers on the board — the more it will invite questions about Lance’s development. And more to the point, whether there might be a deeper reason for keeping last season’s starting quarterback around.

Some of that already started to percolate on Tuesday, when Shanahan backed up general manager John Lynch’s statement that he didn’t “foresee” the team releasing Garoppolo, and that his return in 2022 was a possibility. Even if it meant a future where Lance is the starter and Garoppolo was the backup. That scenario, you know, was supposed to be how last season unfolded. And yet it didn’t, which is another reason why Garoppolo sticking to the roster only invites questions.

Not that Shanahan seems all that concerned.

“[Lance’s future is] why we looked into trading Jimmy, because we obviously believe that Trey can be a starter,” Shanahan said Tuesday at the NFL owners’ meetings. “And we’re ready to do that. But if we can’t upgrade our team in another way, we’re not just going to get rid of a good quarterback because we have other quarterbacks on the roster. … We have guys who are capable of starting. Which, Jimmy’s done a great job for us.

“We brought Trey here to be that eventually, and I think that’ll be sooner than later. But Jimmy gets the surgery and if we can’t upgrade our team by getting some good picks until people feel good about that [surgery], I’m OK with that. We’re not just getting rid of him to get rid of him.”

The one thing about those comments — and Shanahan is well aware of this — is that “getting rid” of Garoppolo wouldn’t be a move just to get rid of him. It would be the prudent salary cap move, freeing up his entire non-guaranteed base salary of $24.2 million, while also backing Lance beyond a shadow of a doubt. Those seem to be two pretty important points for the future of the organization.

Because let’s be clear here: The 49ers have some vital extensions coming up and can use that cap space right now to help get ahead with the team-building around Lance’s rookie contract. And there’s also the metaphor of Spain’s Hernán Cortés scuttling his ships during the colonization of Mexico — leaving his crew with only a path forward and no option for retreat. That’s an adaptable concept here for Shanahan and Lynch, because the longer the Jimmy Garoppolo option is around, the longer he’s an alternative to Lance.

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Of course, that won’t be a problem if Lance takes the reins this offseason and thrives after what amounts to a redshirt season in 2021, which is clearly what San Francisco wants to happen. But it hasn’t yet, leaving the organization to play a waiting game with last season’s starter. A game that might take far longer than anyone anticipated, particularly if Garoppolo is slow to mend from his surgery and won’t redo the final year of his deal to take less money and make himself more attractive to trade suitors.

As one NFC coach said this week, “There’s really just two guys [Garoppolo and Mayfield], but the market is still kind of saturated because there are only a couple teams looking to add someone at this point. What other options are there? Neither team can really keep them. At least that’s what it seems like.”

The 49ers would like teams to believe otherwise. So that’s the line they’re sticking with. At least until the right opportunity presents itself. Or in a worst-case-scenario, it turns out San Francisco actually needs Jimmy Garoppolo in 2022. Which would be a whole other problem entirely.

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