SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Contractually, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is still a member of the San Francisco 49ers and, somehow, the sides have remained cordial throughout an offseason that was supposed to see them part ways in March.
To this point, neither the Niners nor Garoppolo have been in a hurry to find a resolution, largely because Garoppolo’s right shoulder surgery derailed early offseason trade plans. But Garoppolo and the Niners are increasingly antsy to part ways with a 53-man roster deadline looming Aug. 30. Making the initial roster would guarantee his salary against the cap.
“I think everyone does [want to find an answer],” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I think he’s handled it great, but it’s the reality of this business. It’s the reality of everything. Sometimes you have to wait on stuff, and I think he understands that. You always wish it could be different, but this is business and he understands that.”
Garoppolo reported for the start of training camp Tuesday and passed his physical, which took the Niners off the hook for the $7.5 million injury guarantee in his contract. He is not practicing with the team but is participating in a detailed throwing program designed to have him ready when he lands elsewhere.
Garoppolo has permission to come and go from the team facility as he pleases. He mostly does his rehab and throwing program and then departs for the day. He was spotted in the team’s weight room on the opening day of camp and has been seen doing some running and conditioning on a side field but has not stuck around for practices or participated in meetings.
“Jimmy is working out hard, throwing the heck out of the ball,” Shanahan said. “I’m not going to tell you guys every single thing in my head, but you can figure it out when I say we have to do what’s right for this organization. And we’re going to do everything we can to make it as good as possible for Jimmy, while always doing what’s right for this organization at the same time.”
With Deebo Samuel’s contract done, all eyes now turn to Garoppolo’s situation. Here’s what we know and what comes next:
Why is a trade taking so long?
The combination of shoulder surgery and the amount of better, healthier quarterbacks available in the offseason has made it difficult for the 49ers to make a trade. Early interest disappeared when Garoppolo opted for surgery in March and by the time he began throwing in late June, most of the open quarterback seats were full.
Despite speculation the Niners kept Garoppolo because of doubts about second-year quarterback Trey Lance, Shanahan made it clear that isn’t the case by declaring Lance had taken over as the No. 1 quarterback on the day the team reported to camp.
Will Garoppolo play in 49ers’ preseason games?
There’s little reason to believe Garoppolo will practice or play for the Niners again. Shanahan has said as much, and there are financial ramifications if Garoppolo suffers another injury. He’s scheduled to count $26.9 million against the 2022 salary cap with a $24.2 million base salary. None of that money is guaranteed, however.
But Garoppolo’s salary could become guaranteed if he were to get injured again, which is why Shanahan has shot down most scenarios about him playing for the 49ers again.
“I don’t give an absolute anything, so yeah, I’m sure I could come up with the scenario,” Shanahan said. “But I think I said earlier that would surprise me and I still feel that way.”
What are some potential landing spots?
The list of possibilities has dwindled significantly throughout the offseason, culminating with Baker Mayfield being traded from the Cleveland Browns to the Carolina Panthers.
Coincidentally, the most likely remaining landing spot appears to be Cleveland, though that will depend on a potential suspension — and the length of that potential suspension — for quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Browns would present Garoppolo with an opportunity to join a contender and rehabilitate his value while providing the Browns with a proven option.
The Seattle Seahawks also could be an option, though their place in the NFC West makes a deal complicated. But there’s a Shanahan-led precedent for a quarterback trade within a division. When Kyle and Mike Shanahan were in Washington, they swung a deal for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Such deals can be harder to pull off but aren’t impossible.
Other teams that might be interested in Garoppolo at a reduced price (in both trade and financial compensation) include the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants and Houston Texans.
“We’re not trying to kid ourselves or play any game,” Shanahan said. “I think the whole league understands that. But you also can’t just give one of the better quarterbacks in the league just to make him available for no reason to the whole world.”
The notion that the 49ers would need to eat some of his salary like the Panthers did with Mayfield doesn’t hold much water given Mayfield’s salary was guaranteed while none of Garoppolo’s is. It makes sense for Garoppolo to rework his deal in the event of a trade, though, giving him the chance to get some guaranteed money, of which he currently has none.
Will the Niners ultimately have to release Garoppolo?
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have insisted they won’t give Garoppolo away for free. But this has dragged out so long that a deadline now looms on the horizon. Beyond an injury, the only other way for Garoppolo’s salary to become guaranteed in 2022 is for him to make the initial 53-man roster Aug. 30.
If a trade hasn’t come together by then, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers will keep Garoppolo at such a hefty guaranteed salary.
For his part, Garoppolo has so far avoided requesting his release but the longer he waits to join a new team, the less chance he’d have to win a job or be ready to play at his next destination.