The San Francisco 49ers are going to have to either franchise tag or re-sign newly acquired quarteback Jimmy Garoppolo between now and 2018. Niner Noise predicts what kind of contract we might see.
One of the first challenges the San Francisco 49ers will have to face between now and the start of the 2018 NFL season will be what to do about newly acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s pending free agency.
Garoppolo is only signed through 2017 — a fact the Niners understood when they sent off their second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to the New England Patriots in exchange for his services. It’s highly unlikely general manager John Lynch would have made a move if he wasn’t confident Garoppolo could be locked up beyond this season.
But on what terms and for how long? And how much will it cost San Francisco?
San Francisco 49ers
Despite only starting two games in his NFL career, Garoppolo has already been one of the more sought-after signal-callers over the past year or so. The fact the Niners landed him at a relatively bargain-like price is commendable. But Garoppolo’s camp can certainly use his attraction level as leverage in negotiations.
Let’s take a look at what kind of contract Garoppolo might command with the 49ers in 2018.
The Franchise Tag
One of the options San Francisco would have if no deal is reached is to place the franchise tag on Garoppolo.
This could range between $23 million and $25 million next year, depending on whether or not the Niners choose to use the exclusive- or non-exclusive-franchise tag on the quarterback, according to the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin.
Such a route would seemingly play right into the hands of those reports suggesting the Niners may dangle Garoppolo in a trade later in the offseason to the highest bidder. Or, possibly, it’s the last-ditch option Lynch and Co. have to strike a long-term deal after using a tag.
Still, it would create some friction — as is so common with franchise tags — between Garoppolo and the 49ers. So we probably should cross this off the list of most likely.
The Increasing Value of a Quarterback Market
Remember when the Detroit Lions inked quarterback Matthew Stafford to a record five-year, $135 million deal with $60.5 million guaranteed at signing?
That’s the ceiling — the highest of market values for franchise-type quarterbacks. Garoppolo won’t land anything close to this, but it’s important to point out the Lions had to make this deal before risking Stafford depart to the open market. It’s also why quarterback Kirk Cousins, regardless what you think of his abilities, will command top dollar this offseason.
But this increasing market value has also opened up risks to teams taking gambles on other quarterbacks. The Chicago Bears with Mike Glennon and the Houston Texans with Brock Osweiler are good recent examples.
So where does this fit in with Garoppolo?
Short- versus Long-Term Deal
Garoppolo’s agent, Don Yee, will cite the high demands for good quarterbacking as a reason to offer a pretty hefty contract extension. San Francisco’s contract specialist, Paraag Marathe has a knack for being pretty shrewd with negotiations, though, and just remember how team friendly former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s extension was back in 2014.
A guess would suggest Yee won’t bite on this kind of deal. But the Niners aren’t going to fathom giving as much money as the Bears and Texans did to Glennon and Osweiler, respectively.
The fact Garoppolo is relatively unproven plays into the equation in a major way. It will likely factor into negotiations, perhaps sparking the Niners the employ a short-term deal between two or three years. And it could be favorable to Garoppolo too, dependent on how the market could increase in just a few years. Factor in the 49ers’ own roster situation as well.
49ers Front-Load the Contract
If there’s one thing in San Francisco’s favor, it’s cap space. According to Over the Cap, the 49ers should have nearly $120 in available cap space next year (including 2017 rollover).
This puts the Niners into a situation where they can easily front-load either a short- or long-term deal without much worry — perhaps in the range of the $23 million based off the non-exclusive franchise tag terms.
OTC’s Jason Fitzgerald (h/t Volin) hinted the 49ers may seek to get Garoppolo for $21 million in 2018, but a guess would have Yee trying to land closer to that $23 million mark.
And if that’s not enough to convince Yee and Garoppolo, the Niners could roll in some additional bonuses and incentives. They’ve done so with regularity in the past, so why change now?
Garoppolo just turned 26 years old, so it could be in his best interests to cash in on as much as possible as quickly as possible.
This would imply a shorter deal — perhaps in the range of three years, with a lot of money guaranteed up front. Such an approach would also alleviate some of the Niners’ concerns if the quarterback goes bust and winds up looking more like Glennon or Osweiler than a franchise-type QB.
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Based off everything, an educated guess would suggest the contract would be something in the range of three years with an average yearly salary of $22.5 million — basically a three-year, $67.5 million contract.
Much of this would be loaded up front, though, which would make plenty of sense. Besides, any longer contract would probably wind up being renegotiated in a few years anyway.
The basic point is this — the 49ers have the money, and Garoppolo’s camp will be asking for it. Considering Garoppolo’s relatively small sample size of time, though, going more short term seems the likeliest way.