Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract with 49ers could be largest in NFL history, but…

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers are working towards a new contract with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, which could wind up being the biggest in NFL history. Is that a bad thing? Not exactly, and here’s why.

Editor’s Update: Jimmy Garoppolo has reportedly signed a five-year, $137.5 million deal with the 49ers, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Read on, and our prediction stab was right on, considering the actual article was written a day earlier.

Pending free-agent quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be a member of the San Francisco 49ers this upcoming season.

The only question is how.

Whether it be via the franchise tag or a long-term extension, a Garoppolo deal is at the forefront of Niners fans’ thoughts heading into this offseason. But according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (h/t Chris Wilson of Niner Noise), the latter appears to be more likely, as the team is “closer” to a long-term deal:

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  • "While Jimmy Garoppolo’s former team plays in Super Bowl LII, the 49ers quarterback is moving closer toward cashing in with his new team.Long-term contract extension negotiations between Garoppolo and the 49ers have gained significant momentum, and a deal could get done in the near future, sources informed of the situation said."

    And there are enough reasons to speculate why Garoppolo’s new deal could be the biggest in NFL history.

    That honor currently goes to Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who inked a five-year, $135 million contract last August, with a league-high $27 million annual average salary.

    But before you start worrying whether or not Garoppolo, who has started just seven games in his NFL career, will surpass that mark, let’s break down why it wouldn’t be a big deal.

    Why Jimmy Garoppolo Could Be the NFL’s Highest Paid Player

    ESPN analyst Field Yates speculated a new deal for Garoppolo could make him the highest-paid QB, on a yearly basis, this offseason. Yates wrote:

    "Don’t be surprised if a long-term deal fetches near $30 million per season for Jimmy G, as he carries unique leverage as an ascending player who just revitalized the franchise."

    “Leverage” is the key word here. Last offseason, the New England Patriots were asking for two first-round NFL Draft picks for Garoppolo’s services. The Niners got him for a second rounder — a steal.

    But it’s time to pay up. The 49ers know it, and so does Garoppolo and his agent, Don Yee.

    Further complicating the matter was the trade involving the Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Alex Smith going to the Washington Redskins. Smith, an aging-but-effective player, will command an extension worth an average of $23.5 million per year over the next four years, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

    Garoppolo could ask for more. Much more.

    Plus, the Smith-to-Washington deal all but guarantees the Redskins incumbent QB, Kirk Cousins, hits free agency. Per Spotrac.com’s market value tool, he’ll easily command somewhere in the neighborhood of $25.6 million per season.

    With more than a few quarterback-needy teams this offseason, bidding wars only point to that number increasing.

    And that serves to drive the market on Garoppolo even higher, potentially exceeding Stafford’s mark.

    Why a Record-Setting Deal for Jimmy Garoppolo Isn’t a Big Deal

    Market value is the key point to note here.

    Let’s assume, for a moment, Garoppolo signs a contract in the range of five years, $137.5 million, with an average yearly salary of $27.5 million. That would be higher than Stafford, making Garoppolo the highest-paid player in NFL history.

    Yikes, right? Not so fast.

    First, the 49ers aren’t going to put themselves into contractual situations setting themselves up for long-term problems. Teams have leverage too, and they’ll be smart about this.

    But what’s more important is to evaluate where the quarterback market is heading, not where it sits right now. Those price tags are going to wind up being much, much higher. And not too far in the distant future.

    For example, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan hits free agency in 2019. He’s making an average yearly salary of $20.75 million, but Spotrac projects his average yearly total to jump to $29.7 million.

    More from Niner Noise

    Green Bay Packers quarterback, future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers, is vastly underpaid at $22 million per year. He could ask for a renegotiation, likely in the range of $28.2 million. Maybe more.

    And who knows what Cousins might command on the open market?

    All told, a lucrative $27.5 million per-year deal for Garoppolo doesn’t sound that bad. Especially if it’s front loaded, coming at a time where the 49ers are laden with salary cap space.

    With Over the Cap projecting the NFL salary cap to be in the neighborhood of $200 million by 2020, Garoppolo’s pending contract might end up looking like a bargain, as all those other big deals start setting more records.

    Next: An optimistic preview of the 49ers' 2018 season

    So, don’t panic, 49ers fans, if Jimmy Garoppolo’s new deal appears costly. It won’t at all in the not-so-distant future.