SF 49ers could keep Jimmy Garoppolo and draft a QB in 2021

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

The SF 49ers are in a predicament with Jimmy Garoppolo, yet they could retain him while taking a quarterback early in the NFL Draft.

The SF 49ers essentially have four options when it comes to the future of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in 2021.

San Francisco can trade him or cut him this offseason, either option generating $24.1 million in cap savings, which could be necessary to maintain other portions of the roster. Or the Niners could simply stay with him into next year as the “franchise guy.”

Yet there’s a fourth option, too: keeping Garoppolo around for another season while also adding a rookie quarterback early in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The 2021 draft class is pretty deep at the position, particularly with some highly ranked first-round talent like Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, NDSU’s Trey Lance, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and BYU’s Zach Wilson. But there’s an argument against going this route, keeping Garoppolo as an awfully expensive bridge to an up-and-coming prospect.

For starters, San Francisco can save a similar amount of cap space if it decides to keep Garoppolo this upcoming year but move on from him in 2022 — $25.6 million in cap savings, per Over the Cap. And while it’s not yet known what the scale for rookie player contracts in 2021 will be because of the uncertainty of the salary cap, one might speculate between $10 million and $20 million total spread out over four years.

But why would the SF 49ers want to pay Garoppolo all that money to simply warm the seat for a first-round quarterback?

Turns out, there’s a precedent.

SF 49ers can use precedent set by the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes, Alex Smith

Something like this happened before in the not-so-distant past, albeit with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Veteran quarterback Alex Smith was thriving in Kansas City after being traded there by the Niners in 2013, helping turn around what was a two-win team the year prior into a perennial playoff contender.

In 2014, Smith signed a four-year extension that would keep him with the Chiefs through the 2018 season.

Of course, as the NFL would like to remind you, Kansas City made that lucrative trade up to grab its next franchise quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, at No. 10 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. He was the Chiefs’ future, not Smith, who was suddenly relegated to lame-duck status until Mahomes was ready to go.

In 2017, Smith was going to earn $16.9 million — nearly 10 percent of Kansas City’s total cap space that year. Did the Chiefs balk at the notion of paying a hefty sum of money to a quarterback they knew was only a temporary placeholder for Mahomes?


And in light of Mahomes and Kansas City’s rise together and eventual win in Super Bowl LIV, much to the SF 49ers’ dismay, it’s looking like that decision was the right one from the Chiefs’ vantage point.

Kansas City sent Smith packing to the Washington Football Team in 2018, fully giving control over to Mahomes after he spent one year developing under his predecessor.

Next. 4 reasons why 49ers don't move on from Jimmy Garoppolo. dark

The SF 49ers shouldn’t be afraid of doing a similar thing again if they still feel Garoppolo gives them the best chance at winning out of all other options in 2021.