Are the SF 49ers heading towards a Matthew Stafford era?
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, the rumors linking Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to the SF 49ers have been heating up with the consistency of a California wildfire.
Such a move would of course cause the current starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, to be cut or traded, as the team is not going to keep nearly $50 million worth of quarterbacks on their books as they look to scrounge up some money for the wide array of free agents they currently need to try to extend.
In case you were wondering about the financial implications of such a change at quarterback, the math shows the Niners lose pretty much nothing in cutting Garoppolo and installing Stafford under center from a financial perspective.
Due to an insightful clause in his contract, Garoppolo can be cut this year with only a $2.8 million hit to the cap. This would be more than canceled out by the salary of Stafford, who stands to earn $20 million in 2021 and $23 million in 2022 as opposed to the $25.5 million owned to Garoppolo.
In short, the hit to the dead cap gets not absorbed in the disparity between salaries, but actually frees up some money for the team while upgrading the most important position in the game.
And let’s be very clear here: Yes, Stafford is an upgrade over Garoppolo. He’s a better thrower and much better at progressing reads.
As the days go on towards the Super Bowl, the surprisingly deep potential quarterback carousel has also gone on. Stafford to the 49ers has become not only a passing fancy for some, but a very possible situation indeed. Rumors have flown that not only could the 49ers obtain the quarterback, but keep their first-round selections.
This, from 95.7 The Game’s Sterling Bennett:
While the team did not have a third-rounder in 2021 due to the trade with Washington for left tackle Trent Williams, the team will gain a third-rounder due to the New York Jets hiring former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as head coach per the league policy of rewarding teams for developing minority personnel who then get promoted into a head coach or executive roles.
What does this mean for a hypothetical (for now) situation where the team enters 2021 in the Stafford era? While the team has had teases at quarterback such as the one-time head coach Jim Harbaugh-era Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick and Garoppolo himself, Stafford would be the first proven commodity at quarterback since Jeff Garcia.
Ignore the irrelevant stats about things such as win/loss record or the Lions’ general mediocrity. It’s certainly not on Stafford that team hasn’t been able to perform. If anything, Stafford has been responsible for the team not being a perennial threat to have the No. 1 selection for several years.
Stafford is a strong thrower who still produced in 2020 with 64.2 percent of his passes completed and throwing for 4,084 yards with 26 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions.
And then consider Stafford would walk into a situation where he has a strong running game to take the weight off him, and extremely talented receiving targets such as tight end George Kittle and the young wide receiver duo of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
It’s honestly hard not to get excited about the potential of such a dynamic offense at the helm for 2021.
When there’s smoke there’s fire, and the SF 49ers-Stafford connection is absolutely smoking right now. If the Niners can get Stafford and hold onto their No. 12 overall pick, that’d already make the offseason a win.