49ers roster: Jimmy Garoppolo is under a microscope after 2021 NFL Draft
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers’ addition of Trey Lance in the NFL Draft ultimately means the eventual end for Jimmy Garoppolo. Now, the only question is when.
As soon as the San Francisco 49ers traded up to No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, fans and analysts alike knew the time for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to stay on the team’s roster had an expiration date.
Exactly when, however, was and still is anyone’s guess.
The Niners’ eventual selection of North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, who has potentially far more upside but will need more time to develop than the other top QBs linked to San Francisco, Alabama’s Mac Jones and Ohio State’s Justin Fields, helps ensure Garoppolo sticks around a while longer.
It’s a role Garoppolo will have to embrace. While there was plenty of speculation the 49ers could have traded him during the draft, particularly if he was ultimately too disgruntled at the fact the Niners were searching for another franchise signal-caller, the list of would-be suitors dried up awfully fast throughout the draft.
The Chicago Bears added Fields, while the New England Patriots ultimately landed Jones. Another quarterback-needy team, the Denver Broncos, traded for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to compete with their own incumbent, Drew Lock.
As of now, one would figure the quarterback rooms on essentially all 32 teams’ rosters are all but set.
Right there, the trade market for Garoppolo has dried up. And San Francisco’s need to take its time to groom Lance also prompts Jimmy G to stick around a little while longer.
Yet that doesn’t change the fact he’ll be under the proverbial microscope this season yet again.
49ers, NFL will still watch Jimmy Garoppolo closely in 2021
Lance had only one full season as a starter, 2019, and played just one game in 2020 before COVID-19 shut the Bisons’ program down.
Raw but enticing, Lance has a long way to go before he can assume starter’s duties. And judging by head coach Kyle Shanahan’s recent comments on The Rich Eisen Show (h/t Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News), there isn’t exactly going to be a hot quarterback competition between now and Week 1:
"Jimmy definitely is our starter right now, and right now there isn’t a competition, because I don’t believe Trey would be in a position to compete.Jimmy is too good of a player, has too good a grasp of our offense. He’ll start out OTAs running, like he’s done before, and he’ll be the starting quarterback."
The microscope on Garoppolo is twofold.
Clearly, the 49ers have an interest in building Garoppolo back up into a quality quarterback, particularly after he missed all but six games last year because of ankle injuries. And while the trade market now is likely moot, the same shouldn’t and can’t be said once the 2022 season rolls around.
Upping Jimmy G’s trade value for the next offseason is one of the Niners’ priorities.
At the same time, though, Lance is the developing quarterback fans will want to see sooner than later. It’s not going to be hard envisioning the cries for Lance as soon as Garoppolo goes through a cold stretch, has a bad game or, as two of the last three seasons have shown, suffers another injury.
In an ideal world, Garoppolo has a career-type year in 2021 while Lance fully develops into a pro-ready starter for 2022. Then, with a lucrative quarterback trade market opening up a little less than a year from now, San Francisco would then be poised to take full advantage and reap the rewards for a quarterback-desperate team willing to send off compensation for Jimmy G while absorbing whatever cap hit he’ll have.
But the ideal world rarely plays itself out fully.
It’s not unlike the scrutiny and speculation Garoppolo has endured for 2020 and much of 2021 already, the only difference being now the 49ers have penned in his replacement in Lance.
Now, the eyes peering in on Garoppolo’s future will be asking “when?” and not “if?”