Did 49ers fleece Rams with Baker Mayfield waiver claim?

Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers may have convinced the Rams to jump offsides with quarterback Baker Mayfield’s claim, as the reports have a puzzling and entertaining timeline.

On Sunday in a game against the Miami Dolphins, the San Francisco 49ers watched in agony as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was carted off the field, later reported as having suffered a season-ending foot injury.

That meant, from here on out, the Niners would be forced to rely on their third-string signal-caller, rookie Brock Purdy, after losing both Garoppolo and quarterback Trey Lance way back in Week 2.

On Monday, news broke from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that the Carolina Panthers were going to waive quarterback Baker Mayfield, whom they acquired in one of last offseason blockbuster deals from the Cleveland Browns.

Having flamed out on his second team, it certainly seemed reasonable for San Francisco to pounce on Mayfield even though head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad was awfully low in the waiver-claim order.

Still, if he slipped, Mayfield would be an upgrade over Purdy, right? He’d have to be.

Of course, nothing like that happened. Mayfield ultimately was claimed by the Los Angeles Rams, who were reportedly the only team to put in a waiver claim on the quarterback.

Did the 49ers convince them to do it by threatening the reality of making a claim? Perhaps.

49ers might have convinced Rams to claim Baker Mayfield

The Rams and Niners had one thing in common: starting quarterbacks out indefinitely, LA minus Matthew Stafford (neck) for what’ll likely be the rest of the year amid a lost season for head coach Sean McVay.

At 3-9, Los Angeles doesn’t particularly care what Mayfield offers over the final weeks aside from a potential audition for 2023 and a possible compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere, but McVay certainly would also love to screw Shanahan’s team’s chances of finding a starting-caliber option to replace Garoppolo so easily.

Perhaps San Francisco played along.

Nothing is concrete here, of course, but the initial reports were that Garoppolo would be out for the year with a Lisfranc injury that would require surgery. He was done, and with Lance also finished, the 49ers were down to Purdy, the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Not ideal for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Coming through ESPN’s Adam Schefter’s tweets on the matter, it’s an interesting timeline of events and reports, starting off with Schefter retweeting ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton:

Not long before the Rams ultimately claimed Mayfield, Schefter reported the Niners weren’t likely to land the embattled quarterback:

Schefter then reported San Francisco’s inking of free-agent journeyman quarterback Josh Johnson to a one-year deal, which isn’t much of a surprise and wouldn’t rule out adding Mayfield.

But the Dec. 6 tweet at 4:05 p.m. ET made public the Rams’ waiver claim:

Not too long after, further news broke about Los Angeles being the only team to put in a waiver claim. Had the Rams waited, they could have feasibly signed Mayfield for the veteran’s minimum.

But, back to the 49ers pulling a fast one here.

Did 49ers know more about Jimmy Garoppolo injury than they led Rams, NFL to believe?

Up to this point, the Mayfield timeline to the Niners’ NFC West rivals is more conjecture than factual evidence. LA might have feared any one of the other 31 teams grabbing the former No. 1 overall draft pick, not just a quarterback-needy San Francisco squad.

Still, going back to Schefter’s Twitter timeline, literally 12 minutes after breaking the news on the Rams claiming Mayfield, Schefter also reported Garoppolo wouldn’t need season-ending surgery after all and might actually be back for the playoffs, and that was followed by something of a cryptic tweet about the 49ers’ inaction on Mayfield:

Read More: Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t suffer a season-ending injury after all

What’s clear is someone within the Niners organization was happily using Schefter as a mouthpiece. After Shanahan essentially told all reporters on Sunday that Garoppolo would be done for the year, San Francisco could keep quiet about any other developments that could suggest the quarterback would return sooner than expected.

However, with Mayfield now out there and a team like the Rams looking to find a starter despite their own lost season, the 49ers potentially stayed quiet and only asked Schefter to reveal the Garoppolo news merely minutes after Mayfield’s claim was announced.

A shifty move by the Niners, even though it’s still conjecture. However, if you’re a San Francisco fan, you probably believe that was the goal all along: get the Rams to bite unnecessarily.

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