Jimmy Garoppolo is all but guaranteed to leave the 49ers in NFL free agency this offseason, and the Falcons could emerge as a front-runner to sign him.
If there’s one thing the critics and proponents of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo can agree upon, it’s the reality that he plays much better when his offense has a stout run game behind him.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense has that as a staple, and the play action that derives from a run-first system helped turn Garoppolo into an effective quarterback (when healthy) dating back to him joining the Niners in 2017.
Now poised to be a free agent, the 31-year-old Garoppolo isn’t likely to return to the Bay Area, at least according to Shanahan.
Speaking to reporters not long after San Francisco was eliminated in the playoffs during the NFC Championship game, Shanahan said he didn’t “see any scenario” in which Garoppolo would return to the team in 2023.
Instead, the 49ers are likely to head into the new year with two younger quarterbacks battling it out to be the starter, Trey Lance and Brock Purdy.
What does that mean for Jimmy G, though? Where will he end up playing this season?
Falcons emerge as a ‘good fit’ for 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo might not be a highly sought-after quarterback on the open market, but he’ll have suitors. It’s possible the Niners’ former defensive coordinator, now-Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans, wants to bring Garoppolo with him to help rebuild that offense, and Garoppolo does have a rapport with Texans general manager Nick Caserio.
The New York Jets could be in the mix. Perhaps the Las Vegas Raiders.
Or, maybe, the Atlanta Falcons wind up being a perfect match.
That’s one what league evaluator told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (h/t @Jasrifootball on Twitter), suggesting that Falcons head coach Arthur Smith’s reliance on a stout run game and heavy play action could make Garoppolo feel right at home:
“A bridge starter with QB1 upside, Garoppolo would get shades of the Niners’ offense with the Falcons, thanks to Arthur Smith’s lean on the run and play-action,” the report read.
Indeed, Atlanta rushed a league-high 559 times, and that run-first system might be enough to get the most out of Garoppolo instead of asking him to be a drop-back passer 30-plus times per game.
Would Jimmy Garoppolo make sense for Falcons?
From a dollars-and-sense point, Spotrac predicts Garoppolo should earn a contract worth approximately $34.9 million, annually.
That’s a lot. But, given where the market is going with quarterbacks, it does make sense.
San Francisco isn’t going to dish that kind of money out, understandably. However, armed with an estimated $56.4 million in cap space, Atlanta could easily absorb Garoppolo as a potential bridge option to whichever signal-caller takes over the long term.
At least a year ago, the Falcons thought that’d be veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota paving the way for their third-round draftee from 2022, Desmond Ridder, who ended up starting four games and completed 63.5 percent of his passes with two touchdowns thrown against zero interceptions.
Ridder might not be ready quite yet for a full-time role, though, which will lend some credibility to the idea that Garoppolo could hold the line in the interim.
The question, however, is whether or not Garoppolo would entertain doing such a thing after being a “lame duck” on the 49ers roster ahead of Lance and now Purdy.
Probably not, but it’s worth entertaining as a possibility.