Jimmy Garoppolo came within one win of making his second Super Bowl start in three seasons as the 49ers’ starting quarterback, falling to the Rams in the NFC Championship on Sunday night. With rookie Trey Lance waiting in the wings, however, and the 30-year-old Garoppolo due more than $25 million in 2022, the veteran signal-caller acknowledged reality in the wake of San Francisco’s loss: he’s probably played his last game with the 49ers.
Who knows what Lance will actually bring to the table, offering more athleticism but less proven NFL passing? But after an injury-riddled and mostly passable performance as the 2021 starter, Garoppolo will almost surely be traded or released this offseason, saving the 49ers virtually his entire 2022 salary in the process. As a whole, he’s probably reached his ceiling as a starting QB: good enough to make a legitimate run, but not necessarily to win it all (a common issue around the league, if you haven’t noticed). But that’s more than some teams currently have at QB, so he figures to have a decent market.
Where, exactly, could Garoppolo end up? Here are logical landing spots:
Unlikely but possible
Colts: Owner Jim Irsay is rightfully unsatisfied at QB, where Carson Wentz was just OK in his Indy debut. Wentz is very expendable — the Colts could save between $13 million and $28 million by cutting or trading him — but it’s doubtful coach Frank Reich would want to change starters if the alternative is Garoppolo, who is efficient but hardly a clear upgrade.
Giants: New GM Joe Schoen was surprisingly resolute in his commitment to build around Daniel Jones in 2022, but if new coach Brian Daboll preferred veteran competition/insurance, the latter is familiar with Jimmy G, working for the Patriots during the QB’s time in New England. QBs coach Jerry Schuplinski was also part of Garoppolo’s position coaching with the Pats.
Packers: Obviously this only applies if Aaron Rodgers retires or heads elsewhere. But it makes sense if Green Bay is desperate post-Rodgers and isn’t ready to fully hand the reins to Jordan Love. Coach Matt LaFleur prefers an efficient, run-heavy offense and is friends with Kyle Shanahan, who’s long vouched for Jimmy G. His roster is still built to compete now, too.
Panthers: They’re so desperate for a QB they could easily go into the “favorites” section, but would David Tepper really sign off on another mid-tier veteran swing after Matt Rhule burned through Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Cam Newton? It should be go big or go home here, either through the draft or via trade.
Raiders: New coach Josh McDaniels has little reason to replace Derek Carr with Garoppolo, but if for some reason a trade manifests itself and he needs a stopgap for a more comprehensive roster overhaul, he at least has experience working with Jimmy G, from their time together in New England.
Seahawks: Notice a pattern here? This one’s contingent on Seattle bidding farewell to Russell Wilson, who may or may not seek a trade. Pete Carroll isn’t gonna wanna totally reset if Wilson moves on, and he’s very familiar with Garoppolo, who’s best suited for his kind of offense: slow, steady and methodical, with a heavy dependence on the ground game.
Broncos: Rodgers will be their top target, and there are other, better fallbacks, including potentially Kirk Cousins. But if they can’t snag a big name, Garoppolo at least offers playoff experience. Denver’s roster could support him, too, with a solid run game and defense. They’ve got more than enough cap space to make it work.
Buccaneers: With Tom Brady retiring as expected, Bruce Arians is left with a playoff-caliber roster that lacks a starting QB. Emphasizing “reloading” rather than rebuilding, he’d surely prefer a proven veteran as a short-term fix. Besides the irony of succeeding his old Patriots counterpart in Tampa, Garoppolo would at least be an upgrade over the middling free agent QBs.
Jets: No, they’re not ready to give up on Zach Wilson, but GM Joe Douglas should know the value of a good veteran backup plan after 2021. Coach Robert Saleh is familiar with Garoppolo from San Francisco, as is offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who was the 49ers’ passing game coordinator from 2017-2020. Call it a Ryan Tannehill-style play for an emergency option.
Saints: They’ve got a monumental salary cap hurdle to clear, but their defense is still built to contend, and their replacement options for Sean Payton appear geared toward a quick turnaround. Jameis Winston may get another crack at the top job, but they could stand to explore every option at QB.
Steelers: They need a long-term answer after Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, but even if they spend an early pick at QB, Garoppolo would make for a logical stopgap, considering Mike Tomlin is always coaching for the playoffs and has the pieces to lean on the ground and defense moving forward
Texans: Houston might very well be better off developing Davis Mills, who flashed as a third-round rookie in 2021, but can the Texans afford to enter 2022 with only him at QB? GM Nick Caserio was in the Patriots’ front office when New England spent a second-rounder on Garoppolo in 2014.
Washington: When aren’t they taking fliers on veteran QBs? Ron Rivera knows he must get a real, reliable st