Tuesday’s deadline for franchise tags was overshadowed by a cascade of major NFL news, mostly involving quarterbacks. First, Aaron Rodgers opted to stay in Green Bay for at least one more season, providing the Packers with clarity going forward and removing the most coveted veteran passer from the market. Shortly after, the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson and a fourth-round pick to the Broncos for a forfeit of two first-round picks, two seconds, a fifth and quarterback Drew Lock, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant. Within half an hour, the two most prominent quarterbacks who would have been available had chosen their 2022 homes, two options removed from the circle of musical chairs needy teams must navigate this offseason.
The remaining options are quite limited.
Let’s be real: this is a bad draft for quarterbacks. Kenny Pickett has had a good season at Pitt, he’ll be 24 as a rookie and comes with questions about his fumbles and hand size. Malik Willis has incredible physical tools but struggled with accuracy at Liberty, where he played in a limited offense that is far from everything he would need to operate in the NFL. Desmond Ridder is a streaky player and one of the finest prospects available, but he’s going to face a big jump in competition from Cincinnati to the NFL. Matt Corral had disastrous outings in college and starred in an RPO-dependent offense at Ole Miss that will give many pro teams a break. Sam Howell has similar concerns after starring in an RPO heavy offense in North Carolina; plus it’s too small and takes way too many bags. Assessing quarterbacks is tough, and there’s likely to be a passer or two in this group that will prove solid or even special. But this year’s outlook is significantly lower than last year’s draft, when quarterbacks were chosen with the top three picks and five in the top 15 – no prospects in this year’s class are considered a trustworthy Day 1 starter.
And let’s not wrap that up either: it’s a bad free agent and trade market for veteran quarterbacks! Rodgers never entered the market and Wilson is now out of it, having created a need at QB for the Seahawks while filling one for the Broncos. Who is left? The Colts traded Carson Wentz to Washington, who was willing to take Wentz’s full $28 million salary and give up two third-round picks, one of who can become a second-round pick based on appearance incentives, just to get out of the dreary market. Maybe-perhaps– the Falcons were listening to offers on Matt Ryan. Kirk Cousins remains in Minnesota under new head coach Kevin O’Connell, and his contract makes his transfer almost cost-prohibitive anyway. Same with Ryan Tannehill. Tom Brady has retired. Ben Roethlisberger too. The buzz at the combine last week was that Ryan Fitzpatrick could follow soon. The list of QB free agents looks like this: Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, Jameis Winston, Jacoby Brissett, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Joe Flacco, Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Geno Smith and Mitchell Trubisky. Oh my.
This meager supply will be met by a large demand. The Panthers, Steelers, Saints, Colts, Buccaneers and Seahawks have immediate quarterback needs. The Eagles, Lions, Falcons, Colts, Texans and Giants also need QBs, though their deadlines make it slightly easier to stick with their starters and hope for better options next year. Washington reportedly offered Seattle three first-round picks for Wilson, reflecting his desperation for a good quarterback – which resulted in his trade for Wentz. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Trubisky could realistically get $10 million or more a year on a new contract this offseason. It’s bleak out there in the QB market.
In other words, with the exception of the belle of the ball this offseason. The league’s new year begins next week and the man of the hour has a $27 million cap, injured shoulder, propensity to throw interceptions, 33-14 record, two NFC championship starts and the most chiseled jawline you can find strapped into a helmet on Sundays.
It’s true. It’s Jimmy Garoppolo time now.
Garoppolo is the best of the rest. To understand this season’s quarterback market, all you need to know is that Garoppolo is the best bet to spark a bidding war between teams looking for their 2022 starter. close this year to what Matthew Stafford was last offseason (OK, maybe this tells you everything you need to know). It comes a year after the 49ers spent several first-round picks to move on to draft rookie Trey Lance to replace Garoppolo. It’s not out of the question that San Francisco will decide to keep Garoppolo, who got the team just games away from a Super Bowl appearance last season, but neither 49ers management nor Garoppolo himself shied away from recognize that it is probably on the move.
“It’s been a fun ride, guys, and I really thank you for it,” Garoppolo said in a press conference with Bay Area media two days after the 49ers ended their season in the game loss. championship game against the Rams. “And yes, I will miss you guys. So thanks again guys. Faithful, thank you very much for everything. It’s been crazy, man, just all the comebacks at Levi’s, the comebacks on the road, the ups and downs, it’s been a hell of a ride, guys. I love you. So see you soon.
“A lot of people need or want quarterbacks right now and he’s obviously a guy they would watch,” 49ers general manager John Lynch told The Combine last week. “So yeah, we listened.”
Garoppolo is not a perfect quarterback. He’s won plenty of games in San Francisco, but he’s steal-prone, especially in midfield, and carries the reputation of a player who’s been bolstered by Kyle Shanahan’s attack and the rest of the roster. 49ers, especially point guards like Deebo Samuel. who could make the most of Garoppolo’s limited backing ability and short passing. He has a long history of injuries, has only played a full season once in his career and has just had shoulder surgery which should keep him out of action until this summer.
But consider the alternatives and Garoppolo starts to look pretty, pretty good. Multiple league sources told the combine that San Francisco wanted compensation in the range of two second-round draft picks for Garoppolo. That would be double what the 49ers gave the Patriots to acquire Garoppolo in 2017, and double what New England originally gave up to draft Garoppolo in 2014. Two other league executives estimated that, in the empty, Garoppolo’s value might be closer to one second. or third-round pick, with interceptions and injuries being major concerns.
But Garoppolo’s value does not exist in a vacuum. He exists in a world where there is currently a shortage of decent, available quarterbacks, and in which Garoppolo is now the best available option for teams like Carolina, Pittsburgh and others (I would include Tampa Bay here if Garoppolo doesn’t wasn’t so badly suited to Bruce Arians’ returning heavy attack). Anyone familiar with basic economic theory knows what happens when demand exceeds supply. Considering what Wentz scored for the Colts, two seconds for Garoppolo seems pretty reasonable. We’re about a thousand words too late for a TL; DR, but here’s one anyway: the handsome man keeps winning. It’s Jimmy’s world, they just trade in it.