According to SI.com’s Albert Breer, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s name came up briefly when the Indianapolis Colts and the former 2019 NFC Champions engaged in trade negotiations for All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner—during the early 2020 offseason:
Indianapolis seems like the natural landing spot for Stafford. The question, then, becomes whether GM Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich would see Stafford as a Band-Aid or more than that. The team went with a Band-Aid last year, in Rivers, after taking a shot with Jacoby Brissett in 2019 (and that was after Jimmy Garoppolo’s name briefly came up in the DeForest Buckner trade talks with San Francisco). Might they want to fix the position once and for all? I think that would be preferable. You could point to the Buckner trade as an example of Ballard being aggressive in the way he’d have to be on Stafford—but Buckner’s 26 and a definite long-term cornerstone. My guess would be that is what Ballard’s looking for. Maybe Stafford is that. Or maybe a big move up in the draft gets him there. Remember, Ballard was part of the vetting of Mahomes in Kansas City and saw the benefit of going all in on a young player at the position and dropping him into a readymade situation. Only he knows if there’s a quarterback in this year’s draft class that he sees like the Chiefs’ folks saw Mahomes in 2017. But if there is one, I’d bet he wouldn’t be scared to move way up the draft board, get a cost-controlled young passer and use the leftover cap space to start paying the guys they’ve been building around (like Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard).
Of course, with Garoppolo ultimately not involved, the Colts ended up completing the trade for Buckner in a very secretive maneuver—with no league leaks until it was almost formally announced, surrendering their 2020 first round pick in the process.
Buckner went on to become a 2020 NFL First-Team All-Pro in his debut season for the Colts—as consistently their best and most valuable defensive player this past season.
It was a home run trade by the Colts, as Buckner was well-worth it—and each and every penny.
The blurb about Garoppolo is interesting though.
Did the starting quarterback needy Colts initiate or attempt to add ‘Jimmy G’ into the ongoing trade talks (which would’ve precluded the team signing veteran Philip Rivers)?
Were they immediately shut down by the 49ers?
Following an underwhelming Super Bowl showing, did the 49ers start having second thoughts about whether Jimmy G. was the long-term answer and explored a potential salary cap dump (eyeing then prized free agent Tom Brady?)—before eventually pulling him out of trade negotiations all together?
Could the teams not agree on Jimmy G’s actual trade compensation or did it make the deal too complicated with more moving parts to consider?
Whatever the case, it’s clear the Colts had conversations on potentially available starting veteran quarterbacks—other than Rivers last offseason. Colts general manager Chris Ballard was rightfully performing his due diligence on other realistic options.
It might’ve been for the best long-term in Indianapolis’ interest, as in 2020, Garoppolo completed 94 of 140 pass attempts (67.1%) for 1,096 passing yards, 7 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and a passer rating of 92.4 during 6 starts before being shut down with a season-ending ankle injury (although Jimmy G. has a potential $24.1 million in cap savings if cut this offseason).
Meanwhile, Colts veteran starter Philip Rivers completed 369 of 543 passes (68.0%) for 4,169 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a passer rating of 97.0 in all 16 starts during his sole Indianapolis season before retiring—but returned Indy to the playoffs.
We may never know the full answer, but the blurb that these two sides at least talked ‘Jimmy G.’ trade—even briefly, is still intriguing to say the least, when given the potential possibilities.