Following a disappointing close loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Title Game, San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo now expects a trade—as the 2021 NFL Draft’s 3rd overall pick, Trey Lance, will be the much anticipated present and future for the franchise going forward behind center.
To his credit, Garoppolo, who entered this past season as essentially a ‘lame duck’ starting quarterback in 2021, has handled the inevitable transition to Lance—with the utmost class, as a veteran mentor to the highly touted rookie quarterback.
Entering the final year of a 5-year, $137.5M deal he signed with the 49ers back in February of 2018, Garoppolo has roughly a $27M cap hit for the 2022 regular season—which is pretty reasonable for a starting caliber NFL quarterback these days—all things considered.
With the writing on the wall and his days starting in San Francisco safely over, Garoppolo “wants to go to a place where they want to win”.
Could that be the Indianapolis Colts—where according to team owner Jim Irsay, “all chips [will be] in” for the 2022 campaign?
Clearly unsettled on incumbent starter Carson Wentz, who struggled to finish the season and certainly contributed to the team’s late season collapse, the Colts are expected to be actively involved in seeking out any and all potential upgrades in the quarterback market.
For what it’s worth, Garoppolo’s name reportedly “briefly came up” in the DeForest Buckner trade negotiations with the 49ers back in the early 2020 offseason—as Colts general manager Chris Ballard expressed at least some degree of interest in the quarterback.
The Colts have a projected $40.9M of total available team cap space ahead of the 2022 season, but could save another $13.3M more if Wentz is cut before March 19th. That’s more than enough to easily absorb Garoppolo’s ~$27M cap hit through any potential trade.
Garoppolo completed 301 of 441 throws (68.3%) for 3,810 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a passer rating of 98.7 during 15 starts in 2021.
While from purely an athleticism and physical tools standpoint, Wentz bests Garoppolo in almost every regard, the Colts could theoretically view the latter as an upgrade ‘between the ears’, and from a leadership and competitiveness standpoint.
Most importantly, Garoppolo would hopefully be able to make the routine throws or simple checkdowns, anticipate open reads—and get rid of the football, instead of going for the ‘hero throw’ and holding the ball like Wentz for far too long on seemingly every pass play.
Even if Garoppolo’s play isn’t spectacular or sexy at quarterback, it looks like it was a whole lot more efficient than Wentz during this past season—which ultimately helps win games:
Won't be easy to replace Jimmy Garoppolo, who worked his way to the upper-right quadrant of this accuracy/efficiency graph w/ NFL's other good QBs.— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) February 2, 2022
Trey Lance, in his limited action, was in Wentz/Mayfield territory. But we did see rapid improvement from Lance over his final half pic.twitter.com/BdX07PjiPq
Don’t get me wrong, I hate the ‘he’s just a winner’ mantra at quarterback more than the next guy, it’s how NFL teams talk themselves into drafting Tim Tebow in the first round of an NFL Draft, and then start him with a straight face.
That being said, there has to be something that Garoppolo has done right or well enough to at least help his team make an NFC Title Game in two of the last three seasons—and even appear in a Super Bowl—whether that’s leadership, competitiveness, efficiency, or largely playing smart football, whatever the case may be. (Yes, great coaching, a strong running game or Deebo Samuel, and stingy defense certainly help too).
Potentially backed by superstar running back Jonathan Taylor in the ground game, the Colts wouldn’t necessarily need Garoppolo to be ‘Superman’ and carry the offense, just capable of taking what the defense gives him, playing within the confines of head coach Frank Reich’s quarterback friendly system, and making the occasional big throw or two during the course of a football game—that all starting NFL quarterbacks need to make.
Quite frankly, his script would be roughly the same as Wentz’s was supposed to be in 2021, but the former Philadelphia Eagles franchise quarterback—and maybe soon to be ex-Colts cast member, couldn’t remember his lines nearly often enough to win the audition outright.
But here’s the downside.
While Garoppolo is an upgrade over Wentz, the Colts are already without their 2022 first round pick and would presumably have to surrender a significant draft pick(s) to acquire him in any realistic trade this early offseason.
Other potentially quarterback needy NFL teams such as the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos, and Pittsburgh Steelers could all be interested—as Garoppolo shouldn’t lack available suitors this offseason.
Even though Garoppolo is an upgrade over Wentz, he’s likely not a significant enough upgrade for the Colts to give up any additional meaningful draft capital.
He could help the Colts make the AFC playoffs again, but is he the guy that’s going to lead an offense down the field and get the game-winning touchdown in a big playoff game?
Is he going to outduel the toast of the AFC in top young quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Lamar Jackson?
Probably not—as he just hasn’t showcased that nearly enough (*or at all).
It would be one thing if Garoppolo was a free agent, and the Colts could simply sign him by using available team cap space. After all, money is money, and spending is spending.
However, the fact that the team has to surrender even more meaningful draft capital to acquire him, and it simply doesn’t make much sense right now—given the other key holes at critical positions still remaining on the roster.
He’s a slight upgrade but he doesn’t push the needle far enough to justify such a move.