ESPN ranked all 32 teams and how committed they are to their quarterback. The network did the same last year where San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ranked Ranked 17th, in the “prove-it time” tier, and was ranked No. 2 in the overall quarterback ranking tier. How would that change this year? First, here is how ESPN explains themselves:
We do this by digging in, as best we can, on the contract figures and assessing how financially committed each team currently is to its starter. We look at how much more money is guaranteed, when non-guaranteed money becomes guaranteed, how much it would cost to cut or trade the player after this season, after next season and more.
In some cases, you might see your team’s quarterback on this list and dispute the ranking. You might say something along the lines of, “Graziano, are you nuts? How can you say the Chiefs aren’t more committed to Patrick Mahomes than the Panthers are to Teddy Bridgewater?” And of course, on some level, you have a point. But the level we’re dealing with here is a contractual one — a purely dollars-and-cents analysis of how committed each team is to its starter and how hard or easy it would be for them to move on if circumstances dictated that they must or should.
Now, for Jimmy G:
Starter: Jimmy Garoppolo | Signed through: 2022
Tier: Prove-it time | Ranking in tier: No. 2
Contract: Five-year, $137.5 million contract signed in February 2018, including $48.7 million fully guaranteed at signing.
It sounds crazy to call it “prove-it time” for a quarterback who’s 21-6 as an NFL starter and just played in the Super Bowl. But the fact is the way the 49ers structure their contracts, everyone is always in prove-it time.
Garoppolo has a $23.8 million salary in 2020, but just $15.7 million of that is guaranteed, and the Niners owe him no more guaranteed money after 2020. The dead-money cap hit for cutting Garoppolo next offseason would be just $2.8 million.
There’s no reason to think they don’t like Garoppolo or that he won’t play out his entire contract there. But San Francisco’s policy on flexibility doesn’t exempt its quarterback, and the organization will always have the financial freedom to make a change at the position if it feels it needs to.
The final sentence is what you should focus on. These rankings are more team-specific than they are for the quarterback. That’s true in Jimmy’s case, at least. The Niners are known to keep themselves in contract situations that are team-friendly. This is true for several positions, including quarterback.
Jimmy G’s contract’s final two years don’t include any guaranteed money, and his cap number will likely put Garoppolo in low teens as far cap numbers for quarterbacks. Here is a hypothetical: instead of moving on from Jimmy after 2020 or 2021, let’s say Garoppolo has a Matt Ryan type of season. Does he hold out to be paid like one of the top quarterbacks? We’ll cross that bridge once we get there.