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Jerry Rice weighs in on if 49ers should pursue Deshaun Watson

The GOAT touched on Watson and Jimmy Garoppolo.

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

When the greatest player in NFL history weighs in on a subject, you have to listen.

San Francisco 49ers legend Jerry Rice — who has always been one of the team’s most prominent supporters — is never shy about sharing his thoughts about the state of the franchise.

Rice joined 95.7 The Game for an interview and was asked if the Niners should make an attempt to acquire the reportedly disgruntled Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.

“Yeah, I think they should

You’ve got to look at all your options, and you look at Deshaun Watson, and there are rumors that he might go to Miami, he might go to the Patriots, and also the 49ers.”

There is no doubt about Watson’s ability. The 25-year-old is a dynamic quarterback who completed 70.2% of his passes for 4,823 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He led the NFL in yards per attempt (8.9), yards per completion (12.6) and finished second behind Dak Prescott in net yards per attempt (7.64).

Watson can also extend and make plays with his feet, finishing the 2020 season with 444 rushing yards.

Watson is reportedly unhappy with the Texans after the team didn’t consult him before hiring Nick Caserio as the new general manager.

Houston signed Watson to a four-year deal worth up to $160 million (roughly $111 million in guaranteed money) just before Week 1 of the 2020 regular season. The team paid him a $27 million signing bonus as well.

Per Over the Cap, Watson’s base salary for the 2021 season is a little more than $10.5 million, with a higher cap number of $15.94 million. His contract is structured in a way that sees a significant increase in the following years.

Watson’s cap number is more than $40 million in 2022 and 2023 and then averages out to $33.35 over the final two seasons of the deal.

The 49ers have quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo under contract for next season. The 29-year-old’s cap hit is slated to be just over $26 million next season, but the team could move on from Garoppolo with a minimal financial impact. If the team does move on from Jimmy G, the dead cap hit for 2021 will be $2.8 million.

Rice also touched on the Garoppolo dilemma during the interview.

“I think they have to look at that. Because, the thing about Jimmy G, I think Jimmy G is a good quarterback, but the thing is, also he can’t stay healthy. Now, I don’t know what the cause of that (is), what that entails, but you have to look at who’s going to be the leader down the road, someone that is able to be behind center that’s gonna be able to also be healthy and be productive on the football field.”

San Francisco’s record with Garoppolo as the starter speaks for itself. The Niners are 22-8 in regular season games with Jimmy G under center since they acquired him from the New England Patriots during the 2017 season. But Garoppolo has also missed 23 starts due to injury over that span.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch reiterated their belief in Garoppolo during their season-ending media availability. Still, nothing is set in stone when it comes to the NFL.

Watson is objectively a better quarterback than Garoppolo. Shanahan and Lynch are open about the fact that they looked into signing future Hall of Famer Tom Brady last offseason. If they decide to kick the tires on Watson, no one can blame them. You want your front office exhausting all possible options to improve the team not only for the short-term but for the future as well. Watson checks both boxes.

That’s not a knock on Garoppolo, who has shown can help lead a team to the Super Bowl when healthy for a full season. He completed 69.1% of his passes for 3,978 yards and 27 touchdowns as the 49ers went 13-3 in 2019.

Watson’s no-trade clause gives him some leverage, but Caserio can call his bluff and wait him out. If the Texans’ general manager brings in a new coach who appeals to Watson, the relationship could be repaired.

If not, it would take a ton of draft capital to entice the Texans to deal Watson, something Shanahan and Lynch might not be willing to part with if they feel confident enough in the pieces they have in place for 2021. The Niners will be able to add another impact player with the 12th selection in the draft to go along with the core of Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Fred Warner and hopefully Trent Williams.

Either way, the GOAT has spoken.