ESPN’s Field Yates went through each team in the NFL to predict their starting quarterback for the upcoming 2021 season. Here are the teams Schefter predicted would have a new starting quarterback:
- Panthers - Deshaun Watson
- Jaguars - Trevor Lawrence
- Saints - Jameis Winston
- Colts - Carson Wentz
- Patriots - Marcus Mariota
- WFT - Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Texans - Justin Fields
- Jets - Zack Wilson
- Bears - Sam Darnold
Yates, going based on what he’s hearing, has the San Francisco 49ers keeping Jimmy Garoppolo heading into 2021:
Projected 2021 starter: Jimmy Garoppolo
This is an interesting one. Jimmy G has been a part of a 49ers team that has won a ton of games with him under center, yet this still feels like a much less than 100% certain scenario. His contract is at the juncture in which the team can get out from it without major financial penalty — it could trade or release him and save more than $23 million.
With the quarterback carousel spinning, everyone wants to connect Kyle Shanahan to any of the available options. But there has been enough messaging from the team lately to make me believe Garoppolo is the man for one more season (or more).
We know that the 49ers are interested in a potential upgrade as head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch said the team would be open to upgrading every position if presented with one. In this situation, it’s evident that the 49ers never found a player better than Garoppolo, which is why he remains the starter in 2021.
The team isn’t desperate as a team like the Colts, who didn’t have a starter, or the Bears, who fall into the same boat as Indianapolis. The risk outweighs the reward when comparing Garoppolo to the likes of Wentz or Darnold.
Jimmy G is under contract for two more seasons with zero guarantees left in his salary outside of Garoppolo’s prorated bonus. If the Niners roll with him into 2021, the next question would be whether they decide to restructure Jimmy’s contract to create more salary-cap space for potential free-agent signings.
After that, you ask who Jimmy’s backup is. Josh Johnson and Josh Rosen are the current backups, but San Francisco could add a veteran in free agency or a quarterback at some point in the draft. In Schefter’s scenario, the top quarterbacks in the draft are gone, so unless the 49ers land Trey Lance, they’d be selecting a quarterback after the first round.
We’ve discussed the potential of a Garoppolo/Lance pairing where Lance, or whoever the hypothetical rookie would be, learns for a season behind Jimmy G and the Niners reevaluate their quarterback situation at the end of the 2021 season. That always felt like the most plausible scenario as it would cost San Francisco the least amount of draft capital.
With the salary cap reportedly set with a $180 million floor, extensions, restructures, and one-year deals are other ways the 49ers could create cap relief.