The rest of the NFL has gotten the message, as well: San Francisco is among the teams that have called Carolina to gauge the Panthers’ interest in potentially trading Bridgewater, according to league sources. San Francisco general manager John Lynch indicated last week the 49ers would like to find a solid backup as insurance for oft-injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo.
Last week, the 49ers general manager John Lynch said, “we have to insulate ourselves better. We’ve got to have better options if he’s not there.” Lynch was talking about a quarterback replacing Jimmy Garoppolo if he were to go down with an injury.
(For more about the possibility of Teddy B. taking over for Jimmy G., check out today’s Niners Nation Podcast)
We’ve seen in 2018 and 2020 that the combination of C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens might get the job done in spot duty, but whenever they have to play extended action, it gets ugly. I’m in the camp where, “if you have to play a backup QB more than a game or two, your season is already lost.” Knowing that spending capital on a backup QB when you’ve already invested so much in your starter comes off as bad business.
Andy Dalton has been a popular name, but he doesn’t seem to fit what Kyle Shanahan values in a quarterback. Dalton isn’t decisive, he panics in the pocket, and he’s not a great decision-maker. Dalton is a cheap backup with experience and has succeeded in the NFL, though.
Citing Sports Info Solutions total points earned stat, Dalton earned 28 points this past season. Bridgewater earned 71. I’m not here to pretend that Teddy is a game-changer. He’s not. Bridgewater’s lack of arm strength really limits what you can do as a play-caller. Where Teddy excels at is knowing to go with the football and being able to manage the pocket when it breaks down.
In that sense, it’s easy to see why Shanahan would look at Bridgewater as a fit. Plus, he’s an underrated runner. Bridgewater can get out of the pocket and use his legs when the pocket collapses.
In this scenario, it’s hard to envision the Niners keeping both Teddy and Jimmy Garoppolo. Bridgewater signed a $63 million contract last offseason. Trading Bridgewater would leave $10 million in dead money on the Panther’s cap since that’s Teddy’s guaranteed salary for 2021. That would mean the 49ers would hypothetically owe Bridgewater around $17.9 million for this upcoming season, then Bridgewater wouldn’t have any guarantees in his contract for ‘22. Of course, San Francisco could restructure Bridgewater’s contract, but that’d be the only logical way to have Bridgewater on the roster.
That’s where we get into a rabbit hole of projections. Do the Niners reaching out to Carolina mean they’re thinking about releasing/trading Garoppolo, and Teddy serves as the backup for a rookie QB? Did Kyle watch Bridgewater last season and think he can get the same production as a healthy Garoppolo, just for $8 million less? Would they keep Jimmy and restructure Teddy’s deal?
The possibilities are endless, but it’s evident that the 49ers want to do something with their QB room. In that same article above, Lynch said, “we are seriously looking forward to kind of rebooting our team.” Trading Bridgewater, who I’d imagine would cost nothing more than a conditional or Day 3 draft pick, would certainly qualify as a reboot.
Saving $7-$8 million would mean the Niners window is a week or so from this report to get this deal done. Why? Because that money would be used to sign another free agent. That would be part of the reason you make this move, to add a quality free agent. In that sense, the 49ers would have to pull the trigger soon. Buckle up.