Cecil Lammey has covered the Denver Broncos for as long as I can remember at various publications and is a member of the Pro Football Writers Hall of Fame. Wednesday afternoon, Lammey dropped an unexpected bomb:
Ah, what might have been. League sources tell me #Jets turned down #49ers first-round pick for Sam Darnold earlier this offseason. Joe Douglas & co. had concerns about Zach Wilson's shoulder & wanted to see his pro day. Now, super confident & will likely be no2 pick #NFLDraft— Cecil Lammey (@CecilLammey) April 14, 2021
There are a few takeaways here. One is that the 49ers dodged a bullet. Two is that the team is far more quarterback hungry than they’ve led on. Three, assuming this is true, the door on Jimmy Garoppolo must’ve shut a long time ago.
I understand why the team continues to prop up Garoppolo’s trade value. No logical organization who traded three first-round picks and a third-rounder to move up for a quarterback will talk down on their current starter when you consider how much money he is making.
We’ve seen his teammate start to pivot, too. Before the trade, we heard all of the 49ers speak highly about Jimmy G and how he would get the team back to the Super Bowl. On Wednesday, Juszczyk said he’d support whichever quarterback the 49ers start this season.
I’ve seen Fred Warner and Javon Kinlaw like posts of Justin Fields on Instagram in the past week. The writing feels like it’s on the wall for Jimmy’s return and has been for a while, but we’re starting to see everything come full circle now.
Where does Jimmy end up? Well, that’s a tough one. I doubt it’s the Patriots. If I had to guess, New England moves up for Trey Lance. Garoppolo’s name was tied to the Broncos at the start of April, but those rumors have cooled. Judging by their appearance at Fields’ pro day, Denver is likely gauging Atlanta’s interest and what the Falcons plan to do to determine the cost to move up to No. 4. Garoppolo could undoubtedly be their fallback plan, however.
That leaves Chicago and Washington as obvious suitors for Jimmy G, who played his college ball in Eastern Illinois. Washington just signed Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason, but general manager Martin Mayhew knows Jimmy firsthand.
Back to Darnold. Did the 49ers panic? Why else would you offer a first-rounder for a player who was traded for far less than that? While it’s easy to lean toward Cecil’s report being off, we’ve heard the same in other trades. When Matthew Stafford was traded to the Rams, several reports came out that Detroit received better offers from other teams.
If you’re sold on Wilson in New York’s case, trading your only option at QB before his physical would have been dangerous. You have to think worst-case scenario, and that would have been Wilson failing his physical to some degree.
As more information continues to come out, we know that the Niners had their eyes on a few upgrades this offseason. “Missing” out on Stafford and Darnold could turn out to be the best thing to happen to this regime if the quarterback at No. 3 pans out. Now, that player needs to be better than a competent starter. I won’t say he has to be a star, but the 49ers must win because of him.
We’ll find out if that’s the case come Week 1 when the rookie will start.