The San Francisco 49ers are getting ready for their rookie minicamp, which is scheduled to begin on Friday. All eyes will be on quarterback Trey Lance, whom the Niners selected with the No. 3 overall pick.
It was no secret that head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager traded up to No. 3 to select their QB of the future when they made a deal with the Miami Dolphins. There was a ton of speculation about who San Francisco would take out of Lance, Mac Jones and Justin Fields. We got our answer when Shanahan and Lynch elected to go with the North Dakota State product.
During the lead-up to the 2021 NFL Draft, many NFL insiders were trying to figure out what this means for incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer recently was on Boston sports radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub and was asked about why a trade involving Garoppolo never commenced (h/t Boston.com):
“The decision to go with Trey Lance I think basically moved Jimmy Garoppolo further off the market,” Breer added. “I think at that point the 49ers knew, and Kyle knew, we probably have to at least preserve the ability to redshirt our rookie quarterback for a year, because it’s Trey Lance and not Mac Jones. I can’t imagine the 49ers would be going out there and actively trying to make a deal for Jimmy Garoppolo unless the compensation coming back was absolutely overwhelming. That’s what they’ve maintained the whole time.”
Shanahan and Lynch have maintained that they intend on keeping Garoppolo for at least the 2021 season, but that didn’t stop league pundits from figuring out where Jimmy G could land in a potential trade. If a team offered a first-round pick for Garoppolo, we likely would have seen him moves leading up to or during the draft.
Breer added what he thinks he is the main motivation to keep Garoppolo on the roster next season.
“The reason why, again, is because they believe they’re competing for a championship this year.”
The 49ers are in a rare spot not seen often in the NFL. After injuries torpedoed their 2020 campaign, the Niners were able to trade up from No. 12 to get a QB while still maintaining a Super Bowl-ready roster.
Garoppolo has won 72.7 percent of his starts since being traded to San Francisco during the 2017 season. He has shown he can help lead a team on a deep postseason run and went 13-3 during the 2019 season.
By keeping Garoppolo — and his $26.3 million cap hit — on the roster for next season, Shanahan has a veteran QB he knows he can with while having the luxury of having a backup he projects to be the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future.
Shanahan and Lynch did a masterful job of keeping their preference under wraps after making the deal to move up to No. 3. The entire football world was guessing about which QB the 49ers would select, which led to a bunch of hot takes and rumors that simply weren’t true.
The Niners’ brass elected to let the rumors fly and didn’t let any of the Jones hype get to them.
It will be interesting to see how Shanahan proceeds if Lance looks ready to be an NFL starter during training camp and outperforms Garoppolo. If Shanahan is comfortable handing the keys to Lance, the Niners can cut or trade Garoppolo with only $2.8 million in dead money for 2021, per Spotrac.
But if Lance needs more seasoning, San Francisco can roll with Jimmy G in Week 1 and still be among the championship contenders.
For now, the 49ers have two QBs on the roster that the coaching staff is confident they can win with.
The team’s mandatory mini-camp is a few weeks away but that’s when we will get some insight into the QB competition.