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ESPN lists Jimmy Garoppolo and Christian McCaffrey as 2 players with the most to gain in the second half

For two very different reasons...

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

You wouldn't have batted an eye if you were told that Jimmy Garoppolo would be the starting quarterback for the 49ers after their bye week after the team decided to bring him back before the start of the season. Now, that would have likely been due to the performance of Trey Lance as opposed to him suffering what was then a season-ending ankle injury.

Now, with eight games remaining, Garoppolo has an opportunity to help the 49ers win a ring and secure his financial future with steady play. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s winning, either. ESPN listed a dozen or so names as players with the most to gain or lose for the remainder of the season. Jimmy made the list:

Crucially, Garoppolo has also stayed healthy, which has both saved the 49ers season and opened up possibilities for him in free agency. If he suffers a serious injury, the Niners are probably going to be out of the playoff picture, given that Brock Purdy likely would take over as their quarterback. Garoppolo probably would be looking at a one-year deal or a contract with limited guarantees upfront in free agency.

If he continues to stay healthy and produce, though, there will be an offseason market. It’ll be easy for general managers to unload Garoppolo, who has gone 34-17 as a starter with the 49ers, to their owners. It would be naive to pretend he’s the driving force of the offense or doesn’t have his limitations, but there are too many desperate teams in need of a solid quarterback. Without any franchise tag or draft capital required to pry him away from the 49ers, he could see more money than most fans would expect.

Of course, if Garoppolo plays really well, the 49ers might not let him leave. Lance was drafted to be the future, but if the organization has soured after two seasons, it could trade him, recoup some of the draft picks used to acquire him and re-sign Garoppolo to a new deal. A lot of NFL dominoes in 2023 ride on what happens with Garoppolo over the next two months.

Looking around the league, how many teams would Garoppolo be an upgrade for? A quick scroll, and I came up with 12. If I’m Robert Saleh....

Anyway, Jimmy has to keep it up in the second half. He’s surrounded by arguably the best supporting cast in the NFL, and with a favorable schedule, Garoppolo will have teams throwing contracts at him come March. But he has to stay healthy.

I refuse to entertain the idea that this team will punt on Trey Lance without getting a full evaluation of him.

Garoppolo wasn’t the only Niner to make ESPN’s list:

You know what’s coming next: “As long as he stays healthy” is a phrase we’ve had to attach to McCaffrey over the last few years, and his future depends on what happens over the remainder of the season. If he stays on the field and continues to produce at this level, the Niners likely will move forward with his current deal, which pays him $12 million in 2023.

If McCaffrey gets hurt, things become complicated. The 49ers could ask him to take a pay cut, which might lead to a contract impasse and a quick end to his time in the Bay Area. He would be unlikely to see the same sort of deal in free agency, which might encourage him to take that pay cut.

You’re ignoring a lot of history between McCaffrey and the Shanahans to think a contract dispute would cause him to walk away. Plus, this is and might be the best situation for McCaffrey — or any running back — to be in.