49ers’ general manager addressed the media Monday at the owners’ meetings in Palm Beach, Florida. Naturally, he was asked about the quarterback position and, more specifically, what exactly the plan is moving forward with Jimmy Garoppolo. Here’s what Lynch had to say about Garoppolo and how his presence on the roster may have affected the 49ers’ strategy in free agency:
“We had to do some (contract) conversions and things like that for free agency to free up some cap room but for people who think that maybe our free-agency plans were derailed by that, this was our plan all along, we’ve kind of had an all gas no breaks mentality since we’ve been here, so there needed to be a come to balance for us in free agency.”
Lynch then reiterated that the 49ers never really had plans to splurge in this free agency period, regardless of Garoppolo and his 25+ million dollar cap hit residing on the roster.
“We knew we were gonna have one big bite, that was our cornerback signing and we’re thrilled with Charvarius and his addition. I’m really proud of our staff because we really searched long and hard to where we felt we could improve as a team, and I think we made a bunch of targeted signings on good football players who fit us and I think will bolster some of our weaknesses as we saw it.”
Those “targeted” signings clearly placed emphasis on special teams, an area where the 49ers struggled mightily in 2021. While Lynch is adamant that Garoppolo didn’t alter their plans in the market, even the most optimistic fan has to wonder how different this offseason would go if the 49ers brass had 25 million or so extra to play with.
“We can keep Garoppolo, and like I said, we have prepared for this all along. It’s not easy, but we’ll get creative, and we’ll figure it out.”
Lynch seems steadfast in his belief that Garoppolo is still a valued asset not only in San Francisco but also around the league.
“But there’s still a want and need for a quarterback of his level of success in our league, that’s coveted by the entire league, and so we’ll continue to listen and see if we figure something out. If not, we’re comfortable moving forward with him.”
The 49ers general manager was then asked about potentially releasing Garoppolo, to which he replied:
“I don’t foresee that. He’s too good of a player. I don’t foresee that, and I think Jimmy will be playing for us, or he’ll be playing for somebody else. He’s too good of a player not to be.”
Lynch has been consistent in saying the 49ers have budgeted for scenarios that do include keeping Garoppolo on the roster in 2022. While I don’t doubt that it is, in fact, an outcome they planned for, I still strongly believe it is far from their desired path forward.
It’s painfully obvious it’s all they can say at this point. Coming out and saying that they will eventually release Garoppolo does nothing but hurt any leverage they may have in trade talks moving forward. At that point, they are essentially sabotaging whatever hope they have off unloading Garoppolo in exchange for some kind of tangible asset in return.
So, where does that leave them now? The 49ers are pretty much stuck idling until Garoppolo’s shoulder heals up, which appears to be a timetable of the mid-summer at the earliest, assuming that all goes well. They won’t be able to move him until Garoppolo can pass a physical, and they’ve made it clear they don’t plan on releasing him.
While it’s far from the end of the world to keep Garoppolo on the roster for the next few months, it is still something that won’t be devoid of major headaches and speculation. Ultimately the product on the field has the power to quell any outside noise and narrative, but with the regular season still five months away, it’s fair to expect an abundance of conjecture from fans and media alike in the meantime.
Those who took Lynch’s comments on Monday at face value certainly didn’t subside any speculation that Garoppolo potentially returns and manages to maintain his role as the starting quarterback. Here’s what Lynch had to say about a potential quarterback competition between Garoppolo and Trey Lance :
“We’ve got a lot of time, and we’ve talked about a lot of things,” Lynch responded. “But I do know that competition brings out the best in people. I think it did for both of them last year. And I would expect that would be the case going forward.”
Again, I think this is more posturing than anything. No matter how they truly value Garoppolo, the reality of the situation is none of this is likely to be resolved anytime soon.
Until it does, expect a lot more of this positioning from Lynch and the 49ers. Remember, they have nothing to gain by doing anything but frame this as them still maintaining any semblance of leverage in a potential deal to move Garoppolo.
While the speculation will continue to run rampant, and Lynch’s words will be dissected and interpreted over the next few months, the plan likely doesn’t really change for the 49ers. Once the injury situation resolves itself, expect the 49ers to reignite their push to move Garoppolo for the capital they maintain that he is worth.
Despite Lynch’s comments about not “foreseeing” releasing Garoppolo, cutting him once the injury guarantees are no longer a factor is absolutely still in play. The possibility of Garoppolo returning in 2022, although a long shot, can’t be ignored either.
There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty about how this all will unfold before we get a final resolution. One thing that is all but assured, however, is that the conclusion to the Garoppolo saga is unlikely to come to a head for a few months, and until then, the 49ers will remain in a holding pattern.