The San Francisco 49ers may be doing their best to convince other NFL teams that they are comfortable keeping quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo through next season, but no one else in the league seems to believe them.
With the NFL draft quickly approaching, the Carolina Panthers remain one of the few potential landing spots for Jimmy G. According to ESPN NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler, the Panthers have “done their homework on Garoppolo.”
The Panthers have been heavily connected to the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft class, but reporters around the team have suggested they believe that to be a smokescreen.
Carolina’s head coach Matt Rhule is entering a likely make-or-break season with the Panthers and does not have a second or third-round pick. Given the perceived weakness of this year’s quarterback class, it’s hard to imagine Rhule putting his job on the line for one of the unproven prospects. Enter Garoppolo.
Here’s Fowler’s quote tying Garoppolo to the Panthers:
“We mentioned the Panthers earlier in relation to [Baker] Mayfield; they’ve done their homework on [Jimmy] Garoppolo too. They’ve looked at all options, and Garoppolo is one. So that’s something to watch for down the road.”
Carolina has been increasing their salary cap flexibility by restructuring contracts in recent weeks. As a result, per OverTheCap, the Panthers currently have the most salary-cap space in the NFL, with approximately $30 million in free space. That flexibility makes it easier to envision the Panthers acquiring Garoppolo.
However, even if they are unwilling to use $25 million in space on Jimmy G, they could attempt to restructure his deal or attach Sam Darnold and his $18.585 million guaranteed salary to their offer to offset some of Garoppolo’s contract.
It remains difficult to gauge the potential trade market for Garoppolo. Carolina does have picks 137, 144, and 149 in this year’s draft, but they could also add more mid-round picks by trading back in the first round. Perhaps a deal that sends 144 and the Panthers’ 2023 third-round pick to the 49ers could finally be enough to get Garoppolo out of a Niners’ jersey.