ESPN NFL analyst Bill Barnwell joined Mina Kimes on the latest episode of The Mina Kimes Show featuring Lenny to preview the AFC North this coming season. As the duo worked their way through the division, they discussed how San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could fit into the Cleveland Browns' plans this season.
The Browns are expected by many to be trying to acquire a quarterback before the start of the regular season. The Browns' current starter Deshaun Watson is expected to receive at least a season-long suspension for rampant sexual misconduct against dozens of massage therapists after the NFL appealed a six-game suspension Watson recently received from an arbitrator.
Both Barnwell and Kimes agreed that Garoppolo is clearly the best available option for Cleveland. Barnwell pointed out, “The Browns run a very similar offense to what the 49ers run with Kyle Shanahan,” and added, "Garoppolo has every reason to want to go play for the Browns where it’s basically a one-year opportunity to prove yourself before hitting unrestricted free agency.”
Perhaps most importantly, the Browns have nearly $50 million in effective cap space, making them the only team in the NFL that could acquire Garoppolo’s $25.5 million cap hit without any additional moves. Cleveland will still likely try to entice the Niners to retain some of Garoppolo’s base salary and/or negotiate a lesser contract with Jimmy G’s agent, but it is far easier to envision a final deal.
Kimes agreed with Barnwell’s analysis but also pointed out that the 49ers almost assuredly have to release or trade Garoppolo before the start of the regular season. With Cleveland looking like the only viable suitor at this point in time, Kimes pondered whether the Browns would be willing to make a trade and absorb Garoppolo’s current contract when they could probably wait a few weeks to acquire him in free agency without trading a draft pick or using as much salary cap space. Then again, given how close the regular season is, waiting a couple of weeks to acquire their starting quarterback could put the Browns' offense well behind schedule.
While the Browns do not have their first-round pick in the next two drafts, Cleveland has a second, third, two fourth, two fifth, sixth, and seventh-round picks in this year’s draft. The 49ers also are currently slated to have at least 10 picks of their own (with compensatory picks incoming for D.J. Jones and Arden Key’s departure), leaving plenty of potential for the teams to work out pick swaps that entice the Niners to make a trade without Cleveland sacrificing significant draft capital.
Here is Barnwell’s full quote on Garoppolo:
“They’re the one team in the NFL who have the cap space to absorb Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract without any other changes. It makes total sense... The fit is very logical. The Browns run a very similar offense to what the 49ers run with Kyle Shanahan under Kevin Stefanski in Cleveland. The cap fit makes sense. The salary is not an issue, and Jimmy Garoppolo has every reason to want to go play for the Browns where it’s basically a one-year opportunity to prove yourself before hitting unrestricted free agency.”