SANTA CLARA – The timing was important.
The 49ers did not want any drama lingering. They wanted to get a deal done with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo because the sooner it that got accomplished, the sooner the organization could start getting some return on their pricey investment.
On a 74-degree February day at team headquarters, 49ers general manager John Lynch said he envisions his organization becoming a destination spot for NFL players. The weather is one thing. Having a 26-year-old, face-of-the-franchise quarterback is even more impactful.
Chief negotiator Paraag Marathe said after signing Garoppolo to a front-loaded five-year, $137.5 million contract, the 49ers are $62 million to $63 million under the salary cap. That is still plenty of room to get things accomplished -- and acquire players -- to support Garoppolo. Lynch said the team has a plan.
“After this, there are two teams with more cap space,” Lynch said. “So we’re going to be aggressively prudent and always make wise decisions and look out some years and do things that are a fit and give us an opportunity to be a better organization.
“We’re going to continue to try to re-sign our own players that we think are part of this puzzle. Some of those we have to let go to free agency and see where the market shakes out. We’re getting ready for the draft. We’re getting ready for free agency. This thing is always moving.”
The 49ers appeared to be a lot closer to returning to prominence since the Oct. 30 acquisition of Garoppolo in a trade with the New England Patriots for a second-round draft pick.
After beginning the season with a 1-10 record, the 49ers reeled off five consecutive victories to close the year with Garoppolo as the starter. So the press conference Friday to officially announce Garoppolo’s deal, making him the highest-paid player in NFL history, was not so much a celebration as it was a necessary step in the building process.
“We don’t have results right now,” 49ers CEO Jed York said. “We have a 6-10 team that needs to get better and needs to improve and I think we have a lot of guys who are willing to work to improve.”
Marathe was entrusted to work out a deal with Garoppolo’s agents, Don Yee, Steve Dubin and Carter Chow. He took his orders from Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“John and Kyle decide if he’s the man,” Marathe said. “And if he’s the man, we pay the man.”
There were few complications along the way, as the 49ers had the same end game as Garoppolo – and those working for Garoppolo.
“From the beginning, it was always positive and productive,” Marathe said. “It was never acrimonious. All three of his agents are really professional, really smart, really good guys. Was it challenging and difficult? Yes. Was it ever negative? It never was. I was always optimistic because of that.”
About a dozen current members of the 49ers, including DeForest Buckner and Jaquiski Tartt, appeared Friday at Garoppolo’s press conference inside Levi’s Stadium.
They came for their quarterback. And the 49ers hope that others will want to follow. That’s why it was important to get things done weeks before the opening of the free-agent signing period.
“We want to build enough time for anticipation so people get the vibe around here going into free agency that this is where you want to be,” Marathe said.
“We wanted to make sure we had good signaling, that we had Jimmy’s (contract) done going into free agency. Absolutely, we wanted to build momentum.”