If Jimmy Garoppolo ends up sticking around for the 2022 NFL season, the 49ers will be on the hook for quite a lot of money.
As a trade appears less and less likely, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Garoppolo remains with San Francisco next season. Coach Kyle Shanahan reiterated that on Tuesday at the owners meetings in Palm Beach.
According to spotrac.com, Garoppolo currently has the 13th-highest average annual salary at the position, totaling $27.5 million. When the 49ers initially signed him to a lucrative contract extension following the 2017 season, Garoppolo was (at one point) the highest-paid player in NFL history in terms of average salary.
Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill ($29.5 million) is one spot ahead of Garoppolo, while Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr ($25 million) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady ($25 million) are tied for 14th-highest, one spot behind Garoppolo.
Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins ($35 million), to whom Garoppolo has often been compared, averages $7.5 million more in annual salary than Garoppolo. Other quarterbacks such as Detroit Lions' Jared Goff ($33.5 million) and Washington Commanders' Carson Wentz ($32 million) also average more than Garoppolo.
In recent years, Garoppolo's contract has been a sticking point in conversations regarding his value and future with the team. Fast forward to today, and his average salary is pretty closely in line with his level of play on the field when healthy.
When fully healthy, Garoppolo is an average to a slightly above-average quarterback in the NFL at best. This season, he ranked 12th in passing yards (3,810), sixth among full-time QBs in completion percentage (68.2 percent), and ninth in passer rating (98.7) among QBs who played at least 14 games. Of course, there is an abundance of stats you can use to craft any opinion on him, but overall he's largely viewed as an average or even decent-ish player at times.
Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have downplayed the possibility of the 49ers cutting Garoppolo if they are unable to find a trade partner, but that still could be a possibility, despite what they are saying now.
Hypothetically, if Garoppolo were to be cut and then free to sign anywhere he wanted as a free agent, what would his value be on the open market? Of course, his four-month recovery from shoulder surgery reportedly remains the biggest red flag among interested teams. All indicators point to him being ready for the start of training camp, but it would be foolish not to expect the shoulder -- and his injury history -- to lower his price tag by at least a little bit.
From his current average salary of $27.5 million, I believe he could certainly fetch a deal that pays him around $21-24 million per year. For context, that would place him 15th on the list behind Carr and Brady, but still significantly ahead of New Orleans Saints QBs Jameis Winston ($14 million) and Taysom Hill ($10 million) who are ranked 16th and 17th on the list, respectively.
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If Garoppolo were a free agent, he would almost certainly be making less than he does now with the 49ers, but at the same time, he's still a winning quarterback, a great leader and a signal-caller that can help lead a team deep into the playoffs if healthy. But that's a big "if."
Whether or not he ever becomes a free agent and is able to test the market remains to be seen.
If he does, he'll still make out with a decent payday.