It's beginning to feel like Jimmy Garoppolo's time as a 49er will end sooner than expected.
The 49ers already were set to draft Garoppolo's replacement with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but the plan, at least initially, was for Garoppolo to remain the starter in 2021 before handing over the keys for the 2022 season. Many teams reportedly expect Garoppolo to be moved during the draft, and coach Kyle Shanahan wouldn't guarantee Garoppolo's life or spot on the roster come Sunday.
But if the 49ers do trade Garoppolo, what teams would be in the market for an expensive, oft-injured starter? To ESPN's Adam Schefter, there can only be one.
“To me, this is New England or no one if they’re gonna trade him,” Schefter said Wednesday on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" in Boston.
A Garoppolo reunion with the Patriots has long been fantasized in the pubs in the North End and speculated about across the interwebs, but that's easier said than done.
Due to Garoppolo's massive cap hit, only two teams, the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars, currently have the room to absorb his contract.
That means that should the 49ers and Patriots work out a deal -- as I theorized here -- Garoppolo would have to agree to rip up his current contract and agree to a restructure. Not only do the Patriots not have the cap room, but having a QB take up that much of their salary cap goes against how Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft have operated even when Tom Brady was under center.
There is also the issue of Garoppolo's no-trade clause, but Schefter doesn't see that as an impediment to Garoppolo leaving the Bay to return to 1 Patriot Place.
“If San Francisco went to Garoppolo and said ‘We’re trading you to New England,’ you think he’d say no? No way!" Schefter said.
The 49ers acquired Garoppolo in exchange for a second-round pick on Halloween of 2017. That same price, Schefter believes, should net the Patriots the man they thought would be Brady's heir.
“They traded a second pick to New England for Jimmy Garoppolo. So what is the price for him? It should be a second-round draft pick," Schefter said.
If the 49ers do select Jones at No. 3 overall, that could spell the end for Garoppolo in Santa Clara. The Alabama QB is seen as the prospect who is the most NFL-ready at the moment, this side of Trevor Lawrence. If the 49ers go off book and select Trey Lance, then Garoppolo should stick around as Lance is expected to need at least a season to sit and develop.
However, the under-discussed part of any potential Garoppolo trade is that the 49ers want to have quality depth at the QB position. They know how a season can be torpedoed by a starter going down, so they wouldn't want to roll into the 2021 season with a depth chart of Mac Jones, Nate Sudfeld and Josh Rosen. That's one hit away from another sub-.500 season.
Could the 49ers agree to a deal that sees them get Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham back along with a pick? It's certainly possible. It depends on how badly Belichick wants to bring Garoppolo back.