A lot of signs might point to Jimmy Garoppolo returning in 2021 as the 49ers' quarterback.
General manager and coach Kyle Shanahan reiterated on Monday the intention to have Garoppolo back as the quarterback when the 49ers open next season.
"Kyle and I have both spoken and spoken fairly directly, as to the fact we expect Jimmy to be our quarterback," Lynch said.
The organization needs to perform only one bookkeeping act to end all the conjecture.
The moment the 49ers restructure Garoppolo's contract to convert salary to up-front money, it will be the point of no return and guarantee his spot on next season's roster.
Currently, Garoppolo's contract gives the 49ers a lot of flexibility and invites speculation about Garoppolo's future. After all, the 49ers would create $24.1 million in cap space if they were to trade or release Garoppolo before next season.
Garoppolo is scheduled to make $25.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2021. When the 49ers decide to close the door on anyone else being their quarterback next season, they can be expected to restructure his contract to pay out guaranteed money to spread out his salary cap impact over two years.
The new league year is set to begin in March, when the 49ers might need to create space to fill out their roster.
"We don’t need room right now," Lynch said. "As we start to go through and prioritize, and we’re in the process of doing that right now, we start signing those players, that might be necessary. I think we’ve had good discussions with Jimmy. It’s been encouraging to see him back out on the field."
Garoppolo got back on the practice field for the final two weeks the 49ers went through practices in Glendale, Ariz.
"There’s a lift to when he’s out there," Lynch said. "It’s one of the qualities he has that I admire. I think his teammates thrive off his presence."
The 49ers will have to create cap space this offseason due to a large number of free agents and a declining salary cap due to revenues lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 49ers are working under the assumption the salary cap will drop from $198.2 million to the 2021 floor of $175 million.
Garoppolo's contract is one of the most obvious places to slash cap costs, though more of his cap dollars would be pushed to the 2022 cap. Garoppolo is signed through the 2022 season.
Earlier on Monday, when asked whether Lynch and Shanahan have given him any assurances he would be back with the 49ers in 2021, Garoppolo did not give a direct answer.
"It's a great group to be around, John and Kyle," Garoppolo said. "I think they've talked to the media and said what they said. And I love those guys for it. This is where I want to be, and I love it here."
Last week, Shanahan and Lynch suggested Garoppolo was the clear favorite to begin his fourth season as the 49ers' starting quarterback.
Shanahan did not rule out the possibility of exploring other options at quarterback in the offseason, but said he "believes" Garoppolo will return as the starter. And at the end of an interview on KNBR, Lynch said, "Jimmy is our quarterback."
Garoppolo, 29, has started 33 games for the 49ers, including the postseason. The 49ers are 24-9 in those games. In 30 regular-season starts, he threw 46 touchdowns with 26 interceptions. His passer rating with the 49ers is 98.1.
But sandwiched between the 49ers' Super Bowl season of 2019, when Garoppolo took every meaningful snap, he missed virtually all of two seasons due to injuries. He sustained an ACL tear in Week 3 of 2018, and he was plagued by high-ankle sprains from the first quarter of Week 2 this season.
"It's all about being out there. It's all about availability," Garoppolo said. "I know that. It's been a series of unfortunate events with the injuries, but one thing I'm excited about is getting ready for this offseason and getting the body back to where it needs to be and getting ready for next season."