Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is not likely to return for the 49ers’ season finale on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
But coach Kyle Shanahan on Monday said he expects to see Garoppolo back on the field with the 49ers in the future.
“Yes, I do believe Jimmy will be our quarterback next year,” Shanahan said.
Garoppolo’s status with the 49ers has been a point of speculation since he exited the 49ers’ lineup for a second time this season on Nov. 1 with his second high-ankle sprain of the season.
With an NFL salary cap expected to drop as much as $20 million in 2021 and a bunch of free agents, the 49ers will need to make some difficult roster decisions.
Garoppolo is scheduled to make $25.5 million in salary and bonuses. His cap figure for next year is $26.9 million. But Shanahan said he does not see Garoppolo's contract as a major issue.
“That’s how much quarterbacks cost in this league, and he’s right there,” Shanahan said.
Garoppolo’s cap figure ranks 11th in the NFL for next year. But his scheduled pay ranks second behind only Jared Goff.
The 49ers can save $24.1 million if they were to trade or release Garoppolo.
But, then, the question becomes: Who could the 49ers find to replace him?
“Now, you look into every avenue and you see if there’s something out there that can get you a ton better,” Shanahan said. “It’s the same answer for every position.
“But look at Jimmy. Look at what he’s done. Look at where he’s at financially, and we better have a very good answer if you’re going to find something better than that. Because Jimmy has shown in one year that he’s a guy who can take us to the Super Bowl, and I also think Jimmy is going to get a lot better the more he plays.”
Garoppolo has been with the 49ers since he arrived in a midseason trade in 2017 from the New England Patriots. The 49ers were 1-10 before Garoppolo entered the starting lineup. The 49ers won their final five games of the season.
But he missed all but three games of the 2018 with a torn ACL. And he was completely healthy for only one game this season. In between, he played well and helped the 49ers reach the Super Bowl.
Since 2017, the 49ers are 24-9, including the postseason, with Garoppolo as the starter. They are 7-26 without him.
“Look at Jimmy’s record when he’s been here,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy, you can win with. He’s proven that. He’s proven he’s a starting quarterback in this league. We had a couple of other guys who had opportunities this year who played at times like they have a chance to be starting quarterbacks, but they did play like backups overall.”
Shanahan dismissed the idea of paying starting-quarterback money next season for a backup to serve behind Garoppolo. He said he likes Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard as the backups and would like to bring back both players.
“If you want to upgrade at backup quarterback, I think we have two really good backup quarterbacks,” Shanahan said. “Do you want to go get a starter as a backup quarterback? Then you have to decide if you want to spend a majority of your salary cap on your first- and second-string quarterbacks.”
While Shanahan was supportive of Garoppolo and the notion of bringing him back as the 49ers’ starter next season, he also made it clear he could make no guarantees.
“Guys, you can’t say anything with certainty,” Shanahan said. “You don’t sit here and make promises on anything. We build a football team. It’s (our) job to put the best team together year-in and year-out.”