The 49ers surprised a lot of people last March when they traded star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round draft pick.
While the Colts acquired a 26-year-old defensive cornerstone in Buckner, another name reportedly came up in the trade talks: Jimmy Garoppolo.
In his MMQB column on Monday, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer noted that Garoppolo's name came up while the deal for Buckner was being ironed out.
"The question, then, becomes whether GM Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich would see Stafford as a Band-Aid or more than that. The team went with a Band-Aid last year, in Rivers, after taking a shot with Jacoby Brissett in 2019 (and that was after Jimmy Garoppolo’s name briefly came up in the DeForest Buckner trade talks with San Francisco)," Breer wrote while discussing the potential of the Colts trading for Matthew Stafford this offseason.
It's unclear if it was the Colts or 49ers who brought up Garoppolo, but conventional wisdom suggests it was the Colts. Indy has a talented roster with a hole at the most important position. After Andrew Luck's sudden retirement, the Colts ran with Jacoby Brissett in 2019 before signing Philip Rivers to a one-year deal this offseason. It's understandable why the Colts would view Garoppolo as a good fit for them. He's an above-average quarterback with a top-12 ceiling under the right coach and had just taken the 49ers to the Super Bowl. He's 24-9 as a starter and could have given the Colts a long-term solution at the position.
We know the 49ers discussed moving on from Garoppolo last offseason in favor of Tom Brady but ultimately elected to run it back with Garoppolo. He started just six games in 2020 due to two separate high ankle sprains.
Now, both the 49ers and the Colts enter this offseason as potential players in the quarterback carousel.
Stafford and the Detroit Lions reportedly have agreed to part ways. Deshaun Watson's time in Houston reportedly could be over and there's a (slim) chance that Aaron Rodgers asks to be traded after the Green Bay Packers once again came up short in the playoffs.
The Colts have a talented roster, $64.8 million in cap space and play in the winnable AFC South. Stafford would appear to be the ideal option for the Colts. He's only 32 years old and still is playing at an extremely high level. Getting out of Detroit and into a winning organization should only further energize him as he enters the backend of his career.
Of course, the 49ers also could be players in the Stafford sweepstakes if they choose to move on from Garoppolo. Stafford has the arm talent and football smarts to run Kyle Shanahan's system in a way that Garoppolo can't.
All signs point to Garoppolo returning as the 49ers' starting quarterback in 2021. But expect the 49ers to jump at the chance to upgrade the position if they are given the opportunity.