The 49ers have a $26.9 million question in front of them, and they've made it clear how they intend to answer.
That figure is Jimmy Garoppolo's salary-cap figure for next season, set to be the 11th-highest in the NFL among quarterbacks. The 49ers can trade or release Garoppolo with minimal financial penalty, but both coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have repeatedly said they view Garoppolo as the team's starter in 2021.
Could Garoppolo's return entail a restructured contract?
"Not as of right now," Lynch told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on "The TK Show" earlier this week. "You always have these plans, you think they'll come to fruition, but I remember thinking when we made him the highest-paid quarterback in league history and, on a very small sample size, our thinking was that the quarterback was just ripe to explode and it was going to happen.
"I remember some of the conversations, [saying,] 'You know, he could be 10th in the league.' And sure enough, I think he sits there just off the average per year."
Lynch added later that he thought Garoppolo was 12th or 13th in terms of annual value, and that's where Over The Cap pegs his contract. Quarterbacks are paid at a premium in the NFL, but the 49ers aren't paying Garoppolo top-of-the-line money.
The 49ers could still need to convert Garoppolo's salary to up-front money in order to re-sign key free agents. They're operating under the assumption that the salary cap will drop nearly $25 million due to NFL revenue losses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Restructuring Garoppolo's contract would affect the 49ers' cap room in 2022, when edge rusher Nick Bosa will first become eligible to sign a contract extension. The 49ers already have over $143 million committed against the cap for 2022, according to Over The Cap.
Lynch told Kawakami that, at least at this point, he doesn't "anticipate" the 49ers drafting a first-round QB. A drafted quarterback would be cheaper, but it's not apparent the 49ers would view a first-round pick as a better option under center than Garoppolo in 2021. The free-agent quarterbacks are either going to be more expensive than Garoppolo (Dak Prescott), older than Garoppolo (Phillip Rivers, Cam Newton) or worse than Garoppolo (Mitchell Trubisky).
Restructuring Garoppolo's contract would carry its own set of risks, too, and the 49ers don't feel they need to rework the QB's deal at this juncture.
"We feel good about Jimmy's contract and, if needed, there could be some adjustments," Lynch said. "But right now, we're good."