Kirk Cousins

Why Cam Newton is unlikely to join 49ers as Jimmy Garoppolo's backup

Why Cam Newton is unlikely to join 49ers as Jimmy Garoppolo's backup

It doesn't seem to make a difference who the free-agent quarterback is. There simply is no end to the rumors or suggestions that Jimmy Garoppolo could be replaced.

For years, pundits have argued that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan would prefer Kirk Cousins over the incumbent, but that is all moot now that Cousins has signed a two-year contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings. Recently, there was no shortage of rumors that San Francisco was considering swapping Garoppolo out for Tom Brady, who has since signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Teddy Bridgewater was never suggested as a potential Garoppolo replacement, but he is now the starter for the Carolina Panthers after signing with them in free agency. The man -- and former MVP -- he is replacing, however, is currently without a team.

And thus begin the Cam Newton-to-49ers rumors.

Though numerous current and former 49ers have come out in support of Garoppolo, NFL Media's Bucky Brooks feels as though Newton would be a fit in San Francisco -- not necessarily as a Jimmy G replacement, or at least not right away.

"If I'm Cam Newton, and I can't go to the L.A. Chargers because they love Tyrod [Taylor], I go to San Francisco," Brooks said on KNBR's "The Mark Willard Show" on Thursday. "And the reason why Cam Newton in San Francisco would work is because I just believe that there may not be this great sense that Jimmy Garoppolo is the guy there.

"And let's just say that he may not be the guy, so you put Cam back there behind him, and Cam gets to learn from one of the best quarterback gurus that we've seen in the league. And maybe, just maybe, Kyle Shanahan is intrigued on having an explosive athlete running the stretch bootleg concept, putting the ball in the perimeter, throwing it out there."

Alright, where to begin?

First and foremost, none of the QBs rumored to be potential replacements for Garoppolo are verifiably superior. In fact, between Garoppolo, Cousins, Brady and Newton, Jimmy G threw for the most touchdowns, averaged the most yards per attempt and posted the best adjusted quarterback rating last season. He's also the youngest by at least a year-and-a-half, with Newton -- who turns 31 in May -- the next closest in age. Garoppolo turns 29 in November.

Then there's the financial aspect. Brooks seems to think the 49ers would be able to fit Newton into their salary-cap space.

"I'm just saying, from the Niners' standpoint, you would be able to get Cam at his cheapest," Brooks continued. "So if you think about a value proposition, just to bring him in, in case Jimmy Garoppolo gets hurt or falters, it would just be an interesting thing to think about if I'm the San Francisco 49ers, and I'm looking to add value and pop to my offense."

What Brooks is forgetting, however, is that a large portion of San Francisco's cap space has already been set aside in order to sign standout tight end George Kittle to a record-breaking contract extension, not to mention approximately $7 million that will be needed to sign the 49ers' 2020 draft class. 

[RELATED: Lynch promises 49ers will be ready for April's NFL draft]

Yes, Newton isn't exactly in a great negotiating position, but it's extremely hard to envision him signing somewhere on the cheap. He is unquestionably superior to Taylor, for instance, and the Chargers would seem like the likeliest destination for him. But even if Newton goes somewhere else, it's highly unlikely it will be for a salary that San Francisco could absorb without throwing a huge wrench into the construction of the rest of the roster.

From a talent standpoint, there's no doubt that Shanahan would love to have Newton on the 49ers, and while the team has confidence in Nick Mullens as Garoppolo's backup, he has never won a league MVP award. That said, Mullens comes significantly cheaper than Newton, and also won't create a circus through his presence at training camp. Newton surely would if he was there -- and rightfully so -- but unless he feels like taking the bare minimum, don't count on him coming to San Francisco.

What Vikings' Kirk Cousins extension means for Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers

What Vikings' Kirk Cousins extension means for Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers

Here’s something new: There's new speculation that Jimmy Garoppolo’s spot with the 49ers is solid for at least a couple more seasons.

One day after reports that the 49ers are not interested in pursuing free-agent quarterback Tom Brady, another quarterback who has been linked to San Francisco signed a two-year contract extension with his current club.

On Monday, the agent for quarterback Kirk Cousins announced that his client signed a two-year contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings.

That deal, which keep Cousins under contract to the Vikings through the 2022 season, should bring an end to the chatter that if Garoppolo falls short of expectations this season, the 49ers will replace him with Cousins.

Coach Kyle Shanahan was Cousins’ first offensive coordinator in the league. It is no secret that the 49ers envisioned signing Cousins as a free agent in 2018. Then, the 49ers landed Garoppolo in a 2017 midseason trade with the New England Patriots, and that ended that.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that Cousins’ new deal will pay him $66 million over the final two years of the deal.

[RELATEDNFL free agency live tracker: Latest news around the league]

Garoppolo is signed through the 2022 season. He performed well in his first full season as a starter in 2019, completing 69.1 percent of his pass attempts for 3,978 yards, with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Garoppolo’s passer rating for the season was 102.0.

The 49ers defeated the Vikings, 27-10, in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. Cousins completed 21 of 29 passes for 172 yards with one touchdown and one interception. In that game, Garoppolo was 11 of 19 for 131 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

NFL rumors: 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo 'on clock' due to Kirk Cousins' contract

NFL rumors: 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo 'on clock' due to Kirk Cousins' contract

If you lead a team to the Super Bowl in your first full season as a starter, your job normally is safe heading into the next season. Jimmy Garoppolo wouldn't know anything about that, though, based on the number of rumors that have circulated over the last week.

The Garoppolo-Tom Brady swap chatter has reached a fever pitch. It makes sense for any team to consider Brady, even at his age. But Garoppolo's job as the 49ers' starting quarterback might not be safe even if Brady doesn't come home to the Bay.

In his latest MMQB column, Albert Breer reported some in NFL circles believe Garoppolo needs to have a big 2020 season or else head coach Kyle Shanahan could move on to a quarterback who will be a free agent next offseason: Kirk Cousins.

Via Breer:

But I do know there’s been perception in league circles that Jimmy Garoppolo is on the clock, because Kirk Cousins is a free agent in 2021.

The same Kirk Cousins who Garoppolo and the 49ers hammered in the NFC Divisional Round Game? Yeah, that's the one.

Cousins and Shanahan have been linked together ever since the 49ers hired the offensive wunderkind after the 2017 season. Shanahan coached Cousins in Washington and it was assumed Cousins was going to be the 49ers' starting quarterback once he hit the open market after the 2018 season.

The 49ers trade for Garoppolo altered the equation, and Cousins signed a massive three-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings that ends after the 2020 season. With Cousins entering his final year of the deal, it's not surprising to see the Michigan State product and Shanahan linked together again.

Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have built a win-now roster that is loaded with talent. Championship windows rarely are open for long, so it makes sense the 49ers might be feeling out their options if Garoppolo doesn't take a leap in 2020.

It has been reported that Shanahan has questions about Garoppolo's overall ceiling and his decision-making, and if that remains the case after another full season at the helm, Garoppolo might be on his way out.

Garoppolo was the picture of consistency in 2019. After opening the season with a ton of rust coming off the ACL injury, he got his feet under him and turned into an efficient leader at the helm of Shanahan's offense. He led game-winning drives against the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams.

Garoppolo's tendency to throw terrible interceptions was on display in the playoffs. He tossed a ghastly pick against the Vikings before halftime and Shanahan all but took the keys to the offense from him for the next game-and-a-half.

Under the bright lights of Super Bowl LIV, Garoppolo threw an atrocious first-half interception but bounced back and carved up the Kansas City Chiefs in the second and third quarters. But when the title was on the line, Garoppolo overthrew a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders on the possible game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

That's the last impression of Garoppolo that's on everyone's mind. While he whiffed on his hero moment, he's certainly not the reason the 49ers lost and his teammates will tell you he's one of the main reasons they made it to Miami in the first place.

Would the 49ers have got there with Cousins? It seems doubtful. He's certainly not the type of quarterback who is going to outduel Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl and he's not a guy whose talent suggests he should replace Garoppolo.

[RELATED: Who 49ers could draft if Sanders goes elsewhere]

Any reservations about Garoppolo are warranted. But he's young as far as starting quarterbacks go. In 27 starts, Garoppolo is 21-6 with losses against Mahomes (twice), Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan and ... Cousins. One of the losses against Mahomes came in 2018 when Garoppolo tore his ACL so even that one has an asterisk.

The point is that Garoppolo's floor in San Francisco is as an effective quarterback in Shanahan's system who can pilot the offense and move the chains on third down. He showed tremendous upside in 2019, going from game manager to dynamic star on a number of occasions. The decision-making has to improve and he has to show he can be the guy who picked apart the Saints and Rams all the time.

Garoppolo has his warts, but he's already a better quarterback than Cousins. That case is closed.

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