Jimmy Garoppolo’s time as a 49er looks to be over – this time, for good.
That’s not just a reference to Tom Brady’s latest retirement announcement. Head coach Kyle Shanahan on Wednesday bluntly stated he doesn’t see a scenario in which Garoppolo returns to the Bay Area in 2023.
That might have also been the case last offseason when the 49ers sought a trade, but Garoppolo ended up staying put and stepped in for the out-for-season Trey Lance before suffering his own season-ending injury.
But a return to the Bay is now less likely than before because Jimmy G is headed to unrestricted free agency, so the 49ers have less of a reason to retain him.
Let’s look at five teams that could pursue Garoppolo’s signature when free agency commences:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This one seems quite obvious. Garoppolo was supposed to be Brady’s heir in New England before ultimately being dealt to San Francisco, but with the 45-year-old seemingly done in Tampa Bay, the door is wide open.
And with the 33-year-old Blaine Gabbert also an unrestricted free agent, 24-year-old Kyle Trask is the only QB under contract in Tampa. He has played just one game after being drafted in 2021 and it wasn’t as a starter.
The Buccaneers still have the pieces to make another postseason push, especially on offense with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Garoppolo may not be Brady, but he helps the Bucs’ chances to top an open NFC South and shouldn’t stab into the team’s financial books long term.
Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr’s time with the Raiders also seems to be over. There is the hypothetical scenario he stays put like Garoppolo did because he has a contract that isn’t exactly easy to trade, but if he does depart Sin City, Garoppolo could step in.
The Raiders must also be disappointed in the Brady news given a potential marriage seemed like destiny, but Garoppolo is still an upgrade over Carr – not a significant one, of course, but still an upgrade, which is difficult to find in the NFL.
Garoppolo, at the minimum, could help Las Vegas push for second in the AFC West if it’s unpredictable for a second straight season.
New York Jets
Garoppolo’s best runs with the 49ers came when the team fielded a mostly healthy and vigorous defense that ranked at or near the top of the NFL. That could also be the case should he join the Jets, with Zach Wilson’s time with the franchise also looking to be over rather abruptly.
It helps that New York is head coached by Robert Saleh, a familiar face during San Francisco’s 2019 Super Bowl run. The Jets’ defense is already robust and can improve next season, while the offense will be anchored by new coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who had just a one-year stay as Denver’s head coach in 2022.
Is that the desired name Garoppolo would want to work with after the Broncos’ abysmal season? Do the Jets have a potential trade they’d prefer instead? Would Saleh be key in getting a deal done? Gang Green could become Gang Garoppolo in 2023.
DeMeco Ryans is now the main man in H-Town. He’s another familiar face to Garoppolo’s eyes after being Saleh’s replacement as defensive coordinator in San Francisco.
Davis Mills, the starter the last two seasons, has not shown positive signs of being the long-term answer.
Neither is the 31-year-old Garoppolo, to be fair, but he’s a clear upgrade over Mills. The Texans have the No. 2 overall pick in 2023 and should use it on a young quarterback – like a Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud or Will Levis – but signing Garoppolo to serve as the bridge for whomever Houston drafts could be a potential avenue the team drives through.
Carolina Panthers/New Orleans Saints/Washington Commanders
These three teams are lumped because they all are in a similar boat: None have legitimate ties to Garoppolo or possess a young quarterback brewing behind the scenes and all have first-round picks that might be out of the range of a potentially elite QB in the draft.
One of these teams, though, could take a swing at a young QB like Anthony Richardson or Hendon Hooker and use Garoppolo as a bridge to develop them.
Also, Washington is in a similar boat to the Jets where it has a playoff-caliber defense, some solid skill players but no legitimate QB. Garoppolo could be a short-term solution after the Commanders nearly missed out on the playoffs in 2022.