The writing is on the wall.
But head coach Kyle Shanahan clarified things on Tuesday in case there was any uncertainty. The San Francisco 49ers intend to trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. If they can, that is.
“I expect he will be traded at some point, but that’s no guarantee,” Shanahan told reporters tuesday. “He was put on hold when [shoulder surgery] come.”
Garoppolo started 15 games last season as first-round rookie Trey Lance learned a lot on the bench. The No. 3 pick in the 2021 draft, Lance made two starts when Garoppolo was injured in addition to a few on-the-spot plays to exploit his superior athleticism near the goal line.
With a development season under his belt, it’s time for the Lance era to officially begin, even though Shanahan has yet to declare a 2022 starter.
It’s a bit surprising to hear an NFL head coach talk so openly about the impending exit of his starting quarterback for the past five seasons. But Shanahan never shied away from what became apparent when the 49ers selected Lance last spring.
He said this in November with seven games remaining on the schedule and Garoppolo still up for a team with playoff aspirations:
“There’s a chance for everything, but I think we’ve made it clear that Trey is our guy from the future, whenever that happens,” Shanahan said. “But it’s also not against Jimmy that we took on Trey to be our guy from the future.”
Garoppolo’s exit therefore remains a question of when and how rather than if. Complicating matters was his surgery in March to repair labrum damage to his throwing shoulder. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported at the time that the proceedings were not expected to impact his trade status and that Garoppolo would likely be traded that month amid “significant interest from multiple teams.”
Will the 49ers find a business partner?
We are now at the end of May and this “meaningful interest” has not resulted in action. Meanwhile, teams with quarterbacking needs have largely solved them through the draft, trade, or free agency. It looks like a quarterback who just had shoulder surgery due at $27 million next season might not be the most attractive trade chip.
A few potential suitors remain with dire needs at quarterback. The Carolina Panthers still put Sam Darnold at the top of their depth chart. The Seattle Seahawks, meanwhile, have a quarterback battle between Geno Smith and Drew Lock. A trade between the NFC West rivals seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, 49ers general manager John Lynch insisted the team has no plans to release Garoppolo if a trade doesn’t materialize. Time is running out and the 49ers could face a tough decision with salary cap and locker room implications at stake if they don’t find a trade suitor in the offseason.