The Cleveland Browns are the only team in the NFL that can take on Jimmy Garoppolo’s 2022 salary, making them a logical trade destination for the San Francisco 49ers quarterback — specifically in the wake of the impending Deshaun Watson suspension. Per Cleveland.com, Cleveland isn’t expected to pursue Garoppolo via trade after San Francisco granted permission for him to seek a trade.
Cleveland is still waiting on the verdict for a Watson suspension, the length of which is to be determined. The Browns did trade Baker Mayfield earlier this month, but are also paying $10.5 million of his 2022 salary. The Browns still have $49 million in cap space despite paying Mayfield (who is on the Carolina Panthers), and Watson has a cap hit of $10,028,000 in 2022 (base salary of $1,035,000).
Cleveland does have Jacoby Brissett on its roster, who the Browns signed this offseason as insurance for a potential Watson suspension or Mayfield trade. Garoppolo’s contract counts $26.95 million against the salary cap, and the 49ers can trade him to any team of their choosing (Garoppolo did have a no-trade clause in his deal last season). With the Browns not expected to trade for Garoppolo, the suitors to acquire him via trade are thin.
Garoppolo completed 68.3% of his passes for 3,810 yards with 20 touchdowns to 12 interceptions last season, recording a 98.7 passer rating and leading the league in yards per completion (12.7). He was second in the league in completion rate (71.1%) since Week 10 and fourth in passer rating (103.6) in that same stretch. His 8.64 yards per attempt were second in the NFL.
Garoppolo’s .702 win percentage is behind only Patrick Mahomes (.794), Tom Brady (.769), and Lamar Jackson (.755) for best among active quarterbacks, yet there isn’t much of a market out there for him with teams having their quarterback situations set for 2022 — and not enough cap space to take on his salary. Teams could wait for the 49ers to release Garoppolo and get him at a team-friendly rate.
Cleveland could be waiting to strike there, but a trade for his current salary appears unlikely.