Jimmy Garoppolo’s time with the San Francisco 49ers appears to be over. With the quarterback set to hit free agency this offseason, Garoppolo will likely seek an opportunity somewhere in the NFL that allows him the chance to start in 2023. With the Niners, that’s simply not possible with the club still looking to see what it has in 2021 No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance — who is recovering from a season-ending ankle injury — and seventh-round rookie sensation Brock Purdy.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Wednesday during his team’s end-of-year press conference that the organization is content with Lance and Purdy being the top-two options at quarterback going into training camp next year. When asked about Garoppolo, Shanahan said that he doesn’t “see any scenario” of him returning.
So, that leaves us with the question of what comes next for Garoppolo. Health has been the biggest speed bump in his career, but when he’s been on the field he has helped his teams win, owning a 44-19 record as a starter (including playoffs). Before going down with a foot injury this season, Garoppolo had the Niners winning seven of their 10 games with him starting under center and he was completing 67.2% of his passes with a 103.0 passer rating.
That’s simply a long way of emphasizing that Garoppolo should be a sought-after quarterback, especially if he gets a clean bill of health. As we scope the NFL landscape, here are a few intriguing landing spots for the 31-year-old signal-caller.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This would be poetic, wouldn’t it? Garoppolo was drafted by the New England Patriots back in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft to be the successor to Tom Brady. With Brady now officially retired from the NFL, it’d be a weird twist of fate to see Garoppolo ultimately fulfill that destiny, but for the Buccaneers. Really, an addition of Garoppolo for Tampa Bay comes down to which way the franchise feels like going. Does it feel like it is a capable quarterback away from continued success in the NFC South? If so, then Garoppolo could be an ideal target. If the Bucs are looking to rip things down to the studs and rebuild the organization from the ground-up post-Brady, they may want to look elsewhere and that may be a situation that Garoppolo wouldn’t want to sign up for.
If they stand pat, jumping into a situation that features Mike Evans and Chris Godwin wouldn’t be a bad landing spot for Garoppolo. That’s particularly true when you consider the pass-catching weapons that he’d be playing with and slotting himself into what was the worst division in football last year. If things stay the same in that regard in 2023, he could have an easier road to the postseason.
Las Vegas Raiders
Brady’s departure from the Buccaneers seemed inevitable at the end of this season, but we didn’t know if the quarterback was going to keep playing or retire. If he decided to stick around the NFL for a bit longer, the Las Vegas Raiders were a popular destination to place him given the relationship with Josh McDaniels, who was New England’s offensive coordinator for the bulk of his tenure. Well, that same logic applies to Garoppolo. He played in McDaniels’ system and thrived in his brief showing as the starter.
In the two games he played while Brady was serving his “Deflategate” suspension, Garoppolo completed 71% of his passes, threw for 496 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Again, that’s a small sample size, but he is very familiar with McDaniels’ system and McDaniels is very familiar with him. If Vegas can’t get Brady now that he’s retired, Garoppolo may be the next best thing as they move off of Derek Carr.
New York Jets
CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones recently reported that Garoppolo will be among the veteran quarterbacks who the Jets will look at this offseason to bring aboard. New York has the pieces in place to contend as early as 2023, but the quarterback position has been a weak spot for the organization due to Zach Wilson failing to meet expectations.
Garoppolo not only matches the profile of a quarterback who could be plugged into the Jets system and enhance the talent around him, but the franchise is quite familiar with him. Head coach Robert Saleh was the defensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers while Garoppolo was there, so there is something of a prior relationship.
This landing spot would also have the extra juice of Garoppolo squaring off against the Patriots twice a year, which adds a dash of spice that I’m sure we’d all enjoy.
When quarterbacks like Garoppolo go on the market, the wise thing to do is to search for any links between him and other organizations. That’s why the Jets and Raiders make sense as logical destinations. With that in mind, don’t sleep on the Houston Texans.
Of course, the club just hired former 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans to be its next head coach and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him bring some Niners staffers with him. That would make a bulk of the Houston brass familiar with Garoppolo due to the San Francisco connections, and then there’s GM Nick Caserio, who was the director of player personnel with the Patriots when the team drafted Garoppolo. So, there are multiple links between the Texans and Garoppolo that stretch back to his days in New England.
The one thing that may get in the way of Garoppolo landing with the Texans is if the team decides to draft a quarterback with one of its first-round picks (No. 2 and No. 12 overall). That may not be appealing to Garoppolo, who’d likely want to find a spot where he’d have some semblance of a long-term future. However, if Ryans and Co. go with two defensive players to build up that side of the ball, Garoppolo could make a lot of sense.