As Jimmy Garoppolo prepares for what could be his final start with the 49ers, a new report suggests San Francisco turned down a Patriots trade offer of a second-round pick for the quarterback during the NFL draft in April.
On the day the 49ers selected quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick, a high-level Patriots official placed an informal call to a 49ers executive and made an offer for Garoppolo that was quickly rejected, according to “It’s Better to Be Feared,” Seth Wickersham’s book about the New England dynasty.
The Patriots, who had dealt Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick four years earlier, were offering a second-rounder to get him back. But, according to Wickersham’s book, the 49ers official said they wouldn’t take anything less than a first-rounder for Garoppolo.
In @SethWickersham’s book, he reports that the Patriots called the 49ers asking about Jimmy Garoppolo’s trade value on Day 1 of the draft. New England reportedly offered a 2nd; San Francisco wanted a 1st
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) October 27, 2021
If the 49ers couldn’t get a first for Garoppolo, they were happy to keep him around as a placeholder for Lance, their future franchise quarterback. They envisioned Garoppolo being the one-year bridge to Lance while leading the team back to title contention.
And we all know how that’s worked out.
With hindsight providing us with a clear picture, it’s now easy to say the 49ers erred in not taking a high draft pick for Jimmy G, and simply bringing in another stopgap signal-caller.
Garoppolo, who was given lukewarm support from coach Kyle Shanahan this week, will start on Sunday in Chicago for 2-4 San Francisco, despite a lingering calf injury. If Lance wasn’t dealing with a knee strain, the rookie from North Dakota State would have already taken over for Garoppolo, whose QB Rating of 38.1 is fifth-worst among NFL starters.
Lance, who has made just one start this season after playing in only one college game in 2020, carries a QBR of 42.3 during his limited time. He’s completed 52.1% of his passes (25-of-48) for 354 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Lance, though, also brings value with his running ability – he ran 16 times for 89 yards in his only start against Arizona on Oct. 10, but also injured his knee in the process.
Then there’s the question of what the 49ers could have done with an additional second-round pick in April? Despite general manager John Lynch’s beliefs, we know San Francisco’s early return on their second-rounder hasn’t been good — guard Aaron Banks from Notre Dame via El Cerrito High has yet to play, despite being healthy.
But what if the 49ers had received the 46th overall pick from the Patriots for Garoppolo? What options would they have had? Clearly, a lot of talent was still there because five of PFF’s top-rated rookies this season were taken in the second round after the 46th pick the Patriots owned.
Had the 49ers also owned the 46th pick, they could have taken one of these players who are among the top 15 rookies in the NFL (in order of PFF ranking): center Creed Humphrey (Chiefs, 2nd-rated rookie), linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Browns, 6th-rated), linebacker Pete Werner (Saints, 9th), wide receiver Rondale Moore (Cardinals, 11th) or tight end Pat Freiermuth (Steelers, 15th).
New England eventually traded that second-round pick to Cincinnati to move up five spots and select star rookie defensive tackle Christian Barmore, who has developed into a difference-maker for the Patriots’ eighth-ranked defense. With the 46th pick, the Bengals took guard Jackson Carman from Clemson, who has rebounded from a slow start and earned PFF’s “Block of the Week” for his punishing work against the Ravens Sunday.
While we’ve played “what if” for the 49ers, in reality, things couldn’t have worked out any better for Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
They’ve avoided the uneven play from a banged-up, high-priced Garoppolo, who carries a $26.4 million cap number in the fourth year of a 5-year, $137.5 million contract. And, most importantly, they found their franchise quarterback in Alabama’s Mac Jones, taken with the 15th overall pick.
Jones, who the 49ers liked almost as much as Lance, was the fifth quarterback taken in the draft — after Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars), Zach Wilson (Jets), Lance and Justin Fields (Bears). However, he’s been the best-rated of all of them, according to Pro Football Focus, which gives him a stellar 82.5 rating and says Jones “has done exceptionally well at avoiding the quintessential ‘rookie’ games so far.”