I believed the 49ers would have a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo in place and announced at the beginning of the new league year.
I believed there would be competition for Garoppolo’s services.
I believed the 49ers would be able to get a couple of draft picks — let’s say a fourth-rounder this year and a conditional 2023 second-round pick, which could become a first-rounder if he played a certain amount of the snaps this season or his new team won a certain amount of games.
Yes, I believe things changed dramatically when it was decided Garoppolo would require surgery to repair a damaged capsule in his throwing shoulder and be unable to throw a football for approximately four months.
What else do I believe? I’m glad you asked.
I believe …
— Garoppolo wanted to avoid surgery altogether. It was determined the thumb injury would heal without undergoing a procedure. But when the shoulder was not improving adequately a month after the season ended, the call was made to get the surgery on March 8 and not risk being unavailable (or severely compromised) for training camp and the start of the regular season.
— Garoppolo did not wait a month for the surgery with the intent of sabotaging the 49ers’ ability to trade him. His No. 1 priority is to do everything possible to put himself in a position to succeed in 2022 and beyond. Waiting unnecessarily to have surgery would have done nobody, especially him, any good.
— In time, Garoppolo’s shoulder will be back to normal. The surgery should not have much impact on him, as far as range of motion, because of his from-the-ear throwing style.
— There were legitimate reasons the most-often discussed quarterback-needy teams decided to go in different directions.
Some swung for the fence, such as the Denver Broncos with Russell Wilson and the Cleveland Browns with their sell-their-soul pact for Deshaun Watson.
Indianapolis, in win-now mode, saw the opening to acquire soon-to-be-37-year-old Matt Ryan and did not need to give up much to land the four-time Pro Bowl player.
Washington acquired talented and healthy Carson Wentz. Others, such as New Orleans (Jameis Winston), Pittsburgh (Mitchell Trubisky) and Atlanta (Marcus Mariota), went the less-expensive route. Also, those teams filled their needs with free agents, so they did not have to part ways with draft picks.
— Before his surgery, I was certain Garoppolo would be a starter. Now, that seems unlikely. Carolina has Sam Darnold. Seattle has Drew Lock. I can’t imagine those teams, in their current conditions, would be willing to send a draft pick to the 49ers AND be willing to pay $25.5 million to Garoppolo for the upcoming season.
— The 49ers’ best option is to sit tight, wait for Garoppolo to get healthy and see if anything changes around the league where he might become more attractive to another team.
— The injury history was the stated reason the 49ers decided on March 26 of last year to make the trade with Miami to move up to No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. But that was not the only reason. Garoppolo, when healthy, is an average starting quarterback. They traded up to No. 3 to acquire a superstar.
— The 49ers believe Trey Lance is capable of being a star. Do they know for sure? Of course not. Does anyone know whether Lance will be a star, an average player or a bottom-tier quarterback? No. We are all just guessing until he gets on the field for at least a full season.
— Lance will take all the first-team practice snaps during the offseason program to get prepared for training camp.
— Lance will take all of the first-team reps in training camp to get ready for the regular season.
— Garoppolo said his public good-byes two days after the 49ers lost the NFC Championship Game to the Los Angeles Rams. When asked if there was something to be said for a fresh start elsewhere, he answered, “Absolutely.” Would he accept a dramatic pay cut to remain with the 49ers as the backup? Doubtful.
— The 49ers made their intentions known for their quarterback depth chart recently when they fully guaranteed Nate Sudfeld’s $2 million salary. In their cap situation, the 49ers did not give a quarterback that kind of money to sit around as the No. 3 guy.
— If Garoppolo accepts a pay cut, then it would make more sense to go with him and just figure out a way to deal with the guaranteed money given to Sudfeld. If Garoppolo remains on the roster this season and signs elsewhere next year as a free agent, the best the 49ers could hope for would be a compensatory pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. That only happens if their net losses in free agency outweigh their net gains.
— Under his current contract, it does not make much sense to retain Garoppolo. The strong argument can be made that Garoppolo means more to the composition of the roster — this season and into the future — by not being on the team. If a trade is impossible, it makes more sense to release him after he passes a physical and all trade options are exhausted. That way, his non-guaranteed $25 million can be redirected to other foundational players, such as Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa, and the rising salaries in future seasons for such players as George Kittle, Trent Williams, Fred Warner and Arik Armstead.
— If the 49ers had that $25 million cushion right now, it would not change their approach to free agency. They spent for cornerback Charvarius Ward. He was their big-ticket item. The remaining spots on the roster will be filled by lower-priced free agents and draft picks. There is no big rush to create that additional cap room because most of that money will be going to players already on the team.
— Neither Garoppolo nor John Lynch nor Kyle Shanahan nor Paraag Marathe is to blame for this situation. Garoppolo was injured. He required surgery. A trade could not happen without a trade partner, and Garoppolo’s inability to participate in the offseason program likely prompted some teams to pass.
— Yes, I believe Trey Lance will be the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2022.
— And I still believe Jimmy Garoppolo will be playing elsewhere.
–I just don’t believe at this point it’s likely the 49ers will get anything in return.
— But I also fully believe — after what we’ve already witnessed — that anything can happen at this point.