The quarterback carousel was somehow crazier this offseason than it was last year at this time. No fewer than seven teams have replaced their starter from 2021 in some fashion. And, somehow, Aaron Rodgers was not involved! Further proof that nobody really has any idea what's going on behind the scenes around the NFL.
The carousel has slowed but it has not stopped. There are a few deals yet to be made. Most notably, the one man everybody thought was a sure thing to be traded has yet to go anywhere so far as Jimmy Garoppolo remains a San Francisco 49er two months after his season ended at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams.
Garoppolo was and still is a popular pick to get traded because the Niners will owe him $25 million if they keep him around for the whole season and have invested significant resources in his successor, Trey Lance. Even after pretty much every quarterback-needy team went out and found a starter already, It still feels like a matter of when, not if, Jimmy G will be sent packing.
This feels insane on the surface for a number of reasons. Darnold is inherently less reliable than Garoppolo as a potential backup for Lance because he hasn't spent the last five seasons in Kyle Shanahan's offense. He would also be a very expensive backup, slated to make $18 million in 2022. That's less than Garoppolo but far from a bargain for a guy everybody hopes would never see the field.
There is also the opportunity cost of unloading Garoppolo for the sake of doing so. The 49ers need to move him in order to make the team's transition to Lance as smooth as possible. But, as King mentions in the second half of the above segment, the Niners could get everything they dreamed of and more for Jimmy G if a starting quarterback gets hurt during training camp.
Why consider this, then? Hanging onto Garoppolo, even just through the offseason, has its own cost if the Niners are truly serious about making Lance the franchise guy. Every key contributor on San Fran's roster went to the Super Bowl with Garoppolo. They know what they can do with him. It's far less of a sure thing with Lance. Mentally, the transition to Lance will be much easier if Garoppolo is out of sight and out of mind instead of awkwardly lingering in the back of the quarterback room with the knowledge that his time is short.
The Panthers, meanwhile, have been floundering for any sort of answer at quarterback over the last two offseasons and have failed to a laughable degree. They traded a second-round pick for Darnold, picked up his fifth-year option before seeing him play, then benched him halfway through his first season with the team. They brought back Cam Newton in an attempt to muster up something vaguely resembling competitive football and it didn't work. Matt Rhule couldn't seem to decide whether he preferred those two or PJ Walker, so he rotated through them all in a pathetic display of coaching malpractice.
Garoppolo, miraculously, would be a significant upgrade from whatever the hell the Panthers were doing last year. He has his flaws but is good enough to keep his team in the game most Sundays. Garoppolo isn't a long-term answer by any means but Carolina doesn't seem to care very much about that. Trading for Jimmy G would make them better right now but probably hurt them in the long run, which has sort of been the MO under Rhule. It makes very little football sense but is probably better than running it back in 2022 and it doesn't appear the Panthers are in the business of smart football decisions, anyway.
So why not? Make it happen. Garoppolo has gotta go somewhere and the Panthers are both desperate and incompetent enough to agree to a favorable deal for San Francisco, which is what's required if they're going to take on another significant quarterback contract (even for just one season). Unlike all the other quarterback trades over the last month, this one would have few ripple effects. But a Garoppolo trade has to happen, one way or another.