Trapped in the abyss of C.J. Beathard and Brian Hoyer, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch took a cross-country shot in acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo.
The franchise isn’t leaving the next step up to chance.
San Francisco signed Garoppolo to a five-year deal that NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported is worth a record $137.5 million, the largest in NFL history on an average-per-year basis. San Francisco’s leadership duo of Lynch and Kyle Shanahan joined Garoppolo in a news conference Friday, and the three made it abundantly clear from the beginning: This union is here to stay.
“What I tried to do was keep pushing the button,” Lynch said. “Hey, he wants to be here and we want him here, let’s get it done. Why wait?”
They didn’t wait very long, and they brought the money.
When San Francisco acquired Garoppolo via trade with New England, it also acquired the right to franchise tag the quarterback in lieu of a long-term deal. For a backup with a small sample size, logically, this was in play. But that wasn’t the plan for Lynch and Shanahan, and after Garoppolo assumed the role of franchise messiah (winning all five of his starts), the next decision wasn’t to tag, but to secure.
“We became convinced that we had that as an option, but we didn’t want to use it,” Lynch said of the franchise tag. “We wanted to make Jimmy a 49er for a long, long time. Do you have to have some faith for that? Absolutely, but he earned that faith that we have in him.”
That faith was earned by the film more than a massive body of work. Kirk Cousins, for example, might have more games under his belt, but does he bring the potential of Garoppolo, a quarterback who seemingly single-handedly turned around a moribund team with his playmaking?
To the Niners, the answer was simple: No. San Francisco elected to keep a young guy with immense upside who the staff had already gotten to know, both in games, practice and the time in between. Fortunately for them, that same guy wanted to stick around.
“I knew I wanted to be here, it was just a matter of getting everything figured out and I think we did that fairly quickly this offseason,” Garoppolo said. “I’m excited about it that it got done so fast and it’s an exciting time right now.”
Garoppolo’s contract is intriguing, because while proponents applaud the swiftness and firm nature of the deal, critics will knock the record-setting money. A quick look at the structure shows a big chunk of the contract being paid out at signing ($48.7 million) and a cap number drop from $37 million in 2018 to $19.9 million in year two. That cap number drop (and $7.5 million guaranteed in year two, the last of the guaranteed salary) leaves San Francisco with a potential out before the third year (and an increase in cap number) kicks in, if this marriage proves disastrous.
So while it’s a big deal to commit such money to a quarterback with seven career starts under his belt, it’s not actually that much of a risk.
Now, back to the feel-good stuff. Garoppolo emphasized on multiple occasions his desire to make the Bay Area his home. Going undefeated and earning MVP chants in your first abbreviated season will inspire such positive emotions.
“I think, like I said, from the first day I got here, my teammates, the coaching staff we’re very accepting of me,” Garoppolo said Friday. “It’s kind of rare in an NFL locker room. There’s a lot of different types of personalities. For them to accept me so quickly, it made my life easier.
“So as the season went on, it was an easy decision.”
Lynch’s next task is to assemble more talent around Garoppolo as San Francisco continues its rebuild from the doldrums of the Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly eras. While Garoppolo watched his former teammates fall in Super Bowl LII, San Francisco was already in the midst of an offseason in which Lynch says the Niners will be “aggressively prudent,” and one that could prove pivotal two years from now. As always, the goal remains the same.
“We have one goal in mind — that’s to go to the Super Bowl and win it,” Garoppolo said.
With the contract finished and related questions eliminated, Garoppolo can make his home in the Bay — and Niners fans can add No. 10 jerseys to their collection as they prepare for the next ride with Garoppolo holding the reins.