The best chance for the San Francisco 49ers to get any value back for Jimmy Garoppolo was if Baker Mayfield had been traded to the Seattle Seahawks, and then the Carolina Panthers had felt pressure to trade for the former 49ers starter. Now that Mayfield is in Charlotte, it's improbable that the 49ers are able to do any kind of deal.
It's highly unlikely that Garoppolo will earn his projected $ 25.55 million contract (salary + roster bonus) in 2022. If the 49ers aren't able to trade Garoppolo before week 1, the parties may agree to a paycut, or the quarterback will be released, leaving behind just $ 1.4 million in dead money.
Even if Garoppolo is traded, he should take a paycut anyway - and as he has little guarantees, it'll be more significant than what Mayfield took to go to the Panthers.
Right now, there are just a few options for whom Garoppollo would make sense, to fight for a starting job or to be a clear backup. If no starter gets injured before the season, here are five potential landing spots for Garoppolo.
Cleveland is in a tough spot. The roster is good, but it's realistically impossible to compete if Deshaun Watson is suspended for the entire 2022 season. If that happens and Andrew Berry is not satisfied with the idea of starting Jacoby Brissett, the Browns could send a late-round pick to the 49ers and rework Garoppolo's contract. He would be a one-year stopgap with a chance to rebuild his value trying to find another opportunity in 2023.
Houston's GM Nick Caserio was part of the New England Patriots' staff that drafted Garoppolo in 2014, so there is familiarity. Moreover, even if JG is a limited quarterback, he's shown more in the NFL than any QB currently on the Texans' roster. Houston might be ok giving another year to Davis Mills, but investing in some competition is a plausible scenario.
Seattle and San Francisco are division rivals and probably won't trade here. But if the 49ers are forced to release Garoppolo for cap reasons, the Seahawks may get involved. Even though the 49ers used three first-round picks to select JG's successor Trey Lance, Garoppolo is still better than Drew Lock and Geno Smith - and could be a good bet if the price is right.
New England Patriots
Mac Jones looks like a long-time starter for New England, but Jimmy Garoppolo can go back to his original team as a backup - at least for one year, while fourth-rounder Bailey Zappe develops. The Patriots cap situation is not comfortable, though, so Garoppolo would have to be willing to get less money if he sees New England as the best scenario to increase his value moving forward.
New York Jets
Zach Wilson was the worst starting quarterback in the NFL last season. Garoppolo could be a valuable piece inside the Jets organization because he knows Mike LaFleur's system, therefore he could help Wilson. And if the second-year quarterback doesn't develop as planned, Garoppolo might become QB1 and keep a roster, which is better than its previous versions, in a decent situation to compete.