That might not end up being guaranteed, at least if we’re to believe Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers coach told reporters Tuesday there’s still a chance Garoppolo returns to San Francisco in 2022, even with Trey Lance on the roster.
“There’s a lot of good options there,” Shanahan said, via The Athletic’s David Lombardi. “A lot of cards are on the table.”
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch told reporters the only outcome they’re committing to is clear communication between the team and Garoppolo.
“If we knew exactly what was happening, we’d have told Jimmy,” Shanahan said.
There’s obviously good reason for Shanahan leaving the door open on a possible return for Garoppolo, even if it isn’t actually in San Francisco’s plans. The 49ers have a trade chip in Garoppolo, and bluntly admitting they’re going to trade him would rob the 49ers of leverage in trade talks.
Believing Garoppolo is set to return isn’t entirely foolish, either, considering he helped them reach the NFC Championship Game and nearly the Super Bowl. But teams don’t trade up to select a quarterback only to have him sit on the bench for multiple seasons — unless there’s a veteran in place who doesn’t yet deserve to be forced out.
Though he handled it with class, Garoppolo did not repeat the company line when he got his chance to speak with reporters.
“We’ve talked a little bit, I think more will happen in the days to come but yeah these guys have been very upfront about the whole thing,” Garoppolo said. “Was talking to John (Lynch) yesterday just about finding the right destination and whatever the future holds, just doing it the right way. Got a long career ahead of me so I’m excited about it, excited about the opportunities to come.
“I just want to go to a place where they want to win, that’s really what I’m in this game for. I’m here to play football, I’m here to win football games and as long as I got that and good people around me, I think the rest will take care of itself.”
Garoppolo’s Tuesday tone was that of a farewell, repeatedly thanking media members for their time spent covering him and his 49ers in the four years he’s been with the team. He reflected on the happy memories he made with the team with his final response in a press conference that was about as honest, respectful, appreciative and dignified as possible.
Garoppolo essentially admitted his time with the 49ers was over. But he didn’t completely eliminate a chance of returning.
“I’ll never close every door completely,” Garoppolo said. “I think there’s a possibility of anything. We need to have those conversations here in the next couple days, next couple weeks and, you know, really get the ball going on that.
… “It’s hard to put all the scenarios in play right now but I think those things will work themselves out. I’ve had a great time here with the Niners organization, with the faithful, everything here has been awesome, been some ups and downs, obviously, but we’ll see what happens, I guess.”
Prior to Garoppolo’s session, Shanahan commended Garoppolo for his production when healthy. The coach’s response wasn’t a parting compliment in the moment, though it might end up being viewed as such once this situation is resolved.
“In the two years that he’s played, he’s taken us to the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship Game,” Shanahan said of Garoppolo.
That’s quite a return on investment for San Francisco, but that doesn’t mean they’re tied to him. Lance’s presence indicates it’s likely the opposite, though the timeline remains to be determined. For now, we’ll expect to hear more of the same from the 49ers. It’s much easier to trade a player whose stock appears strong than a lame-duck signal-caller.
As for the rest of the key 49ers, now that the offseason has arrived, contract talks will soon follow. Two 49ers — receiver Deebo Samuel and edge rusher Nick Bosa — will be eligible for lucrative extensions they’ve proven they deserve.
San Francisco is aware of this reality.
“We fully understand that these guys are pillars of what we do here,” Lynch said of Samuel and Bosa, via ESPN’s Nick Wagoner.
Lynch has also prepared accordingly, telling reporters “it’s been budgeted for.”
As is the case with most every team, there will be questions needing answers in the offseason. San Francisco will provide such responses when the time comes — and they’re not operating on anyone else’s schedule.