This week, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo agreed to a five-year, $137.5 million deal, whereby he will stay in the Bay Area. As you have likely heard, this makes Garoppolo the highest-paid player in football. Unlike some of the other players who have scored deals of this magnitude in recent years, Garoppolo started just five games in a 49ers uniform after scattered spot-start duty in New England. Is Garoppolo the future in San Francisco? It’s tough to say.
Because of his contract, the 49ers are taking a massive risk that “Jimmy G” is an elite NFL quarterback. In 2017, while he did not post prolific stats, he energized the San Francisco fanbase, inspired a languishing team, and put his guys in position to win five games. His 7-to-5 TD:INT ratio may be a bit misleading, but make no mistake – Garoppolo has not proven that he is on the same level as the best QB in his own division, let alone the five best in the NFL.
Now, none of that matters. The 49ers had to make this move. Their other options included rolling the dice on an uninspiring class of college QBs (the top tier of which may not even be around by the time Sam Francisco picks) and paying the same for a player in Kirk Cousins who is probably incapable of carrying a team to the Super Bowl. If Garoppolo fails, this was their best hope.
Being that both players came out of the same small school – Eastern Illinois – Garoppolo and Tony Romo have drawn comparisons to one another. This is likely a fair comparison. The two have approximately the same build – Romo was 6’2″, 230 lb while Garoppolo is 6’2″, 225 lb. Like Garoppolo, Romo’s game was predicated on a tight end-reliant style, leaning heavily on quick passes and testing the middle of the field a great deal. Romo may not have won a Super Bowl, but if Garoppolo can produce for San Francisco the way Romo did for Dallas, it is likely that the 49ers will leapfrog the Los Angeles Rams as the best team in the NFC West as the Seattle Seahawks retool.
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) February 8, 2018
With this level of financial commitment, the 49ers will now have to build a team around Garoppolo. This offseason, San Francisco needs to take a second look at its offense and how the pieces will work with the new franchise quarterback. The most immediate opportunity for an upgrade can be seen at wide receiver, where the team’s unit is among the NFL’s worst. Certainly, Pierre Garcon is a fine player, but the 49ers can do better and should pursue Dolphins wideout Jarvis Landry in free agency.
If that fails, the team should look at a wide receiver with its first round draft pick (either #9 or #10, depending on a coin flip with the Oakland Raiders). Options here include Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, Southern Methodist’s Courtland Sutton, and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown – we have the 49ers selecting St. Brown with their first round pick in our first Nachmany Football mock draft.
In this year’s draft order, San Francisco has the following selections:
First Round, #9/#10*
Second Round, #59 (via NO)
Third Round, #70 (via CHI)
Third Round, #74/75*
Fourth Round, #124 (via PIT)**
Fifth Round, #134 (via NYJ)**
Sixth Round, #170/171*, **
Seventh Round, #201/202*, **
Seventh Round, #214 (via KC)**
*Pick order dependent on coin flip between Oakland and San Francisco
**Pick number after the third round is subject to move down, based on conditional picks to be awarded
Another position of interest could be tight end. Although George Kittle had a breakout rookie season, bringing in another talented pass catcher at the Y-position could increase Garoppolo’s comfort level. Penn State’s Mike Gesicki and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are potential options at the high end, while Stanford’s Dalton Schultz could be a player for the 49ers if the team wants to stay in state – after San Francisco drafted Stanford’s Solomon Thomas at the top of the first round last season and found success with him, going back to the Stanford well is not entirely out of the question.
All told, Garoppolo is likely to be just fine in San Francisco. He has a high-powered offensive mind at head coach in Kyle Shanahan, and early returns with General Manager John Lynch are very good. It appears the 49ers have assembled a tremendous group of young players, and with Garoppolo under center, they are becoming a trendy pick for the Super Bowl in 2018. While I wouldn’t go that far, I would say the Garoppolo signing is solid, and the 49ers could win the NFC West as early as this year.