49ers Using ‘Elite’ Jimmy Garoppolo As Recruiting Tool In Free Agency

INDIANAPOLIS — John Lynch likes to preface discussions of rebuffed Jimmy Garoppolo trade offers by saying the San Francisco 49ers don’t like to talk about them. But then he discusses them anyway.

The Niners general manager reiterated Thursday at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine that the New England Patriots initially rejected any trade offers for the quarterback.

“It’s well documented, and we don’t like talking about it a whole lot, but we made some efforts right away to try to do something, and they were rebuffed quicker than I could ask,” Lynch said. “So, we kind of just moved on. During the season, like I said, some things broke our way and he became available.”

What broke San Francisco’s way was Patriots head coach Bill Belichick calling up the 49ers and offering Garoppolo in exchange for a second-round pick. The Niners jumped on it, and Garoppolo was gone at the trade deadline.

Now the 49ers, who are ecstatic to have Garoppolo locked up to a new five-year, $137 million contract with $74.1 million guaranteed, plan to use their starting quarterback as a recruiting tool to attract free agents.

“Would you? We are. I am,” Lynch said. “Yes, absolutely.

“We’re very appreciative to Jimmy and (agent) Don Yee and his team that we were able to do it so swiftly. I think that was a huge bonus for us that we have him locked up going into free agency. I think it makes (San Francisco) a place where a lot of people want to be, and we’re excited about that.”

The 49ers could try to woo some of Garoppolo’s former teammates who are set to become free agents on March 14. They have a need at running back if they don’t bring back Carlos Hyde, and Patriots free agent Dion Lewis could fill that void. Garoppolo was a well-liked player in New England.

San Francisco went just 6-10 last season but finished 5-0 with Garoppolo under center. The 49ers are hoping they can carry that momentum into the 2018 season and that Garoppolo isn’t just a flash in the pan. Lynch clearly believes he’s not.

“He can really quickly process and get rid of the football in a fashion that I would say is elite,” Lynch said. “But then you go to study the makeup of the guy, and the only way to do that is to see him around his teammates. And to me, the best leaders, the best quarterbacks, they make everyone around them better. And we watched our team — and I will say it coincided with we had played a bunch of young guys. We had gone through just a brutal series of injuries, so it also coincided with young guys getting experience and us getting healthy as a team.

“But there’s no mistaking that when he came in and started playing it lifted our team, it lifted everyone around him. And then just his makeup, his work ethic. He never left the facility. Yes, he was trying to learn a new system, and he needed to, but his diligence, the way his teammates kind of liked being around him. He’s one of the guys even though he’s not just one of the guys. That whole deal, we watched it, and it became clear in our minds that this is a guy we want to move forward with, and we’re pleased that we’ve done it.”

Lynch knows from experience, however, that success is not guaranteed based on a strong finish.

“We also know there’s a lot that remains,” Lynch said. “The story’s not yet written, and Jimmy knows that. That’s one thing he’s very cognizant of. We’ve got a lot of work to do. And we have a lot of work to do as a team. I think Bill Parcells said it best: You are what your record says you are. We were a 6-10 team. We were 1-5 in our division. Did we finish strong? Absolutely.

“I can tell you that in Tampa, when we were trying to turn it around there were years we finished strong. That doesn’t guarantee success the next year. It’s back to trying to improve our franchise in every way we can, and it’s back to good old fashioned hard work to make sure we do carry the momentum that we had forward into next year.”