If you were to predict less than a decade ago that Jimmy Garoppolo would one day take over the signal-calling duties from Tom Brady, well, you probably wouldn’t have served up a stunner.
What would have surprised some, though, is if you hypothesized that Garoppolo became the heir apparent to Brady in Tampa Bay rather than New England. And that could very well be the case entering the 2022 campaign.
Brady, 44, reportedly could retire from the NFL after playing the last two seasons with the Buccaneers after two decades with the Patriots. Brady has not confirmed the report, and remains steadfast in offering up nothing.
And while Brady’s potential retirement has headlined the recent news cycle, Garoppolo found himself in it, as well. Garoppolo, 30, likely played his final game as the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. Garoppolo, who essentially was a dead man walking for much of the 2021 season, sounded like he knew his time with the franchise was over after San Francisco’s loss in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
The likely end of the road for Garoppolo comes after the 49ers traded up to draft Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Lance will serve as the organization’s quarterback of the future, and that future could very well start as soon as his sophomore season, despite the fact Garoppolo remains under contract for the 2022 campaign.
Garoppolo’s contract, however, isn’t exactly massive money for a team who needs, at the very least, a stop-gap quarterback. It actually may be best suited for that sort of team considering the short term of the deal. Garoppolo is owed a base salary of $24 million with a cap hit of $26 million. He is set to become a free agent after the 2022 season. For comparison’s sake, despite how Brady worked out the finances of his own deal, he was set to have a $20 million cap hit in 2022.
There’s also the fact that Garoppolo, for all his faults, is a signal-caller that has had clear success in this league. Garoppolo is 33-14 as a starting quarterback, helped the 49ers to the Super Bowl just two seasons ago and had the group on the brink of another appearance this season.
Was it all his doing? Well, no. He’s played with a talented team during each of those postseason runs, but the Buccaneers would offer plenty of talent around him, too.
There’s no debating that, if Brady does indeed retire, the Buccaneers will be forced to bring in someone from the outside. Currently Tampa Bay has Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask on the depth chart behind Brady. The organization would be doing itself a disservice if it did not bring in someone better should Brady retire. Then they would have Trask left to develop for another season after drafting the Florida product in the second round of the 2021 draft.
Given what little leverage the 49ers have, the asking price for Garoppolo likely will come down to a third or fourth-round pick. San Francisco was hoping to manifest a second-rounder previously, but that feels out of reach given the updated circumstances.
There could be a lot of quarterbacks on the move this offseason with Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, etc. There also could be a number of teams in need of a quarterback with the Washington Football Team, Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers, etc.
Perhaps when the dust settles, however, Garoppolo is there to serve as the heir apparent to Brady after all.