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49ers' Blockbuster Move Up In Draft Leads To Garoppolo Intrigue
As's Nick Wagoner reminded readers, throughout the four-plus years coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have been in charge of the San Francisco 49ers, their quarterback plan has constantly evolved.

Wagoner went on to recount that in 2017, they didn't use the No. 2 overall pick to take one of that draft's top quarterbacks because they had their eye on Kirk Cousins in free agency the following spring. By Halloween of that year the New England Patriots offered Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick. Garoppolo did enough to change their minds and landed a massive contract before Cousins hit the market.

It was a bold move but not nearly as bold as what they did Friday, agreeing to send the No. 12 overall pick this year, 2022 first and third-round choices and a 2023 first-round selection to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 3 overall pick. It's just the fourth time in the past 30 drafts a team has traded from 12th overall or later into the top three.

It's the highest pick the Niners have acquired in a trade during the common draft era, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

And make no mistake: The 49ers are going to get their quarterback, which begs two follow-up questions: Who will that quarterback be and what will become of Garoppolo? The answers are intertwined.

Wagoner explained: "Teams don't give up as much as the Niners did for the third pick if they don't have their eye on a quarterback. Garoppolo's injury history -- he's missed 23 of his past 48 regular-season starts because of knee and ankle issues -- has put the 49ers in a spot where they must look to the future if they want to contend long-term."

Assuming the Jacksonville Jaguars select Clemson's Trevor Lawrence first, the 49ers would then have the chance to take BYU's Zach Wilson, Ohio State's Justin Fields, Alabama's Mac Jones or North Dakota State's Trey Lance. Chances are, Wilson will head to the Jets at No. 2, which means the Niners would have their pick of the other three.

Or, in a less likely scenario, the Niners could use the No. 3 pick as part of a package for another blockbuster trade to acquire a quarterback elsewhere.

Wagoner went on to suggest it's hard to imagine the Niners making such a big move without at least some idea of which quarterbacks they prefer. Fields is a dynamic player with big-play ability the Niners have been missing. He's worked with Shanahan at the QB Collective in the past. Jones is the polished type of pocket passer Shanahan has always liked and would bring down-the-field accuracy San Francisco's offense has lacked. Lance is probably the most unknown because of his small-school pedigree but his physical tools and leadership skills are hard to ignore.

One thing they all might have in common? For all their talents, they might not be ready to start in 2021.

Which is where Garoppolo comes in.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Niners have no interest in trading Garoppolo this season. If that's really the case, it's possible the Niners will indeed hang on to Garoppolo even with a highly-drafted rookie waiting in the wings, similar to what Kansas City did in 2017 with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes.

The other side of that argument?

Moving on from Garoppolo would save the 49ers $24.1 million against the cap but that kind of cap space doesn't do them much good now that free agency's big-money days have passed.

According to Wagner, the Niners believe injuries did them in last season and with better health, this is a roster that's ready to surge back into contention. Would that still be the case with a rookie starting quarterback? History would say no, as no rookie quarterback has started a Super Bowl, let alone won it, in the common era.

Best case scenario outside of a too-tempting trade offer for Garoppolo: He starts, stays healthy and takes the Niners the distance. That would open plenty of trade opportunities next offseason and the Niners could recoup some of their lost draft capital.

And what about the possibility of trading Jimmy G sooner?

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are reportedly still interested in reacquiring Garoppolo from the San Francisco 49ers, and San Francisco Chronicle staffer Eric Ting believes their pursuit may be aided by today's trade.

Garoppolo was first sent to the 49ers from New England in 2017 for a second-round draft pick, and ESPN's Dianna Russini reported that even though the Patriots re-signed last year's starter Cam Newton, a Garoppolo trade is still possible.

"Just recently I was talking to somebody in the league who I really trust. ... He said, 'Do not take the Garoppolo trade off the table,'" Russini said during a broadcast of ESPN's "Get Up" on Thursday. "That is something New England is still sniffing out. Bill doesn't like to put his cards out on the table, so most think, 'Oh well if we all know about that, that probably won't happen.' But there is definitely a tone in the league that it could still go down."

They could also cut him.

The Niners could save $23.6 million in a pre-June 1 cut and $25 million in a post-June 1 release.

Beyond that, as's Nick Shook pointed out, telling the NFL your intent is to keep Garoppolo is also a move to preserve his value on the open market.'s Mike Florio added to that by suggesting to get the most out of Garoppolo in trade, the 49ers need to convince everyone (or at least one other team) that they'll keep him.

"Just like the Vikings when they had "no intent" to trade Percy Harvin or the Cardinals when Josh Rosen was "our guy" or when the Giants didn't pay Odell Beckham Jr. to trade him," Florio added.

If an interested team asks about Garoppolo, the 49ers haven't showed a single card in their hand that could cause them to lose a little leverage in negotiations. And if a trade doesn't work out, there's little to no damage control required to keep everything peaceful inside the organization.

Bottom line?

Per Florio: "No one is paying Garoppolo $25 million this year. The only question is whether he takes less to stay in San Francisco, whether he takes less to facilitate a trade, or whether he's ultimately cut."

Stay tuned. We'll be watching for more.