The San Francisco 49ers still apparently do not have a seat at the table for the quarterback who has led them to the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game in his only two full seasons with the franchise so far. Jimmy Garoppolo has been with 49ers since 2017, and while the former New England Patriots backup quarterback has faced some injuries throughout his career, he’s been highly effective in his time as a starter: posting a 31-14 regular season record and 4-2 playoff record with trips to at least the NFC Championship game in both of his career playoff appearances.

And yet, 49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan seem married to the idea of second-year quarterback Trey Lance taking the reins at quarterback of a franchise that was a quarter of football away from reaching its second Super Bowl in three years. Whether or not that decision is a logically sound one is a discussion that merits an article of its own, but in a nutshell, I personally think the 49ers are giving up a solid quarterback option that just works for them.

But opinions aside, San Francisco re-affirmed their intent to trade Garoppolo on May 24. The problem is, the quarterback carousel has stopped spinning, with every team more or less set with who they will be rolling with for the 2022-23 season. Garoppolo’s sizeable $24.2 million base salary in 2022, and even fewer teams will be in position to take on the quarterback’s contract this last in the off-season.

For this precise reason, this list will be split in two categories: the few remaining teams that could vie for Garoppolo’s services in 2022, and a likely larger list of suitors that Jimmy G could entertain in 2023 free agency. To avoid redundancy, the 2022 teams won’t be listed twice, but you can assume if a team would consider trading for Garoppolo would also be a likely suitor in 2023 when they can bring the quarterback in on their own terms.

Without further ado, here are some potential suitors for Jimmy Garoppolo’s next team, whether his destination comes via a trade in 2022 or free agency in 2023. To debate or discuss these picks with me, join the conversation with Sak Sports Blog on Twitter.

2022 via Trade

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have been linked to big-name quarterbacks this off-season, but stood pat at the position with former New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold entering his second year with the team. The Panthers had a myriad of issues on the field last season, and Darnold (nine passing touchdowns to 13 interceptions) didn’t help the issue much. Darnold also missed six starts, but ultimately, the Panthers were more effective with Darnold on the field (4-7) than off of it (1-5.)

All in all, the Panthers don’t have to move on from Darnold quite yet, and besides a healthy Christian McCaffrey coming back, Carolina isn’t exactly in win-now mode. Still, the Panthers represent a clear opportunity for Garoppolo to come in and start right away, with his 33-14 career regular season record blowing Darnold’s 17-32 mark out of the water.

Seattle Seahawks

The most logical 2022 landing spot from a pure football roster standpoint would have to be the Seattle Seahawks after the team moved on from Russell Wilson. But from an actual NFL perspective, a trade like this would be pretty off the wall. Trading within your own division is usually taboo, but trading your starting quarterback to your most consistent rival over the last decade would be bonkers.

If John Lynch did trade Garoppolo to Seattle it would mean one of two things: he knows something about Garoppolo’s long-term playing prospects that we don’t, or he genuinely believes Garoppolo is just not a good quarterback.

Such a trade wouldn’t be completely unprecedented of course, as Washington Football Team (at the time, the Washington Redskins) acquired long-time Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in an intradivisonal trade in 2010.

Seattle may claim to be content with Drew Lock and Geno Smith heading in to the 2022-23 season, but in reality, the Seahawks could desperately use a veteran upgrade at the position.

Cleveland Browns

This is another situation that could be a good fit on paper, but ultimately, reality gets in the way. The Cleveland Browns obviously traded for and signed former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson to a mega-extension after the Pro Bowler was acquitted of criminal charges earlier this offseason. On paper, this would end any interest Cleveland may have had in bringing in Garoppolo as Baker Mayfield’s replacement. But with Mayfield disgruntled by the Watson situation, and with the Watson situation itself still being fluid, with the possibility of an incoming NFL suspension, the Browns could use a little insurance at the position.

Again, from a pure football standpoint, it would be a match made in heaven. Garoppolo can be ready to go when called upon, but has also shown his willingness to hold the clipboard when appropriate. The problem is of course, Cleveland already gave up the bank, in terms of assets and salary cap space, to acquire and extend Watson. Even though Garoppolo would be a savvy backup option, investing another $24.2 million at the position in 2022 makes no sense.

If Watson’s tenure in Cleveland is short-lived for any reason, the Browns could be in play for Garoppolo in 2023 when he becomes a free agent.

2023 Free Agency

Miami Dolphins

24-year old former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has become a polarizing talent among Miami Dolphins fans and NFL fans alike. The debate isn’t about whether or not Tagovailoa is an elite player or a Top Ten talent, but rather, if he’s good enough to be a starter in this league. The bar is higher than it used to be, and patience with young quarterbacks is becoming non-existent in this league.

Miami has almost always run a two-quarterback system with Tagovailoa on the roster, as the left-handed quarterback was supplemented by Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacoby Brissett, and now, new Dolphins signee Teddy Bridgewater. It’s clear Miami is hesitant to go all-in at quarterback with Tagovailoa, who has been criticized for his arm strength.

The Dolphins made major upgrades this offseason, highlighted by the addition of speedy Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. If Tagovailoa doesn’t improve in 2022, Miami could absolutely be looking for an upgrade in 2023.

As a free agent, Garoppolo could come in and compete for the starting job, a scenario that’s not beneath him. He could likely win it over Tagovailoa, and with a solid roster, Garoppolo could likely emulate some success from his San Francisco days.

New York Giants

Putting all of the New York Giants woes on Daniel Jones is foolish, as the franchise has endured many other trials and tribulations during the former Duke quarterback’s three seasons as a starting quarterback. Jones has shown very brief flashes of excellence, but much more consistently has been mediocre in the NFL after being selected sixth overall by the Giants in 2019.

Jones has posted a 12-25 record as a starter, admittedly with some pretty shoddy and injury-riddled teams. The Giants have never held a winning record with Jones as their quarterback, and Jones has fumlbed the ball an uncanny 36 times in 37 career starts, along with 29 interception thrown against 45 passing touchdowns.

New York didn’t pick up Jones fifth-year option, and it’s hard to blame them. The Giants also brought in veteran Tyrod Taylor to back up and maybe even push Jones for his position in 2022. If neither Jones nor Taylor are working out for the Giants, the franchise could face something it hasn’t seen in over two decades: a clean slate at quarterback in the 2023 off-season.

While New York would love to get their hands on a Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes-type franchise quarterback, there simply aren’t enough to go around. Instead of trying to find the “next” superstar, the Giants could invest in a safe, trustworthy option: Jimmy Garoppolo. For some reason, I can just see Garoppolo as an Eli Manning-type quarterback in New York: low frills, capable of making big throws, and a humble leader.

New England Patriots

This is where things start to get kooky. As noted above, the New England Patriots have expressed a small degree of interest in re-acquiring Tom Brady’s former backup quarterback, but the current hurdles in the way are insurmountable. Garoppolo’s $24 million price tag would be too much for 2022, and Mac Jones just led New England to the playoffs in his rookie season.

But with fans and media pundits alike already questioning Jones’ long-term ability to carry the franchise, Garoppolo could be an option in 2023. If Garoppolo chooses to return in free agency, it would show an obvious openness to returning to Bill Belichick’s offensive system. Mac Jones will have to play better in 2022 than he did in 2021 in order to remain the undisputed quarterback moving forward: it’s simply the nature of today’s NFL.

Seeing Garoppolo back in New England, where he served as a backup to Brady for three seasons and posted a 2-0 record as a starter, would likely be a welcome sight for fans. Garoppolo’s experience and leadership abilities could keep the Patriots competitive in 2023 and beyond if Jones isn’t panning out.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When Tom Brady initially announced his retirement from the NFL, I penned an article listing Five Realistic Options to Replace Tom Brady as Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback. Of course since then, Brady has pulled a Brett Favre and un-retired, but the options will likely still be there in 2023.

I wrote in February that Jimmy Garoppolo could “check all the boxes” as Brady’s successor in Tampa Bay to keep the Buccaneers competitive moving forward. In 2023 free agency, the Buccaneers could be an attractive destination for the San Francisco 49ers quarterback.

The irony, of course, would come in Garoppolo succeeding Brady in Tampa Bay: not New England, the franchise that drafted the Eastern Illinois quarterback in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft with the intention of grooming him to be the team’s next starting quarterback.

New York Jets

Just like their AFC East divisional rival Dolphins and Patriots, the New York Jets are still early in the quarterback cycle. But unlike Tagovailoa and Jones, 2021 NFL Draft second overall pick Zach Wilson hasn’t shown much upside so far. The 22-year-old BYU quarterback went 3-10 as a starter in his rookie season, throwing nine touchdowns against 11 interceptions, completing just 55.6% of his passes, and posting a measly 6.1 yards per attempt.

The Jets loaded up on offensive weapons in the 2022 NFL Draft, and if Wilson can’t show signs of progress, it could be a cause for New York to pull the pug early. The Jets have had their fair share of short-lived quarterbacks after drafting them: three years of Mark Sanchez, two years of Geno Smith, three years of Sam Darnold, and essentially wasted selections on Greg McElroy and Christian Hackenberg. If Wilson plays in 2022 like he did in 2021, there’s no reason he should get a third season, as the Jets have likely learned from past quarterbacks.

Garoppolo once again could provide a serviceable, veteran presence at the quarterback position. I’m not making out Garoppolo to be a “game-manager,” but rather, a low-risk option who will at least give you solid play, if not more. Quite honestly, he would be the best Jets quarterback in some time, and give the franchise some direction. New York has swung and missed on big names like Brett Favre, Michael Vick, and Tim Tebow in the past, but Garoppolo could be a lower frills option to guide the team towards contention once again.

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