2022 NFL trade rumors: 5 potential landing spots for 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo


Speaking after Sunday’s NFC Championship loss to the Rams, a game that saw the 49ers squander a 10-point fourth-quarter lead (eerily reminiscent of their Super Bowl collapse two years earlier), Jimmy Garoppolo did not sound like a player expecting to be back with San Francisco next season.

With first-round pick Trey Lance waiting in the wings, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Garoppolo returns in 2022. Garoppolo seems resigned to that fact, cognizant that his NFL future resides elsewhere despite leading San Francisco to its second conference championship appearance in three seasons.

Live On-Air
Ask Your Smart Speaker to Play 95 7 The Game
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

After skating by in wins over the Cowboys and top-seeded Packers, the Rams fully exposed Garoppolo Sunday, shining a white-hot light on the 30-year-old’s athletic limitations. The eight-year veteran, who seems all but assured of being traded this offseason, may look the part with his broad shoulders and chiseled jawline, but after a tepid postseason that saw him continually flirt with disaster, any skepticism surrounding Garoppolo’s qualifications as a franchise quarterback is valid.

Could Garoppolo benefit from a change of scenery much the way Ryan Tannehill seized his opportunity in Tennessee on the heels of a frustrating early-career stint in Miami? Or did Garoppolo show us his true colors Sunday, outing himself as a playoff liability ill-equipped to lead a team to Super Bowl glory?

Like most of life’s big questions, the real Garoppolo probably lies somewhere between those two extremities—good enough to get there, but lacking the “it” factor possessed by all-time greats. That said, Garoppolo, for all his flaws, would represent a welcome upgrade for plenty of teams and should draw substantial trade interest, particularly ahead of a thin draft class with an unusually weak quarterback crop led by Heisman finalist Kenny Pickett and Ole Miss dual-threat Matt Corrall. With that in mind, here are five teams that could realistically make a run at Jimmy G this offseason.

Carolina Panthers
The Panthers may be aiming higher (Deshaun Watson was said to be on their radar last offseason), but Garoppolo, at the very least, would be an improvement on failed trade experiment Sam Darnold and retread Cam Newton, who looked utterly spent in his excruciating second stint with Carolina (54.8 completion percentage with four touchdowns and five interceptions). Carolina could be in a position to draft a quarterback this spring, though it’s debatable whether any of this year’s prospects are worthy of a top-six selection. Now firmly on the hot seat, coach Matt Rhule will do anything to keep the lights on in Charlotte and Garoppolo, motivated by next year’s free agency (not to mention the boulder-sized chip on his shoulder that’s been there ever since the Niners drafted Trey Lance), may be just the shot of life this stagnant offense needs to get back on track. Garoppolo couldn’t ask for a better supporting cast, assuming the trio of Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson can actually stay healthy, which obviously wasn’t the case in 2021.

Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s a testament to Mike Tomlin’s leadership the Steelers made it as far as they did this past season, reaching the playoffs in spite of a drop-prone receiving corps and an aging quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) getting by on little more than muscle memory. The Steelers don’t have a particularly fleshed-out succession plan at quarterback, with backups Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs (the latter two are headed for free agency this offseason) rounding out the team’s depth chart at that position. Only the Buccaneers aired it out on a higher percentage of their offensive plays in 2021, which would be a big ask of Garoppolo, a game-manager type who prefers to stay on script. The Steelers present an interesting dichotomy in that sense, attempting the league’s fourth-most passes (664) while still feeding Najee Harris 307 carries, second-most behind only Colts workhorse Jonathan Taylor (332). Armed to the hilt with a stacked defense and promising up-and-comers in Harris and Diontae Johnson (107 catches), the Steelers are the definition of being a quarterback away. Is Garoppolo that quarterback? Who knows, but he certainly inspires more confidence than the law offices of Rudolph, Haskins and Dobbs.

New Orleans Saints
Like the Buccaneers (who we’ll get to in a minute), the Saints are entering a transition period of sorts, searching for a new identity in the absence of mainstays Sean Payton and Drew Brees. Payton’s sudden departure casts doubt on Taysom Hill’s role going forward (Payton was always Hill’s biggest supporter, believing in him when no one else did) while Jameis Winston’s return to the Big Easy could be complicated by a torn ACL suffered in Week 8. Throw in a disgruntled wide receiver (Michael Thomas, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury) and the financial equivalent of the bleeding eyes emoji (league-worst -$75 million in cap space), and you’re looking at a total rebuild. None of that sounds particularly enticing, though even amid the burning wreckage that is the New Orleans Saints, Garoppolo knows there are only so many starting gigs available in the NFL. By fending off Trey Lance, Garoppolo proved he’s up for any challenge, offsetting whatever deficiencies he may have with unrivaled grit and determination. Those traits should appeal to the Saints, a fixer-upper franchise in desperate need of stability.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers’ two-year partnership with Tom Brady proved mutually beneficial—Brady added to his legacy with a seventh title while the Bucs shed their afterthought status, reversing years of irrelevance by becoming the sport’s main attraction. But with Brady retiring (after three days of futile attempts to convince us otherwise), the reigning champs could be headed for an offseason overhaul with Rob Gronkowski, Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette all headed for free agency. Garoppolo has emerged as the early betting favorite to replace Brady in Tampa, which, if you recall, was supposed to be the plan all along, albeit with a different team (Garoppolo was Brady’s backup for four years before the Pats traded him to San Francisco in 2017). In terms of feasibility, Jimmy G would seem to be more attainable than pipe dreams like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, who would both cost the Bucs an arm and a leg. Even if the Buccaneers aren’t sold on Garoppolo as their long-term solution, his wealth of experience makes him the ideal mentor for second-round pick Kyle Trask, a former Heisman Trophy finalist who spent his rookie year fighting for scraps behind Brady and Blaine Gabbert.

Washington Football Team
Obviously, this season didn’t go as planned for the Washington Football Team (who are expected to be rebranded as the Washington Commanders later this week), missing the playoffs a year after winning the division for the first time since 2015. Taylor Heinicke showed flashes while filling in for injured starter Ryan Fitzpatrick (last seen shirtless among Bills Mafia at Buffalo’s Highmark Stadium), but probably not enough to warrant a long-term commitment. A physical team that prides itself on defense and pounding the rock, Garoppolo is precisely the type of savvy veteran Ron Rivera has always gravitated toward. Jimmy G admittedly wouldn’t have to do much in Washington, simply peppering the field with screens and quick dump-offs while letting his playmakers do the rest. Washington is well-stocked in that regard, boasting versatile talents in Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel (despite similar skill sets and a shared last name, Curtis and 49ers stud Deebo Samuel are not related). Of the handful of teams circling Garoppolo, you could argue Washington’s roster is the most talented.

LISTEN on the Audacy App
Sign Up and Follow Audacy Sports
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Featured Image Photo Credit: Patrick McDermott, Getty Images