Step 1 of the plan to get Jimmy Garoppolo back in Foxborough kicked off Friday afternoon. Now we wait to see if Step 2, the most important part of the process, will become reality.
The Niners sent shockwaves throughout the league when they agreed to send a pair of future first-round picks plus a third-rounder in this year's draft to move up from No. 12 to No. 3, where Miami previously stood. That led to some wild moments throughout New England over the weekend, as the move seemed like a pretty clear indication that San Francisco did so in order to draft Garoppolo's successor next month.
While that still seems like a safe bet, what isn't nearly as apparent is Garoppolo's immediate future in the Bay Area. Should Niners coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch decide the time is now to deal their erstwhile starter, then the Patriots should be very much in the mix. But it's also possible that the Niners believe they are capable of winning now, and if that's the case keeping a very affordable quarterback around for another year to help shepherd in the rookie would make a lot of sense as well.
In fact, so much sense that it would almost mirror the exact move made a few years ago by the Kansas City Chiefs, ironically the team that beat the Niners in Super Bowl LIV two years ago, leading to San Francisco's doubts about Garoppolo in the first place.
Back in 2017, Chiefs coach Andy Reid swung for the fences and dealt a 2018 first-rounder plus a third to move from 27 to 10 in order to take Patrick Mahomes. Reid did so despite the presence of Alex Smith, who was 32 and coming off an 11-5 season that ended with a 27-20 divisional round loss to the Patriots. Reid knew Smith would likely remain in place in 2017 while Mahomes mostly watched and waited. And Reid also knew that Smith was a lame duck and that Mahomes would be the team's full-time starter in 2018.
That's exactly how it all unfolded and Mahomes and the Chiefs have indeed taken the step forward Reid knew would require a little more from the game's most important position. In other words, Smith was a solid NFL starter capable of winning plenty of games but Reid thought he needed more.
That's exactly where Shanahan finds himself this morning with Garoppolo. The Twitter-sphere was buzzing in the immediate aftermath of the trade, but soon thereafter the Niners made it clear their intention is the keep Garoppolo for the time being.
Obviously that could be little more than an effort to drive up the price for Garoppolo. Rather than putting a for sale sign up, Lynch and Shanahan want to make it known they do not have to make a move and would be content to ride it out for a year – just like Reid and the Chiefs did.
The reality of the situation is the Niners are right. They don't have to make a move and they can probably maximize their potential in 2021 by holding tight. Garoppolo's $25 million is average starter money, and with a backup presumably coming with the third pick of the draft, that individual would be making reasonable backup money as well at around $6.2 million.
So San Francisco does not need to make a move and will likely hold out for a handsome package of picks in return if they decide the rookie is capable of taking the reins immediately.
For the Patriots and their fans, that likely means more waiting.
In related news… perhaps
SI's Albert Breer indicated earlier this week that Stephon Gilmore's days in New England may not be numbered. While the $7 million Gilmore is scheduled to earn in 2021 is unlikely as he will be looking for an extension, it's possible that deal could be with the Patriots. Breer said Gilmore is open to staying in Foxborough in that scenario, which makes sense for the veteran corner who has played well for Belichick and is simply looking for more money and not necessarily a change of scenery.
The Patriots have reportedly explored dealing the corner since last August but have thus far not found a trade that suits them. Gilmore's quad injury that required surgery is likely hampering any potential trade even further as teams might find it difficult to give up resources as well as a new contract without knowing he is healthy. Perhaps a deal can be consummated during training camp if/when Gilmore is back on the field and shows teams he's ready to go. It will be interesting to see if the inclusion of Gilmore in any trade can somehow sweeten the pot in a deal to move up the board or even acquire Garoppolo.
One less-discussed element of the Niners-Dolphins trade is the implications it had in Miami. On the surface it was a terrific deal that brought more high picks to South Florida, adding to an already impressive stable thanks to last year's Laremy Tunsil trade with Houston.
But more importantly for Brian Flores, trading away the third pick also sent a clear signal that Tua Tagovailoa is the team's quarterback. There was some thought that Tagovailoa's modest start last season might have the Dolphins back in the quarterback market despite winning 10 games, six of those with the rookie at the helm. Now it seems clear that Flores, who has shown some impatience early in his coaching tenure, is satisfied moving ahead with Tagovailoa.
Time will tell if it was the right move.
Marcus Mariota looks like he's out of the running for a starter job in New England or anywhere else after agreeing to a pay cut that allows him the remain in Las Vegas. Mariota also has a no-trade clause, and while that could be waived for a move in his favor, all signs point toward him staying with the Raiders as Derek Carr's backup for another year.
And one more...
The Eagles also made a mini-statement about their immediate quarterback plans after agreeing to move from No. 6 down to 12 as Miami slid back up the board with a second trade. Philly jettisoned Carson Wentz to Indy early in the offseason, leaving second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts as the incumbent. But sitting at 6, Eagles GM Howie Roseman had every opportunity to take a quarterback and let the competition begin. Instead he moved down, leaving Hurts as the man in 2021. Thanks to the trades with Miami and Indy, Philly also has the necessary capital to move up in 2022 if Hurts doesn't pan out the way they hope and are back in the quarterback markey a year from now.