Fair or not, Deshaun Watson’s allegations will have an impact on the San Francisco 49ers’ interest … [+]
The San Francisco 49ers entered the NFL free agency phase this week, with a clear need for quarterback and questions related to reigning starter Jimmy Garoppolo.
After the first few days of free hand, these questions have come no closer to being answered. Options are dwindling and a potentially explosive off-field situation around the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson trading destination is of no help.
Meanwhile, the 49ers invited former Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco to visit this week. Chances are he’ll be cheaply signed to be Garoppolo’s back. That comes after San Francisco missed out on free agent targets like Mitchell Trubisky and Andy Dalton.
Going forward, it really seems like San Francisco’s options to be the first week starter next season are due to Garoppolo or a potential unnamed first-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Deshaun Watson’s assault allegations make things difficult
It is now known that several women have come forward to accuse the reigning NFL champion of sexual assault. Houston attorney Tony Buzbee has already filed multiple lawsuits on behalf of his clients, stating that he has nine women ready to come forward.
The NFL sent a letter to Mr Buzbee indicating that the league is launching an investigation into the matter under the guise of a personal code of conduct.
None of this means that 25-year-old Watson is guilty of a crime. Criminal charges have to be filed against him. There’s no telling whether a Texas criminal investigation is even in sight.
The NFL’s decision to investigate this matter changed the dynamic a bit. Under the leadership of Commissioner Roger Goodell and Co., the league has historically dropped the ball when it comes to similar off-field situations. They had to investigate as soon as the allegations became public.
Without going into the details or going into the content of the allegations, one thing has become clear. It will be difficult for any team to act on behalf of Deshaun Watson as matters relating to the NFL investigation are still open and further clarity on the allegations is lacking.
Put simply, Watson is less likely to be treated now than it was a week ago. Although the quarterback wants to play in San Francisco and the 49ers are obviously interested, he will be out of red and gold shortly.
The San Francisco 49ers always wanted to upgrade through Jimmy Garoppolo
San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo could be their option by default. (Photo by Abbie Parr / Getty … [+]
General Manager John Lynch and Co. can publicly tell us what they want. They believe that if Jimmy Garoppolo is healthy, he will be the first week starter. Reports also appeared to suggest that the 49ers would only leave Garoppolo if they acquired Watson. Now that this is unlikely in the short term, the quarterback’s job is safe. Right?
Well, not that fast. It is evident that San Francisco did not see Carson Wentz as an upgrade over Garoppolo before being transferred to the Indianapolis Colts from the Philadelphia Eagles. Hence the team’s lack of interest.
The same cannot be said of former Detroit Lions caller Matthew Stafford before he was transferred to division rival Los Angeles Rams. San Francisco was in Stafford. It made a trade offer.
Unfortunately, nothing materialized on that end after Los Angeles offered a starting caliber quarterback in Jared Goff and two picks for the first round to land Stafford. It’s an offer the 49ers just couldn’t keep up with.
A few weeks later, the quarterback’s 49ers are in a less than stellar position. Garoppolo returns after missing half of the games in San Francisco due to an injury for the past three seasons. The 29-year-old quarterback is expected to pay $ 26.4 million against the cop in 2021 – which puts the 49ers in an unenviable financial position.
The San Francisco 49ers make plans in the free agency clear
The 49ers’ interest in Joe Flacco is telling. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)
As options continue to dwindle, the 49ers have shown their hand. With a keen interest in Stafford and ignoring Wentz’s availability, it is clear that the only thing that will end the Garoppolo era in San Francisco will be some kind of blockbuster deal.
No, that doesn’t include the takeover of Sam Darnold as part of a deal with the New York Jets. The former number 3 would be tricked into competing with Garoppolo rather than replacing the reigning 49ers starter.
John Lynch and Co. are apparently against the idea of a quarterback competition involving Garoppolo during training camp. This is why the 49ers are interested in Flacco, despite not making strong games for the Trubisky and Dalton mentioned above.
These two players would likely have been in a competition with Garoppolo. Obviously, Flacco would simply be used as a veteran backup option. For some reason, San Francisco’s brass believes a Garoppolo-run quarterback competition would have a negative impact.
The 2021 NFL Draft becomes an option for the San Francisco 49ers
BYU QB Zach Wilson will be an option for the San Francisco 49ers in the 2021 NFL Draft. (Photo of … [+]
San Francisco, a team that still believes their Super Bowl window is wide open, made win-now moves in the early days of the NFL Free Agency.
This included the re-signing of the left tackle against Trent Williams for the largest contract in league history for an offensive lineman. It also included signing a three-year contract for Pro Bowl Center Alex Mack, while other deals were structured to get minimal hits against the NFL’s 2021 salary cap.
All of these steps were under the guise of competition in 2021. In fact, Williams and Mack together will cost less than $ 12 million against the cap.
So why would the team turn around and either trade in for a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft or pick a number 12 overall? It doesn’t seem intuitive if we don’t focus on it from a purely financial perspective.
I mentioned above that Garoppolo had a cap hit of $ 26.4 million in 2021. San Francisco can get off the cap by trading or posting, saving $ 23.6 million over that cap.
A rookie quarterback would then step in as a likely first week starter and get a lot cheaper in the process.
This would allow the 49ers to make win-now moves when a second tier of free agents hits the open market based on the 2021 NFL draft. With the re-signing of Williams and the acquisition of Mack to bolster its offensive line, San Francisco could actually lean in that direction.
The problem here is that rookie quarterbacks rarely start in competing teams. Given Kyle Shanahan’s complex system in San Francisco, this is magnified even further.
It’s also important to note that any Joe Flacco signing would pretty much create a full quarterback space in San Francisco with Garoppolo and Josh Rosen as holdovers.
Heck, there’s a chance (as slim as it may be) that Flacco will then take over as a hypothetical bridge quarterback with an unnamed first-round pick learning behind him in 2021. Who reading this has confidence that they can be that 911 while leading San Francisco to the Super Bowl competition? I didn’t think so.
Even then, there are a number of fascinating scenarios for San Francisco in the quarterback position in next month’s NFL draft.
For BYU’s Zach Wilson, the ideal scenario would be to close a blockbuster deal with the New York Jets in second place overall. That hypothetical deal would involve New York’s brass coming to the unlikely conclusion that Sam Darnold is the man for the job.
Outside of Wilson, San Francisco could potentially trade up to the bottom half of the top 10 against someone like Justin Fields, of Ohio, or Trey Lance, of North Dakota. Both are talented. But they are also seen as projects. There’s little reason to believe they can be day one starters. The same goes for the reigning Heisman finalist Mac Jones from Alabama, who could possibly be had in the 12th election.
What does it all mean? It’s the detour to say that either Jimmy Garoppolo or Zach Wilson will be the starting quarterback for the 49ers when week 1 of the 2021 NFL season comes up.
Unless, of course, Deshaun Watson’s situation takes a dramatic turn in about six weeks before the 2021 NFL draft.