How head coach hires could initiate a Sam Darnold for Jimmy Garoppolo trade
Now that the San Francisco 49ers' season is over, many of their senior assistant coaches and at least one executive are about to join other teams. Nobody has received more attention than the 49er defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. After his second interview with the New York Jets, Saleh appears to be the favorite to become Gang Green's head coach.
Saleh will no doubt take some 49ers assistants to New York and likely choose either Mike LaFleur (passing game coordinator) or Mike McDaniel (running game coordinator) to lead the team's offensive. If he does, it could open the door to a significant transaction.
The jets will have at least $ 70 million in cap space this off-season and will be the second choice in the draft. While fans are frustrated by missing out on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, they're in the best position to start drawing the next best caller. Ohio State's Justin Fields and BYU's Zach Wilson are the two names touted as the second-best QB prospect in this year's draft. While Sam Darnold from the 2018 round could serve as a bridge to a new QB in New York, a tried and tested veteran option with familiarity seems to fit better in a Shanahan-style system.
Of course, the 49ers have their own quarterback puzzle. Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard still have to look like capable starters, and Jimmy Garoppolo has been plagued with injuries and some persistent flaws on the field. With several pending decisions on the salary cap, Garoppolo's $ 26.9 million cap in 2021 raises some questions. Can the 49ers afford a decent starting quarterback salary to make such a costly bet on Garoppolo? On the other hand, it can be even more difficult to identify viable alternatives.
Late last year, before the 49ers took on the Jets in Week 2, head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked about Darnold. Below is his answer:
"I've watched him a lot, whether it was college or last week's game. I'm a huge fan of Sam. He's a very good player. He's going to have a very good career in this league. He's doing a lot of plays If you are not busy with your stuff and let him be comfortable there, he will take you apart as well as any quarterback. He can throw it very well and see the field very well. "
If Shanahan is actually that high on Darnold, it makes a lot of sense to get Garoppolo to get him.
A swap would cost the jets a little over $ 19 million in cap space, a very reasonable price for a starter. Garoppolo has consistently received rave reviews for his presence in the locker room. Saleh certainly wants to take a lot of what he helped build in San Francisco with him to his next job, and players like Garoppolo could do that. Additionally, his familiarity with the offense could be of great help to a young quarterback like Fields or Wilson.
In addition, Garoppolo gives the franchise ample flexibility with no guaranteed salary left on their contract.
When he gets back on his feet next season, New York could exchange him for capital. If he is injured again or fails to perform, he can be released without adding a lot of dead money to the Jets' books.
The savings might not be that substantial for the 49ers, but they would be quite substantial. You'd win the same $ 19 million in space, but would be more likely to be required to add in a time-honored veteran like Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett, or Tyrod Taylor to offer primary competition and insurance. Even if this required a $ 5 million one-year contract, the measures would result in savings of more than $ 14 million. Some may prefer Garoppolo Darnold and Taylor, but $ 14 million savings could go a long way toward other parts of the roster.
Darnold's contract expires after 2021. Technically, the Jets (or 49ers in this scenario) could exercise the option for the fifth year of his rookie deal to keep him for another season. However, this decision must be made by May 1st of this year. The Darnold fifth year option is valued at approximately $ 25 million and is fully guaranteed. Without the chance to see him train or play with the team beforehand, it is extremely unlikely that the team will take such a step. Instead, the 49ers would have the franchise day to keep Darnold from leaving if they wanted to keep him beyond the next year.
The cost of creating space by moving from Garoppolo to Darnold would cost the 49ers more across the board if Darnold were a viable long-term option. It might seem like a cycle, but that's exactly what the 49ers need. The salary cap is falling this year due to lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but could explode in the next off-season.
Saleh remains one of the hottest head coaching candidates in the NFL. If he leaves the 49ers this year, it would seem like no landing site will be more beneficial to San Francisco than the Jets. He would attend another conference and offer the 49ers a handy way to get a young starting quarterback and get the much-needed space for the cap.
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