I’m guessing that Jimmy Garoppolo’s penmanship is exquisite — bold, masculine strokes but perfectly legible. We’ll find out sometime in the coming weeks when he signs his name to a 49ers document. The only question is whether it will be a long-term contract or a one-year franchise tender.
It’s the cliffhanger of the 49ers’ 2018 offseason: Can general manager John Lynch and chief strategy officer Paraag Marathe lock up the wonder quarterback for multiple years, giving coach Kyle Shanahan the key building block of his offense?
The more important query is: Should they? And the answer is no.
If Garoppolo plays under the franchise tag next season, it will be viewed in some circles as a failure. If the 49ers don’t surround their new unicorn with razor-wire fences, he will somehow escape in 2019 or 2020 and this team will be back to Brian Gabbert and Blaine Hoyer, or whatever their names were.
Well, that’s a risk the 49ers need to take. The franchise tag just makes too much sense.
Lynch and Shanahan and their crew have played everything right with Garoppolo thus far. They swung a commendable trade in late October, giving up a high second-round pick for a guy who now looks like the next Joe Montana. They didn’t play him right away, allowing him time to absorb much of Shanahan’s thick playbook. But they played him enough to make a knowledgeable evaluation of his worth.
And I’m the first to admit that Garoppolo crushed his audition. I’ve covered the NFL for a long time, and I’ve never seen a player come to a team midseason and change so much around him. Garoppolo elevated the offense, the locker room and the overall mood of the team, and not just a little. Before him there was guarded optimism in Santa Clara. Now there is bedlam. Levi’s Stadium is a rave before the music stops and the Ecstasy wears off.
So pay the man, right? Hand Garoppolo a blank check and let him fill in the dollar amount. He can add a little note to himself on the memo line.
Except, how much of the Yorks’ money are you willing to spend on one player? Because The Fabulous Jimmy G is going to command some dough.
Top-tier NFL quarterbacks are such a rare breed that few of them reach the end of a contract. Nervous teams are eager to prevent that from happening. But Garoppolo gamed the system.
He hid in Tom Brady’s shadow for 3½ years, then tore off his newsman’s shabby coat to reveal the Superman undies beneath. His timing, as always, was impeccable. And now comes the payday.
Despite his relative inexperience, it’s not crazy to think that Garoppolo could join the best-paid players in the game. He is 26 years old, and now he has five dazzling games in red and gold to pair with his Patriots heritage.
Currently, the top three NFL contracts belong to quarterbacks — Detroit’s Matthew Stafford ($92 million in guarantees), Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck ($87 million) and the Raiders’ Derek Carr ($70.2 million). I’m getting these figures from the Spotrac.com site, and you will notice that I’m using guaranteed money and not overall contract value. The latter is higher but, because of how things work in the cutthroat NFL, has the real value of chocolate Christmas coins.