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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.

Garoppolo, should he hit the open market right now, might land in the Carr-to-Stafford range. Which means that’s probably what he’s looking for from the 49ers. It’s a major commitment to a quarterback with seven career starts, two of which occurred in the comfy Patriots cocoon, and five of which came with a team that had low expectations and nothing to lose.

I can hear you thinking out loud: Garoppolo has done enough. Mine the Bitcoins and get this done. Those other high-priced quarterbacks are cautionary tales, though.

A lot of people weren’t convinced Stafford was worthy of $92 million guaranteed when the Lions rained it down upon him last August. He played very well in 2017, though, with 4,446 passing yards and a career-best passer rating of 99.3. I’m not sure how that makes him more valuable than Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, but whatever. If you thought Stafford was worth the money when he signed his deal, you still do; and if you didn’t, you still don’t.

Luck is a stranger case. There hasn’t been a quarterback since John Elway who came out of college as fully realized and ready for NFL stardom, and Luck mostly justified the praise in his first five seasons. But his throwing shoulder is a crime scene.

The Colts paid him $19.4 million in base salary and bonuses in 2017, and Luck didn’t play a single down.

He might need corrective surgery in January, too.

No one is giving up on Andrew Luck. But do you think the Colts have some buyers’ remorse for that $87 million commitment?

And then there’s Carr, who a few months ago was far and away the best quarterback in the Bay Area. Now he’s a mystery waiting to be solved by Jon Gruden and his incipient staff. Carr took a big step back in 2017 after signing his new deal in June, throwing six fewer touchdown passes and seven more interceptions than he recorded in 2016.

Carr is worth waiting on. He has a superior arm and a contagious personality. But is he worth $70.2 million in guaranteed money? Would the Raiders pay him that much now, for the next five years? I’m not sure they would.

We have every reason to believe Garoppolo can take his place among playoff-caliber quarterbacks. It’s just that a lot can happen in this sport, and at that position.

The franchise tag for quarterbacks has yet to be set for 2018. Most estimates are in the $22-24 million range. Former agent Joel Corry, writing for CBS Sports, put the number at $23,550,000. That’s a lot of money for one season, but it’s less of a drain than a five- or six-year contract.

We’ll learn a lot about Garoppolo next season. He won’t be playing with house money anymore. He’ll be running an offense from training camp. Opponents will have a body of film to scout, and the fan base will expect wins. If Garoppolo proves to be as good as he demonstrated in 2017, start the multiyear negotiations in a year.

And if the 49ers are still on the fence at that time, or if Garoppolo balks at their offer, franchise him again. If the number is $23.5 million in 2018, the team could retain him for 120 percent of that, or $28.2 million, in 2019. And they could do it again in 2020 if necessary, for $33.8 million with a transition tag, which would allow them to match offers from other teams. Those three years of tagging would add up to $85.5 million.

Clearly, locking up Garoppolo for five years at a similar price would be a better bargain. But it’s a bigger risk, too. If we get to 2020 and the 49ers still covet his services, that means good things are happening — touchdowns, victories, playoff appearances, energized sellouts at Levi’s. And it means that bad things are not happening — shoulder breakdowns, regression of play, etc.

That will be the time to break the bank for Jimmy Garoppolo.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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