While the 49ers invested heavily in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo just a few years ago, multiple league and team sources indicated that the organization is very much keeping its options open regarding the future of that position.
Garoppolo's play has been up and down, and there were some recent differences of opinion about the extent of his recent high ankle sprain. The guarantees on Garoppolo's then-record setting contract will have been paid out by 2021, leaving the franchise with maximum flexibility should it choose to go in another direction and no longer pay the veteran $26 million a year.
"It's wait and see," said one source with knowledge of the situation. "He's still under evaluation. It could go in a few different directions, and is it possible he's not the guy next year? That's fair. I don't think that's lost on anybody."
Garoppolo has had a star-crossed tenure with the team, with the high point being the postseason a year ago, which included a Super Bowl appearance. However, Garoppolo has also missed extensive time with injuries, and consistency has been a struggle at times. The 49ers have dealt with a rash of injuries on both sides of the ball -- including the quarterback's significant ankle sprain -- which has impacted the team's overall production, and Garoppolo is currently 23rd in the NFL in completion percentage (63%), with seven touchdowns and two interceptions in four games.
"Kyle thinks he can turn almost anyone into a star," one league source who has worked with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan extensively and is familiar with his thinking said. "He's had a lot of success with a lot of different guys and the salary structure on that team has changed dramatically the last few years. He's not a guy who thinks he needs a $30 million a year QB to win. And they aren't exactly gushing about the guy that they have now."
It has not gone unnoticed around the league that several quarterbacks who Shanahan has a history with could potentially become available in 2021, with the Falcons already firing their coach and GM in-season and Matt Ryan nearing the end of his career, and the Vikings already selling off players after a 1-5 start (and with Kirk Cousins off to a slow start and under fire locally). There is expected to be significant quarterback movement again this offseason, and with the salary cap potentially staying flat at best (or dropping), several teams will undoubtedly be sizing up cheaper alternatives, especially if supply and demand is once again in the team's favor (as it was with Jameis Winston and Cam Newton signing just one-year, $1 million deals in 2020).
Garoppolo's homecoming game Sunday at New England comes at an interesting time, with the Patriots' offense struggling and that team's 2021 quarterbacking situation quite nebulous as well. The Patriots selected him in the second round in 2014 and he was dealt to the 49ers before the 2017 trade deadline.
Garoppolo has two years and $51.1 million remaining on his contract beyond this season.