The San Francisco 49ers have made a draft splash one month before it actually begins.
The 49ers have traded up from the 12th overall pick to the third overall in a deal with the Miami Dolphins, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday. Miami receives the 12th overall selection from San Francisco, a third-round pick and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, per Rapoport. The Dolphins then traded the No. 12 pick and a 2022 first-rounder to the Eagles for the sixth-overall selection to complete the Friday flurry of deals.
The trade, which San Francisco announced later Friday, for the No. 3 pick can have massive ramifications on the outlook of the league at quarterback. NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported Friday that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told him Jimmy Garoppolo remains in the team's plans, which Rapoport added means keeping Garoppolo in Santa Clara, but frankly, teams don't just give up three first-round picks to leap up from No. 12 to 3 to take a complementary piece. This sure feels like it's a move to land a signal-caller of the future.
We've spent plenty of time and digital space wringing our hands over the future of Garoppolo, which includes wondering if he'll be able to be healthy for a full season, something he's done just once in his time with the 49ers. That season, San Francisco was fantastic, winning the NFC title and coming within a quarter of a Super Bowl triumph.
But the ceiling on Garoppolo is visible, and he hasn't gotten near it because he hasn't been able to get off the ground due to injury. After spending most of the past three seasons vacillating between Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard when determining who will fill in for Garoppolo, it became clear that simply wouldn't be acceptable for the 49ers anymore. The "Jimmy got hurt" excuse is no longer a fluke, but a trend, and it's time to prepare accordingly -- not because they'd expect an injury, but it would be foolish to not have a better Plan B. Remember, the two most important football players on a team are the starting quarterback, and the backup quarterback, especially in today's NFL.
The 49ers have a roster they and many others believe is built to win now, one that was decimated by injury last season, and they have a coach who is fully capable of guiding them to fulfilling their greatest potential. The only thing that has really been in their way is the injury report, and if San Francisco believes all of this to be true, now is the time to strike on one of the top quarterback prospects in a highly touted class. The logic isn't simply drafting to replace Garoppolo, either. The 49ers very well could keep Garoppolo, take their guy at No. 3, and slot him in behind Garoppolo with the ship headed full steam ahead.
This time around, if Garoppolo gets hurt, the 49ers could have the guy they envision for the long haul ready to go behind him. Will it be a tough situation to step into for a rookie quarterback? Sure, but not any tougher than it would be if San Francisco had drafted the quarterback, shipped Garoppolo elsewhere (New England, perhaps?) and handed the keys to the new kid. And that's still possible too, especially after examining Garoppolo's current deal and discovering he'd save the 49ers $23.6 million in a pre-June 1 cut and $25 million in a post-June 1 release.
Plus, telling the NFL your intent is to keep Garoppolo is also a move to preserve his value on the open market. If an interested team asks about Garoppolo, the 49ers haven't showed a single card in their hand that could cause them to lose a little leverage in negotiations. And if a trade doesn't work out, there's little to no damage control required to keep everything peaceful inside the organization.
This deal arrived with GM John Lynch watching BYU quarterback Zach Wilson -- the presumed No. 2 quarterback in this draft -- warming up to participate in his pro day. That's likely not a coincidence, but the Jets currently stand in the way of the 49ers in the Wilson sweepstakes -- unless they decide to keep Sam Darnold and spend the pick elsewhere (Oregon tackle Penei Sewell could be one option), or trade it for their own haul.
At pick No. 12, San Francisco was out of the running for quarterback. After this trade, they're right in the thick of it with Ohio State's Justin Fields and North Dakota State's Trey Lance as other potential options. With savvy personnel navigation and draft maneuvering getting the 49ers to this point, they're poised to make a cannonball-like splash in April. And they might not end up being the only team finding themselves in need of a towel.