Will Jimmy Garoppolo be on the move in the offseason? It certainly appears that way, based on NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport's reporting this past Sunday.
"Absent a Super Bowl run, which at this point is still theoretically possible, this is the 49ers' plan next season: start Trey Lance, trade Jimmy Garoppolo," Rapoport said on NFL GameDay Morning. "Not a surprise there; they've been pretty up front about that. What Garoppolo is doing now is increasing the value of picks the 49ers get in a trade involving him, and make it more likely that a place he wants to go would want to take him."
Garoppolo has played well of late, with a 7:2 TD-to-INT ratio and 108.7 passer rating over the last five games. The 49ers have gone 4-1 during this stretch to get back above .500 for the first time since Week 3. At 6-5 overall, San Francisco currently holds the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture. While it's still possible that the Niners could make a run down the stretch and in the postseason, it feels more likely at this point that Jimmy will be relocating in the spring.
So, which teams should consider trading for Garoppolo in the coming offseason? The 30-year-old carries a cap hit of $27 million for 2022, the final year of his contract, with the 49ers on the hook for $1.4 million in dead cap should they part ways with the quarterback. That's starter money, so I'd anticipate two types of teams being in play: those that believe they're a competent quarterback away from contending and those that are in need of a bridge QB.
Now, at this point, we have no idea what the broader quarterback market will hold. The coming offseason could feature blockbuster trade dominoes like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. But we'll cross those bridges when we come to them.
Right now, here are three teams that should be in the market for Jimmy G.
The Panthers opened the 2021 season with Sam Darnold as QB1, presenting the former No. 3 overall pick with an opportunity for a career reboot. A lot of people blamed the Jets for Darnold's struggles in New York -- and maybe Darnold did, too, which could be part of the problem. Unable to overcome the issues that plagued him as a Jet -- inconsistency and turnovers -- Darnold was benched during his return to MetLife Stadium in Week 7. He started two more games, but injured his shoulder and landed on injured reserve. This prompted the Panthers to bring back Cam Newton on a one-year deal. The franchise icon hasn't been the answer, either, losing his first two starts and posting a ghastly line in this past Sunday's blowout loss at Miami: 5 of 21 for 92 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. The Panthers need stability at the quarterback position -- something they haven't had since Newton's 2015 MVP campaign, his last fully healthy season with the team -- and Garoppolo could be the guy to provide it in Joe Brady's offense. He makes the right decision a majority of the time, has a 30-12 career record as a starter and could thrive in an offense with playmakers Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson all set to return in 2022.
I'm still not used to seeing the Saints aboard the QB carousel, but here we are entering Week 13. Jameis Winston, who was playing well before a knee injury ended his season in Week 8, and Trevor Siemian are set to become free agents this offseason. That'd leave Taysom Hill as the lone QB (sort of) on the roster in 2022. Hill, who just signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension with the Saints as a quarterback/H-back/playmaker/special teamer, is expected to make his first QB start of the season. He gets this opportunity after getting healthy and after the Saints suffered four consecutive losses with Siemian under center.
Watching Sean Payton navigate the 2021 season without Drew Brees, it seems that he's not as comfortable running a full-on QB-run scheme, which you'd expect with Hill under center. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks, but I think Payton prefers more of a traditional dropback passer. With Garoppolo playing in a similar system, moving from San Francisco to New Orleans would make a lot of sense. Question is, what does Payton value? Does he want a really efficient quarterback with a high completion percentage like Garoppolo? Or does he want a gunslinger who will stretch the field like Winston? If it's the former, I could see Garoppolo thriving in Payton's offense.
The writing is on the wall for Ben Roethlisberger: This season should be his last. Meanwhile, Mason Rudolph is set to hit the open market 2022, while Dwayne Haskins is in line for restricted free agency. The Steelers have a good overall roster and should be better than they are, given their improved ground game, talented pass catchers and strong defense. They just need new blood at the game's most important position. Pittsburgh feels a lot like it did when Roethlisberger was drafted, where the Steelers were a quarterback away from being a contender. Ironically, they are in that same position at the end of Big Ben's career. The Steelers have good offensive components -- Najee Harris, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth -- but need a quarterback with confidence who can provide consistency at the position. Garoppolo can move better than people give him credit for; he'd give the Steelers' offense an element it hasn't had in years. Whether Pittsburgh makes a play for Jimmy or not, I don't believe its starting quarterback for 2022 is currently on the roster.
Top 15 Offensive Players
Each week in the 2021 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season's efforts. The Week 13 pecking order is below.
NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week's rankings.
Despite all of the off-the-field headlines Rodgers is making in 2021, his on-field performance is still stealing the show. After Sunday's win over another NFC heavyweight, Rodgers has the second-best TD-to-INT ratio (23:4) in the NFL behind Kirk Cousins (23:3). He has the Packers rounding into form heading into the final month of season.
The Cowboys came into their Thanksgiving Day clash with the Raiders without Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Their absence wasn't what prevented them from winning, though. Instead, it was the penalties. While the Raiders had a laundry list of their own penalties (14 for 110 yards), Dallas committed 14 infractions that cost them a whopping 166 yards, including 110 on third down alone. With his top two receiving weapons missing and RB Ezekiel Elliott banged up, Dak still did all he could, finishing with 375 yards, two TDs and a 106.2 passer rating. This is a team game, though, and penalties in crucial situations buried the 'Boys.
The Bills got back on track with Allen throwing four touchdown passes against the Saints, connecting with Dawson Knox (twice), Stefon Diggs and Matt Breida. However, Allen's performance didn't come without mistakes. With a pair of picks in the win, he now has seven INTs over his last four games after having three total in his first seven games of the season. Allen must clean it up if the Bills want to overtake the red-hot Patriots (this Monday's opponent) at the top of the division.
The Colts got away from running the ball against the Buccaneers and it cost them. Indianapolis had five giveaways in the game, including four in the second half, when leaning on Carson Wentz and the passing attack. In Indy's first 10 drives, the league's rushing leader had just eight carries for 25 yards. But on the 11th drive -- at which point the Colts were trailing 31-24 -- Taylor matched his production and then some, logging eight carries for 58 yards and a game-tying touchdown. Let this be a lesson going forward.
Brady had his struggles against the Colts (25-of-34, 226 pass yards, one TD, one INT, 88.6 passer rating), but that hasn't been uncommon in road games this season. What allowed the Bucs to win their first roadie since Week 6: a Brady-led, 80-yard, game-winning drive capped by a 28-yard touchdown run by Leonard Fournette. Brady and the Bucs needed this road win and got it against one of the hottest teams in the NFL.
The Rodgers-Adams connection was once again on full display Sunday, with the veteran receiver hauling in eight catches for 104 yards on nine targets. The performance marked Adams' fifth game this season with 100-plus receiving yards, and the Packers are 4-1 in those games. My advice: Keep feeding the league's top wideout.
With 96 yards in Sunday's loss to the Packers, Kupp set a new career high for receiving yards in a season (1,237). While Kupp consistency produces, the Rams' miscues have added up over the last few weeks. They are crippling and will be even more so in January.
It was painful to watch Kirk Cousins miss Jefferson time and time again in Sunday's loss to the 49ers. He underthrew the second-year wideout on a two-point conversion in the third quarter and overthrew an open Jefferson in the back of the end zone late in the fourth quarter. Jefferson finished with just four catches for 83 yards on nine targets. These missed opportunities proved costly in another narrow loss for Minnesota.
It wasn't pretty at times (See: 28 total penalties in the game), but Derek and the Raiders took advantage of the Cowboys' mistakes to win on Thanksgiving Day, giving Las Vegas its first victory since the Week 8 bye. Derek didn't have a giveaway for the third game this season and threw for nearly 400 yards, including a 56-yard strike to DeSean Jackson to open the scoring in the first quarter. The Raiders needed a game like this, one in which they recorded season-highs in points (36), total yards (509), rushing yards (143) and first downs (28, tied season-high). Derek hitting 30,000 career passing yards in this game was icing on the cake.
I know Samuel has already been ruled out for Week 13's clash with Seattle due to a groin injury, but he deserves praise for being the star of an offense that's finding its stride. In a win over the Vikings, Deebo rushed for 66 yards and two touchdowns, making him the first wide receiver in the Super Bowl era with five-plus ground scores in a season.
Mixon gets an invite to the party after showing up in a big way for the Bengals over the last two weeks, helping them win back-to-back games out of their bye. In victories over the Raiders and Steelers, Mixon averaged 29 carries and 144 rush yards per game and had a total of four rush TDs. He's a big reason the Bengals have turned their season around after limping into the bye.
We know there are a lot of mouths to feed on the Bucs' offense, and Evans took a back seat in Sunday's win over the Colts, with Leonard Fournette having a career day and Rob Gronkowski regularly moving the chains. Evans finished with three catches for a season-low 16 yards.
Fresh off their bye at 7-4, the Chiefs head into the stretch run with the Chargers, Broncos and Raiders all breathing down their neck at 6-5. With Kansas City facing all three of those teams over the next three weeks, expect Kelce to bring his A-game in an effort to keep the Chiefs at the top of the division.
Chase has had four straight games with fewer than 50 receiving yards. With the Bengals leaning on the run and Joe Burrow connecting with other playmakers in the pass game, it appears Chase's candidacy for Offensive Rookie of the Year could be slipping away.
I thought maybe Stafford could conquer the Packers at Lambeau Field, now that he's playing with the Rams. Instead, Aaron Rodgers improved to 13-4 against Stafford, as Los Angeles lost its third straight game after starting the season 7-1. Turnovers have plagued Stafford -- and they did again Sunday, with Green Bay scoring two touchdowns off a Stafford fumble in the first quarter and an interception in the fourth quarter that was returned for a score by Rasul Douglas. Luckily for L.A., the rest of the NFC isn't really threatening to take its wild-card spot. However, being a wild card isn't this team's goal.
DROPPED OUT: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers (Previously No. 9); Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens (No. 15).