The biggest NFL story to hit the wire yesterday was that the the Lions are preparing to trade quarterback Matthew Stafford. Immediately after the news broke, pundits began putting together lists of the most likely suitors for Stafford, and the 49ers are high atop most such lists.
Indeed, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle expects the Niners to inquire about Stafford, and Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area says the team is likely to make a decision quickly about whether to be involved in the bidding (Twitter link). The consensus seems to be that it will take a first-round pick plus additional draft compensation to acquire Stafford, and it’s unclear whether GM John Lynch is willing to part with that type of capital.
Of course, the 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo under contract through the 2022 season, but he has missed 23 games over the last three years, while Stafford has started every game in nine of the past 10 seasons. Plus, head coach Kyle Shanahan‘s offense, replete with play-action passes, bootlegs, and deep shots, would appear to be a perfect fit for the Lions’ franchise icon.
Money would not be an obstacle either. Stafford will count just $20MM against the cap in 2021 — a rather modest sum for a quality signal-caller — while Garoppolo is scheduled to carry a $26.9MM hit. San Francisco would incur a mere $2.8MM in dead money by trading or releasing Garoppolo, so the club would actually improve its cap situation and (probably) its quarterback play by acquiring Stafford.
Garoppolo does have a no-trade clause written into his contract, but as he is unlikely to fetch a significant return in a trade at this point, dealing him wouldn’t be a condition precedent to a Stafford trade. Matt Barrows of The Athletic wonders just how much of an improvement Stafford would be and if that improvement will be enough to warrant the surrender of the 49ers’ No. 12 overall selection, and that’s a decision that Lynch & Co. will need to make in the coming weeks.
As of now, Lynch does not anticipate using his top draft choice on a collegiate passer, as Alex Didion of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. So if the team doesn’t acquire Stafford or some other veteran, it sounds like Garoppolo will be the 49ers’ 2021 starter, as Shanahan suggested last month.
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