5:15pm: While Lock was initially expected to get the call, Smith will in fact start tonight’s contest (video link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). That means Smith will have worked with the first-team offense in each game this summer, signalling that a Garoppolo acquisition could be the only thing preventing him from getting the nod in Week 1.
1:17pm: The Seahawks have gone through their Geno Smith–Drew Lock competition for months, and they are still not ready to name a starter. Smith is viewed as the frontrunner, though Lock will start Seattle’s third preseason game after missing the second exhibition contest due to COVID-19. But the team looks to still have Jimmy Garoppolo on its radar.
A report in July indicated the Seahawks had held internal discussions on Garoppolo and had, as should be expected given their situation, studied the veteran passer’s film. An August report pointed to the 49ers waiting on a Garoppolo release to prevent an early Seahawks arrival. That line of thinking still appears to be San Francisco’s play here. The Seahawks are interested in signing Garoppolo, former GM Michael Lombardi said on his GM Shuffle podcast this week. If no trade is in the cards, Lombardi adds the 49ers are planning to cut Garoppolo as late as possible to prevent him from assimilating quickly enough to play against them in September.
The NFC West rivals’ San Francisco meeting occurs in Week 2. The 49ers holding out hope for a Garoppolo trade elsewhere or waiting until the 11th hour to cut their four-plus-year starter would do well to keep the Seahawks from trotting him out there against his former team — at least in the first meeting. The right shoulder procedure Garoppolo underwent in March pushed this situation to this point, but the two-time NFC championship game starter has been working out away from the team for weeks now.
John Lynch said during a KNBR appearance this week (via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, on Twitter) the 49ers are moving closer to releasing Garoppolo. With minimal trade interest, something Lombardi indicated is still the case, the 49ers will have until the eve of their Week 1 game against the Bears to cut Garoppolo to avoid his $24.2MM base salary from becoming guaranteed. Barring a last-minute Lance injury, Garoppolo’s salary will not be on the 49ers’ 2022 payroll come Week 1. The last remaining question here is where he will go.
With the Panthers trading for Baker Mayfield in July, the Seahawks became the logical Garoppolo fit. The team showed no interest in taking on Mayfield’s fifth-year option salary and has not been linked to an intra-divisional trade for Garoppolo. The sides linking up via free agency, however, has been mentioned this offseason.
The Browns could still lurk. Conflicting reports have emerged regarding the Browns’ Garoppolo interest. Deshaun Watson will miss the season’s first 11 games, leaving Jacoby Brissett as Cleveland’s fill-in. Garoppolo has proven to be a more capable passer than Brissett, and with Kevin Stefanski running a version of the Mike/Kyle Shanahan/Gary Kubiak offense, a Garoppolo learning curve would not be steep. Then again, the Seahawks have a Shanahan/Sean McVay-style offense in place thanks to second-year OC Shane Waldron. These similarities would create an interesting September free agency for Garoppolo — if, in fact, no team pulls off a late trade.
A Seattle signing would not exactly be stunning, considering the team’s current competition has pit 2021 backups against one another. Smith has not been a regular starter since 2014, while the Broncos benched Lock last year. Reported Seahawks interest in Lock as a 2019 prospect aside, his not seizing the job from Smith should point to Garoppolo interest.
Garoppolo going to Seattle would both seemingly put the team — which finished eighth in DVOA last season — in better position to contend in 2022 and re-establish the ninth-year passer’s value. These outcomes would also work against the Seahawks’ 2023 draft position, but the team does have two first-round picks as ammo ahead of what is expected to be a far superior QB draft compared to 2022.