Teddy Bridgewater vs Jimmy Garoppolo — Who Makes More Sense?

In Joseph Person’s report on The Athletic, he noted that the 49ers are looking for a “solid backup as insurance for oft-injured Jimmy Garoppolo.”
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It seems like every week there are two new quarterbacks rumored to the 49ers.

Last week we took a surface-level look whether Kirk Cousins even made sense for the 49ers. This week we see if the latest rumored trade target, Carolina’s Teddy Bridgewater, is a better fit.

In Joseph Person’s report on The Athletic, he noted that the 49ers are looking for a “solid backup as insurance for oft-injured Jimmy Garoppolo.”

Bridgewater as a backup to Garoppolo makes zero sense. That would be around $44 million on the cap for two quarterbacks. You might as well sign Dak Prescott for $40 million.

Yet, if the plan for the 49ers is to pair a veteran with a high draft pick (Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Mac Jones), then a trade for Bridgewater becomes intriguing.

Bridgewater’s coming off a better season than the Panthers’ 5-11 record indicates.

He put up career-highs in passing yards (3,733), touchdowns (15), first downs (174) and completion percentage (69.1) despite All-Pro weapon Christian McCaffrey playing just three games.

One reason for that was how Bridgewater took advantage of deep-threat Robby Anderson’s breakout season.

It’s arguable that Garoppolo wasn’t able to go long due to his lack of a deep-threat, and a recurring ankle injury.

Yet one can turn that around and say the reason the 49ers don’t have a deep-threat on the roster is because of Garoppolo’s downfield limitations.

Yes, Garoppolo edged Bridgewater 92.4 to 92.1 in passer rating in 2020, but that’s due to the many completed passes behind the line of scrimmage.

Bridgewater was exceptionally better at going deep, especially toward the left where Garoppolo struggled.

Jimmy Garoppolo's 2020 passer rating vs Teddy Bridgewater's (per Next Gen Stats). 

Jimmy Garoppolo's 2020 passer rating vs Teddy Bridgewater's (per Next Gen Stats). 

Bridgewater was also superior in average completed air yards (5.1 to 3.9), average intended air yards (7.3 to 6.2) and had a higher longest completed air distance (51.4 to 43.1).

A drawback to Garoppolo is his injury history, but Bridgewater is no iron man, either.

He had a catastrophic knee injury that cost him all of 2016 and most of 2017. But he’s seemingly recovered and has shown great mobility.

In 2020, Bridgewater had 18 first downs and five touchdowns on 279 rushing yards, which is more than Garoppolo’s career 141 yards.

He also averaged 7.4 yards a scramble on 37 attempts (per Pro Football Reference). Since 2018, Garoppolo has just 21 scrambles in 25 games. That’s not the most complete way to determine mobility, but it’s a useful basis.

Where Garoppolo does hold an impossible-to-deny advantage is his knowledge of the system. Would Kyle Shanahan want to pair a rookie with a veteran who also is new to the offense?

Similar to how salary gave Garoppolo the deciding advantage over Cousins in last week’s article, Bridgewater’s contract is preferable to Garoppolo’s.

Bridgewater would roughly be $5.6 million less on the cap than Garoppolo in 2021 (per Spotrac).

That might not seem like much, but it could be the difference between being outbid in Trent Williams negotiations or bringing back an extra veteran such as Kyle Juszczyk.

As of March 3, Spotrac is assuming the salary cap to be $185 million. By using Spotrac’s salary cap manager, the 49ers have $11.08 million cap space, and would add another $10.69 million if they release Weston Richburg, Dee Ford and Mark Nzeocha.

Trading/cutting Garoppolo would take it from $21.77 to $45.37 million. Then add in the roughly $17 million acquired in a Bridgewater trade, and you go back to around $27.41 million.

That would allow the 49ers to bring back Williams on a David Bakhtiari-esque contract ($23 million AAV), compete with other top free agents such as Shaq Barrett, or extend Fred Warner while bringing back Jason Verrett, Kerry Hyder Jr. and Juszczyk.

Bridgewater is by no means a long-term solution. Yet, if the plan for 2021 is indeed to partner a veteran with a draft pick, Bridgewater makes sense. He adds different strengths to the offense and would allow the 49ers to improve the rest of their roster without sacrificing much (if any) production.

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