If the 49ers think Jimmy Garoppolo gives them their best chance to win the Super Bowl next season, they're most likely mistaken.
Garoppolo will be a goner eventually -- the 49ers traded up for his replacement, Trey Lance. Which means Garoppolo remains on the team for one reason: the 49ers believe they have a Super Bowl caliber roster, and a rookie quarterback never has led a team to a Super Bowl. It's risky to just hand the team over to Lance, who's merely 21. Plus, Garoppolo led the 49ers to the Super Bowl just two seasons ago, although some would argue the 49ers led him.
But things have changed since 2019. Back then, Garoppolo took up only 8.6 percent of the 49ers salary cap space -- a reasonable percentage. Now, his base salary has gone up, and the salary cap has gone down, so his cap percentage in 2021 will be a whopping 13.5.
No quarterback in the history of the NFL has won a Super Bowl while taking up more than 13.1 percent of the cap. Which means Garoppolo is more expensive than every quarterback who ever has won the big one.
And he's far more expensive than the two quarterbacks who were in the Super Bowl last season: Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. Brady's cap percentage in 2021 is just 5.8, while Mahomes' is 4.0. Garoppolo is less than half the quarterback those two are while being more than twice as expensive. Hard to compete.
So even if Garoppolo stays healthy, the odds are heavily against the 49ers returning to the Super Bowl. And if he gets injured, as he usually does, the 49ers once again would be in huge trouble, because 13.5 percent of their cap space would be on I.R.
So here's what the 49ers need to do. Once Lance wins the quarterback competition in preseason, the 49ers should trade Garoppolo to the Houston Texans for whatever draft pick they can get, then spend their new cap space on quality free-agent role players -- lots are still available.
Build the team around Lance, who will be cheap for the next four seasons.
Dump Garoppolo for cap space.