Those rumors about Jimmy Garoppolo getting traded back to the Patriots this offseason just grew tenfold with the completion of just one transaction.
The San Francisco 49ers on Friday traded up to No. 3 in the 2021 NFL Draft, sending the No. 12 pick, a 2022 third-round pick, and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to the Miami Dolphins.
Clearly, San Francisco and head coach Kyle Shanahan have their eyes on a quarterback — either North Dakota State's Trey Lance or Ohio State’s Justin Fields, given the likelihood that BYU's Zach Wilson will be the second pick after the Jacksonville Jaguars take Trevor Lawrence.
Of course, the 49ers already have a quarterback — Garoppolo. And he has a no-trade clause. But is he ready to compete for playing time with a high-end rookie, risking he might wind up a backup and mentor rather than a starter by the time he turns 30 in November?
In the immediate aftermath of the trade, the NFL Network reported the 49ers’ intention to keep Garoppolo.
But for weeks insiders have been gabbing about Garoppolo’s obvious fit for the Pats, who got three years of service out of the quarterback before shipping him to San Francisco. Teams like the Patriots that want to convince the 49ers to part with Garoppolo’s services might have two bits of leverage:
1. His no-trade clause;
2. San Francisco might not want to risk the situation between Garoppolo and a heralded rookie becoming untenable.
Then there’s the matter of the Pats still possibly trading up to get in position for drafting at QB or staying at 15 and still getting one. The Dolphins looked like they were out of the quarterback draft mix with the 49ers trade, but then they traded back up with Philadelphia to get pick No. 6. They might still be in position to pick a quarterback if they’re not determined to stick with Tua Tagovailoa, though they likely would have stayed at number 3 had that been the case.
And the price to trade into the higher levels of the first round to guarantee a worthwhile quarterback has been established by the price San Francisco paid. One would think Garoppolo would come cheaper in a trade, if that’s the route the Pats want to go.
The draft begins April 29, and we’ll find out more about the Pats’ thinking in the weeks ahead.