SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Throughout the four-plus years coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have been in charge of the San Francisco 49ers, their quarterback plan has constantly evolved.
In 2017, they didn’t use the No. 2 overall pick to take one of that draft’s top quarterbacks because they had their eye on Kirk Cousins in free agency the following spring. By Halloween of that year the New England Patriots offered Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick. Garoppolo did enough to change their minds and landed a massive contract before Cousins hit the market.
It was a bold move but not nearly as bold as what they did Friday, agreeing to send the No. 12 overall pick this year, 2022 first and third-round choices and a 2023 first-round selection to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 3 overall pick. It’s just the fourth time in the past 30 drafts that a team has traded from 12th overall or later into the top three. It’s the highest pick the Niners have acquired in a trade during the common draft era, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it was the culmination of a weeks-long pursuit for a pick in the top five that would put them in striking distance of one of this year’s top quarterback prospects.
• Barnwell (E+): Aftermath of big trades
• Grades (E+): How did each team do?
• Wagoner: Niners boldly move up for QB
• McManus: Eagles have more options
• Wolfe: Dolphins go all-in on Tagovailoa
• NFL draft order: Updating the full list
It’s a move that would make character Mike Ehrmantraut of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fame proud: no more half measures. The Niners are all-in on acquiring a franchise quarterback for the future
“You talk about blockbuster, this is a decade-defining trade for the 49ers,” Steve Young, ESPN NFL analyst and 49ers Hall of Fame quarterback, told SportsCenter on Friday morning. “And it’s clear that Kyle Shanahan has not been satisfied with the quarterback position. It has been eating at him for some time and we’ve talked about it, around it, tried to be more aggressive about it but the truth is this is now the proof in the pudding that they are now going to get their quarterback.”
Indeed, the 49ers are going to get their quarterback, which begs two follow-up questions: Who will that quarterback be and what will become of Garoppolo? The answers are intertwined.
Teams don’t give up as much as the Niners did for the third pick if they don’t have their eye on a quarterback. Garoppolo’s injury history — he’s missed 23 of his past 48 regular-season starts because of knee and ankle issues — has put the 49ers in a spot where they must look to the future if they want to contend long-term.
Assuming the Jacksonville Jaguars select Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence first, the 49ers would then have the chance to take BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. Chances are, Wilson will head to the Jets at No. 2, which means the Niners would have their pick of the other three. Or, in a less-likely scenario, the Niners could use the No. 3 pick as part of a package for another blockbuster trade to acquire a quarterback elsewhere.
It’s hard to imagine the Niners making such a big move without at least some idea of which quarterbacks they prefer. Fields is a dynamic player with big-play ability the Niners have been missing. He’s worked with Shanahan at the QB Collective in the past. Jones is the polished type of pocket passer Shanahan has always liked and would bring down-the-field accuracy San Francisco’s offense has lacked. Lance is probably the most unknown because of his small-school pedigree but his physical tools and leadership skills are hard to ignore.
Marcus Spears breaks down the San Francisco 49ers trading up to the No. 3 pick in the draft assumedly to take a quarterback.
One thing they all might have in common? For all their talents, they might not be ready to start in 2021. Which is where Garoppolo comes in. Schefter reported the Niners have no interest in trading Garoppolo this season. While that could change if the 49ers get an offer that’s enticing, it’s also possible the Niners will indeed hang on to Garoppolo even with a highly-drafted rookie waiting in the wings, similar to what Kansas City did in 2017 with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes.
It’s a comparison Shanahan alluded to in December when asked about his offseason plans at quarterback.
“Do you want to go get a starter as a backup quarterback? Then you’ve just got to decide if you want to spend the majority of your salary cap on your first- and your second-string quarterbacks,” Shanahan said. “That’s something that most teams do have an issue with, that second-team quarterback, unless they’ve drafted a guy and then had their starter from the year before. Someone like Alex and what they had with Patrick. So, it’s a very common thing. You just hope you don’t lose your guy for a whole year.”
Moving on from Garoppolo would save the 49ers $24.1 million against the cap but that kind of cap space doesn’t do them much good now that free agency’s big-money days have passed.
The Niners believe injuries did them in last season and with better health, this is a roster that’s ready to surge back into contention. Would that still be the case with a rookie starting at quarterback? History would say no, as no rookie quarterback has started a Super Bowl, let alone won it, in the common era.
Best case scenario outside of a too-tempting trade offer for Garoppolo: he starts, stays healthy and takes the Niners the distance. That would open plenty of trade opportunities next offseason and the Niners could recoup some of their lost draft capital.
It’s long been said fortune favors the bold. The 49ers have their chance to prove it. If it works, they’ll be able to create the type of sustained success Shanahan and Lynch have searched for since they arrived. If not, it could ultimately be their undoing.
“Kyle Shanahan is going to pick his guy,” Young said. “That is going to define his coaching career. … This is an amazing, life-changing event for a lot of people in the 49ers organization.”
With ‘some plays that didn’t go our way,’ Tua Tagovailoa opens Miami Dolphins minicamp with five interceptions and film to study
It was the closest thing to real football for the Dolphins, who wore helmets for the first time this offseason, and offered small glimpses of what a new offense would look like for Miami. But the lasting memory was the defense’s dominance against the quarterbacks; in addition to Tagovailoa’s five, backup Jacoby Brissett threw two interceptions in fewer reps.
“Obviously, you want to be smart, but if there’s a time to make mistakes, now is the time to make mistakes,” Tagovailoa said. “We’re just seeing what we can fit into holes, what we can throw into coverages, come into the film room and then learn from it.”
Much of practice consisted of a torrential downpour, and the Dolphins never left the outside field. It was clear coach Brian Flores wanted them to play through the adverse circumstances.
“Today the emphasis for us, quarterbacks, we wanted to be aggressive today within the pass game. We wanted to see if we could fit throws in, see what throws we could make under these conditions. We wanted to push the ball vertical down the field,” Tagovailoa said. “There were some plays that didn’t go our way, but those are plays we can take away from in the film room.”
The biggest criticism for Tagovailoa as a rookie was his hesitancy to throw deep and throw to open receivers. It’s clear that is going to be a priority in the new Dolphins offense, and Tagovailoa has to perform better than he did in Tuesday’s practice.
After practice, Tagovailoa accepted responsibility for the rough day but overall viewed it as a learning experience as he tries to achieve a specific aggressive goal rather than an indictment of where his game is right now.
Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers jokes about his ‘quiet offseason’ in interview for July 6 golf match
Through everything that has happened surrounding Aaron Rodgers this offseason, one thing is clear: He still understands sarcasm.
The reigning MVP, who has dominated the NFL headlines this spring because of his dissatisfaction with the Green Bay Packers, showed his sense of humor Tuesday during a promotional video in advance of the July 6 golf match featuring Rodgers and PGA Tour star Bryson DeChambeau against Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson.
TNT’s Brian Anderson, who hosted the video conference, set up Rodgers with this: “You’ve really kept a low profile this offseason, I’ve hardly seen your name at all and you haven’t hosted any TV shows or been involved in any kind of controversy or anything. It’s been a nice, peaceful offseason for you, it sounds like.”
Rodgers’ reply was both deadpan and dripping with irony.
“It’s been one of those quiet offseasons you dream about, where you can kind of just go through your process on your own, quietly,” Rodgers said. “And that’s all you can ask for as an older player in the league and someone who’s been around for a long time and just enjoys that time to yourself, just relax, to not be bothered, to not have any obligations or anything going on.
“I think that’s what this offseason has been about. It’s been about really enjoying my time and spending it where I want to spend it, not feeling like I have to go anywhere but still be an NFL player at the same time. It’s been great.”
Rodgers skipped his only actual obligation, the Packers’ mandatory minicamp last week, and is subject to fines of $93,085. He also missed the entire offseason program, thereby forfeiting his $500,000 workout bonus.
The Packers have publicly maintained their desire to have Rodgers back for “2021 and beyond,” as team president Mark Murphy put it earlier this offseason, but it’s unclear whether Rodgers will report for training camp next month or will hold out and try to force a trade. Since the news of Rodgers’ unhappiness with the Packers broke on the afternoon of this year’s draft, the Packers have insisted they will not trade him.
Earlier this month, Murphy wrote that the situation has divided the Packers’ fan base and added that the less said publicly about the situation, the better. However, Murphy didn’t heed his own advice last week when, during a speaking engagement, he referred to Rodgers as “a complicated fella,” saying he was echoing how former Packers general manager Ted Thompson once described him.
It’s unclear whether the T-shirt Rodgers wore for Tuesday’s videoconference, which read “I’m offended,” was in response to Murphy’s comment.
Carolina Panthers WR Robby Anderson says he sees new ‘glow’ in QB Sam Darnold
“When I walked in the building I could see a new energy out of him, like a glow, charisma that I didn’t really see in New York,” said Anderson, who played with Darnold in 2018-19. “I can definitely see the difference in him so far.”
Anderson was the only Carolina player not seen by media for any of the voluntary portions of on-the-field offseason workouts.
So Tuesday, the first of a three-day mandatory camp, was the first time Anderson had a chance to work with Darnold since the Jets’ 2019 finale against Buffalo when they connected three times for 18 yards.
“You know when a person can see like a glow, energy, their aura?” Anderson said. “I could kind of see that when I walked in the building.”
Anderson was Darnold’s favorite target with the Jets. He had 102 catches for 1,431 yards and 11 touchdowns during their time together.
Stopping short of making a prediction, Anderson expects better things for them in Joe Brady’s system at Carolina, where in 2020 Anderson had a career-best 95 catches for 1,096 yards and three touchdowns.
“The New York system was a little more complex, had a lot of nuances that was more difficult for everybody, not just him, not just me,” Anderson said. “This system is a little more graspable.”
New Carolina edge rusher Haason Reddick hasn’t played with Darnold before, but he likes what he has seen.
“Sam’s completing passes,” said Reddick, an offseason free-agent signing from Arizona. “It looks like he’s playing intelligent football.”
Coach Matt Rhule just wants Darnold, who struggled with consistency with the Jets, completing only 59.8% of his passes and going 13-25 as the starter, to continue playing “good” football in practice.
“I don’t want him to have great days right now … just steady progress to make good days roll into great days,” he said of the quarterback Carolina traded for before the draft.
Anderson, who should help Darnold’s growth because of their past chemistry, didn’t go into detail on why he stayed in South Florida throughout the voluntary portions of OTAs.
“I’m to the point of my career where I know how to get myself ready,” he said. “So it wasn’t nothing against the team or nothing like that. I feel I capitalized on this time. The work I was putting in with my trainer, I was on a good program.
“I didn’t want to step away from that.”
Rhule said it was great to have Anderson back even though Anderson wasn’t in all the team drills.
“Robby is a guy that brings energy to the practice field,” he said. “He’s in great shape. You can tell he’s been working hard. We had a goal of like three to four reps in a team drills. I’m not going to over-rep anybody.”
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