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Jimmy Garoppolo to the Cleveland Browns, evaluating fit and potential trade cost

Matt Johnson
Jimmy Garoppolo
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers are still looking for a Jimmy Garoppolo trade partner with only a few weeks until Week 1 and the Cleveland Browns might be in the quarterback market once again. With both clubs in a difficult spot, something could happen before NFL Kickoff.

Cleveland acquired Deshaun Watson with the belief he would miss four-to-six games for allegations of sexual misconduct. In preparation for that absence, it signed backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett to serve as a fill-in starter.

However, things are quickly unfolding against Cleveland’s favor. The NFL’s appeal of the six-game ban handed down by former federal judge Sue L. Robinson could result in a year-long suspension. At a minimum, the Browns are now bracing for their new face of the franchise to miss more than just the first six games in 2022.

Related: Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson open to receiving eight-game ban

San Francisco is under a different kind of pressure. Trey Lance is firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback and the organization can’t go back on that decision without damaging its young starter’s reputation. With no teams actively interested in trading for Garoppolo on the 49ers’ terms, cutting the veteran becomes a possibility.

It’s precisely why the Browns and 49ers might be a fit to work on something that benefits everyone.

Why Jimmy Garoppolo is an ideal fit for the Cleveland Browns

NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
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Realistically, Watson is going to miss at least half of Cleveland’s regular-season games this season and there’s a shot he doesn’t play at all in 2022. For a team in win-now mode, the Browns can’t afford to burn a year in this window and that means elevating the standard at quarterback.

Garoppolo is an above-average starting quarterback when put into the right system. He proved it in San Francsico, reaching one Super Bowl and multiple NFC Champion Games in an offense that elevated his strengths and often hid his weaknesses.

  • Jimmy Garoppolo career stats: 67.7% completion rate, 98.9 QB rating, 33-14 record, 71-38 TD-INT ratio, 8.4 ypa

Related: Cleveland Browns schedule

Among qualified starting quarterbacks in 2021, Garoppolo ranked sixth in passer rating with a clean pocket (83.9). When he didn’t face pressure, the 49ers’ quarterback completed 71% of his passes with a 12-6 TD-INT ratio and a stellar 91.3 grade from Pro Football Focus.

He also fared well on play-action attempts. Ranked 14th in play-action rate in 2021, Garoppolo finished the season with a 17-5 TD-INT ratio, 1,231 passing yards and a 105.6 passer rating (PFF).

The Browns are a run-heavy team with an outstanding offensive line, key factors that would set Garoppolo up for success. He is also extremely efficient on quick throws and working underneath, which would work out nicely in an offense with Amari Cooper, Kareem Hunt and David Njoku.

Garoppolo is a better quarterback than the best version of Baker Mayfield and he’s a superior option compared to Brissett. If Watson is going to miss a majority of the 2022 season, Garoppolo is the quarterback who can help the Browns remain playoff contenders.

Projecting a Jimmy Garoppolo trade

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Money is certainly going to play a factor in all of this. Garoppolo carries a $26.95 million cap hit this season before hitting free agency in 2023. It rules out a simple pick-for-player swap involving other teams who lack the financial flexibility to absorb his contract.

San Francisco could release him, but it’s going to do everything in its power to prevent that worst-case scenario. That’s precisely why the organization is keeping Garoppolo on the roster until the right team gets desperate and that will be the Browns if Watson receives a one-year ban.

If that happens, Cleveland should be willing to do what it takes to seize on its opportunity to compete right now.

  • Cleveland Browns trade: 2024 conditional fifth-round pick, Nick Harris
  • San Francisco 49ers trade: Jimmy Garoppolo, $10 million

The Browns’ front office would certainly view Harris as a difficult piece to move. A fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, this is a 23-year-old center who the coaching staff feels confident in as the starter this season. As Kyle Posey of Niners Nation points out, Harris could be precisely the type of player Kyle Shanahan wants.

Cleveland could send a conditional draft pick that is dependent on how many games Garoppolo plays this season. if he starts in 12-plus games and the Browns make the playoff, it becomes a 2024 third-round pick. In any other instance, San Francsico would receive Cleveland’s fifth-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.

It’s a deal that could work out for both sides. The 49ers solve their problem at center with a young player on the rise and Cleveland lands the perfect one-year solution at quarterback who fits their system and makes up for the loss of Watson.