The San Francisco 49ers have turned a corner. Their season, which began as a lackluster affair that everyone couldn't wait to see the end of has gained some renewed sparkle as we move towards the end. Nobody would have expected the 49ers to come away with victories in two consecutive road games a few weeks back, and they're heading into their final three matchups with more than a fighting chance. 49ers odds across bookies are healthier than we've seen them all season.
Jimmy Garoppolo QB
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 226 lbs
College: Eastern Illinois
Drafted: 2014 / Rd. 2 (62) / NE
Hand Size: 9 1/4 (20th)
What's the secret to this rejuvenation? Well, it isn't much of a secret - the uncovering of a franchise-caliber quarterback in the person of Jimmy Garoppolo has worked wonders for the side. What they need to do is hold on to their stroke of good fortune. They need to figure out how to sign Garoppolo on to a long-term contract.
Garoppolo's set to become a free agent come season's end, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan states that he isn't really considering offering him a new contract. Why? Simply because he doesn't have to; the 49ers have the option of franchise tagging the quarterback for the 2018 season in their pocket.
Although the quarterback has only five starts to his name, it seems like a bit of a gamble not to do everything possible to hold on to him. A $145 million with guaranteed $60 million deal wouldn't even seem like too much if it meant securing his services. On the other side of the negotiating table, Garoppolo is looking at a first-time franchise tag for 2018 which will come to about $23.5 million, with the very real possibility of two-to-three more franchise tags down the line. This isn't making negotiations any easier for either side.
The San Fransisco management might be hoping to see what Garoppolo will pull off with more support around him next season before putting pen to paper for the long term, but it might also mean they'll have to shell out the big bucks if Jimmy proves himself to be the real deal, as it would make his negotiating position a whole lot stronger.
The danger here for the 49ers is real. Over-reliance on the franchise tag can help create over-leveraged quarterbacks, especially if they're franchise-caliber, in an environment where quarterbacks already wield massive power at the negotiating tables (as their constantly sky-rocketing salaries demonstrate). It could see them get into the uncomfortable situation of having only one of two unsavory options available to them; either pay through the nose to hold on to the player or let him walk.
The resolution to the Garoppolo scenario seems to be waiting on the resolution of somewhat similar developments in the contract maneuvering of Washington's Kirk Cousins. Cousins looks set to be tagged for a third consecutive year, which would entitle him to a 44% yearly raise on a guaranteed contract going forward. He will have banked $77 million in three years if this happens with no contract resolution at hand. Cousins will be doing just fine.
The smart money would be on the 49ers waiting to see how the Cousins situation plays out before making a firm decision on how to handle Garoppolo as there's a very strong possibility of his situation developing along similar lines if they choose to go down that road.
From where we're standing, the longer they hold off on signing Garoppolo, the more it's likely to cost them.