San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch says no scenario in which QB Jimmy Garoppolo is released

PALM BEACH, Fla. — In hopes that a trade would be imminent and that Trey Lance would take over as the team’s starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo seemed certain during his Feb. 1 press conference that this would be his last as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

Nearly two months later, Garoppolo is still with the 49ers, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Speaking at NFL owners’ meetings at The Breakers hotel, Niners general manager John Lynch made it clear that he does not see a scenario in which Garoppolo would be released.

“I don’t foresee that,” Lynch said. “He’s too good a player. I think Jimmy will play for us or play for someone else. He’s too good a player not to be.”

Which means the only path the Niners see for a divorce from Garoppolo this offseason will have to involve a trade deal that has yet to materialize. On Monday, Lynch offered some insight into that, along with potential scenarios in which Garoppolo would stay in San Francisco in 2022.

According to Lynch, the main reason Garoppolo hasn’t been traded yet is simple: The Niners haven’t received a formal offer. Lynch said that at the time of last month’s scouting meeting in Indianapolis there was momentum for a deal and the Niners had “conceptually” been talking with other teams about getting a deal (which doesn’t could have been formalized only on March 16).

Lynch’s denial that he received an offer of two second-round draft picks was implied, but later stated categorically. Lynch said he also didn’t tell anyone such an offer had ever been on the table.

As other quarterbacks began to move in trades and signings around the league, Lynch said Garoppolo’s right shoulder surgery was what caused interested teams to put his pursuit on hold.

“I think ultimately the teams that we were closest with, the surgery gave them a break and they ended up going in other directions,” Lynch said.

Garoppolo’s shoulder surgery didn’t catch the Niners off guard, according to Lynch, but he reiterated that the team and Garoppolo were operating on the assumption that rehabilitation would be enough to bring the quarterback back to full power. When that didn’t happen, the obvious decision was to have surgery, which Garoppolo did in early March.

As things stand, Garoppolo, who has been in rehab in the Los Angeles area, shouldn’t be allowed to pitch at full strength until training camp. That means the Niners will likely hang on to him until at least July.

Lynch acknowledged that many teams that initially expressed an interest in Garoppolo have since moved on to other quarterbacks, adding that there are teams that are still in touch, although those conversations are more “fluid.”

Which raises the question of whether Garoppolo could return to the Niners for yet another season. Garoppolo is expected to be $26.95 million over next season’s salary cap. Trading (or releasing) Garoppolo once he’s healthy would save the Niners $25.55 million in cap space. If the 49ers released Garoppolo now, they would be on the hook for a $7.5 million injury guarantee, though that comes with compensation up to the full amount — meaning if another team signed him for that amount or more, the Niners would get that credited back to the cap.

Yet Lynch again insisted that the Niners could not only keep Garoppolo next season, but also do so on his current salary.

“We appreciate the strength in this position,” Lynch said. “To be quite frank, however, when you make a transaction of this magnitude [for Lance], most of our options didn’t include Jimmy on our books. In our team. But you always have to adapt and there was a series of events that didn’t work out. But that’s not a bad thing, though. We feel positive about it. And we’re going to make it work.”

To that end, the Niners have already had to restructure the contracts of tight end George Kittle and defensive lineman Arik Armstead to move below the salary cap and execute an offseason plan centered on adding cornerback Charvarius. Ward of the Kansas City Chiefs and strengthening their special teams.

Lynch pointed out that the Niners followed their plan and that removing Garoppolo from the equation would not have changed the way they conducted their business in free agency.

“Our plan was our plan and we were able to do everything we set out to do in free agency,” Lynch said. “We knew we wanted to fill that corner role…and a number of other deals that we could put together. And that was our plan, whether we got Jimmy or not.”

As for what would happen if Garoppolo returned, Lynch declined to elaborate on whether it would lead to a training camp competition or how the quarterback situation would play out. He pointed out that Garoppolo’s injury would hold him back long enough for Lance and veteran Nate Sudfeld to take all reps off the offseason program.

“We’re excited about what Trey has already shown and where we know he’s going to go,” Lynch said. “And the opportunity for growth in the offseason program. It’s just vital. Those 10,000 reps. He needs it. He’ll have that opportunity this offseason.”