There’s no question 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who earned $820,000 in base salary this past season, will be launched into a much higher tax bracket in 2018. What 49ers fans want to know is: When will that happen?
Former NFL agent Joel Corry thinks it will be later rather than sooner.
“There’s no reason for it to go fast,” said Corry, who now writes for CBS Sports. “I would give them an offer I knew they wouldn’t accept just to slow-play it. Then once I saw the market come in, then I’d make more concessions.”
A significant piece of that quarterback market was set in motion Tuesday when news broke that the Kansas City Chiefs plan to trade Alex Smith to Washington. That means Washington’s current quarterback, Kirk Cousins, will become an unrestricted free agent on March 14.
Before Tuesday, Corry figured the baseline on a long-term deal for Garoppolo would be a little more than $25 million, which would take into account what he could earn if the 49ers were forced to apply the franchise tag the next two seasons. But with teams like the Jets, Cardinals and Broncos possibly bidding for Cousins, that baseline could be even higher.
“Nobody knew what was going to happen with (Cousins) until Tuesday night,” Corry said. “That deal should be done the first couple of days of free agency. So you let that deal become the standard for the quarterback position and get more money than you would have without that deal.”
Corry also noted a new deal for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan could be completed in the offseason, which also would help set the market.
The 49ers can sign any of their soon-to-be free agents, including Garoppolo, to new contracts at any point. They can apply the franchise tag – a one-year deal that equals the average of the league’s top five quarterback salaries – to Garoppolo between Feb. 20 and March 6. Once that’s in place, the deadline for a long-term contract is July 16.
Ryan, 32, has been in the league for a decade and has taken his team to a Super Bowl. Cousins, 29, has started 58 games. Garoppolo, meanwhile, has started seven. Wouldn’t the 49ers be skittish about paying market rate for a 26-year-old passer who hasn’t even played half a season?
“I would be reluctant to pay him that type of money off of such a small sample size,” Corry said. “But they know what he can do and what he can’t do from seeing him in the building for half of a season, practically. You pay a guy for what you expect him to do, not what his past performance has been. If they think he’s just been scratching the surface of his talent, then getting in that upper echelon is going to make sense.”
All indications are that the 49ers, who will have more than $100 million in salary cap space when the league year begins in March, are prepared to make a strong push for a long-term Garoppolo contract. General manager John Lynch said last week the team felt it found “the right guy” at the position.
“Now the challenge is getting Jimmy signed,” Lynch said at the Senior Bowl. “We’re working hard toward that. We’ll see. I think he wants to be with us and we want him there. So I think it makes too much sense not to happen … it’s just a matter of getting it done.”
When will that be?
Corry noted that the NFL is a deadline-driven league and said he wouldn’t be surprised if it was mid-July – or perhaps mid-June, before the team breaks for the summer – when a deal gets done. The last big quarterback deal the 49ers struck, with Colin Kaepernick, was inked on June 4.
The best-case scenario for antsy fans who don’t want it to drag out?
Said Corry: “If the Niners are prepared to meet (Garoppolo’s) number, you pull the trigger regardless.”