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Are the Falcons actually interested in Jimmy Garoppolo?

The logic is hard to fathom, but that doesn’t mean we can dismiss the idea out of hand.

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NFL: Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo’s representation has been given permission to seek a trade by the 49ers, and he’s reportedly been cleared to start practicing. Given that and given that he’s the only decent quarterback now known to be on the trade market, inevitably rumors and discussion are spinning up about his potential landing spot, no doubt fueled by agents looking to generate a bidding war for the 30-year-old quarterback.

After trying and failing to trade for Deshaun Watson with all the grace of a bear with jars of peanut butter on each sticky paw and then unceremoniously flipping Matt Ryan to the Colts, it was probably inevitable that the Falcons were going to be linked to trade options at quarterback. Marcus Mariota is a well-regarded placeholder unless he shocks the world, and while the team appears to love Desmond Ridder, he was a third round selection and is not a lock to be a franchise quarterback. That’s why they were given the third-highest odds of trading for Baker Mayfield at one point, and that’s why they’re rumored to be in on Jimmy Garoppolo now.

Those rumors have ranged from an NFL personnel executive saying “don’t be surprised” if the Falcons make a move for Jimmy G to claims that the team has a call in to the 49ers to a trade being more likely than you think for the Falcons. Atlanta is being given the fourth-highest odds of trading for Garoppolo, as well, behind the Browns, Lions, and Texans. None of these rumors are coming from plugged-in local reporters or national insiders—at least yet—and I suspect at least some of this is stemming from his agents doing the work necessary to try to drum up a market after most of Garoppolo’s logical landing spots evaporated over the offseason.

Still, it’s unlikely these rumors will vanish until Garoppolo is actually traded—likely to another team, to be clear—so let’s tackle this now. Are the Falcons actually interested, and does a trade for Jimmy G make sense?

Are the Falcons interested?

I can’t answer this one definitively because I have zero inside information. What I can do is try to put myself in Terry Fontenot’s very stylish shoes and look at the state of the roster, the way the offseason unfolded, and the team’s current quarterback situation to try to determine a level of interest.

If the report about the team putting a call in to the 49ers proves to be accurate, then obviously there is a level of interest. The Falcons may want to gauge the price—both in terms of draft capital and potentially contract, if the 49ers will eat some of the cost—of getting back a proven and capable starter. This would the same impulse that brought them to Watson in the first place, but this is obviously a move with considerably lower upside and without the risks of acquiring an alleged sexual predator facing a potentially lengthy league suspension. It would be an admission that Mariota is not the answer, even for the short-term, and that even if Ridder proves to be the answer it’s going to be years down the line.

If Fontenot and Arthur Smith are looking at this roster and the state of the NFC and thinking they can legitimately contend in 2022—or, more ominously, if ownership is demanding they contend this year—then the dice roll on Garoppolo would make some sense. You know you’re getting a level of competence you can’t be sure you’ll get from either of the current in-house options, and the chances of a Garoppolo-piloted offense winning a couple of games a Mariota-or-Ridder-piloted offense could not are decent enough. I’m not a huge fan of Garoppolo’s talent or track record, but the 49ers have stuck with him because he does enough well to keep a contender’s offense humming.

This would be an indication that all the sunny talk about Mariota and Ridder from the coaching staff and front office doesn’t reflect reality, which seems unlikely but is certainly not impossible. Perhaps a couple of months of work and observation with the group has soured the team on the duo, or perhaps they believe in Garoppolo’s talent more than you or I might. I can legitimately see there being a level of interest, even if I do believe it’s going to pale in comparison to teams like the Texans, Giants, Seahawks, and perhaps Browns in the face of a lengthy Deshaun Watson suspension.

Do I believe that interest is considerable, or that the team will pony up a more appealing offer than other teams to actually get the job done? No. But I can believe they’ve discussed and/or will discuss the possibility internally, at the very least.

That brings us to our next question.

Does a trade make sense?


Jimmy Garoppolo has one slightly above average NFL season to his credit thus far, and two of his four seasons as a starter have been marked by significant injuries. He’ll be 31 years old in November, which is not old but is older than Marcus Mariota, and there really isn’t any untapped upside here that Arthur Smith will get out of him that Kyle Shanahan couldn’t.

Garoppolo’s best fit would come for an aspiring contending team that needs a short-term bridge to a future star, or at the helm of an already-terrific offense that needs reliably good play from a proven option. The Falcons, who already have a bridge option Arthur Smith knows, have somewhat limited upside this year given their roster holes and rough schedule, and are clearly not on the cusp of becoming a great offense just yet, wouldn’t seem to fit the bill here in those regards. More on that in a moment.

Garoppolo’s contract is up after this season, meaning this would effectively be a one-year rental for a team many expect to be among the NFL’s worst, and it would necessitate the team tying up a considerable chunk of their big influx of future cap space into Garoppolo next year if they wanted to keep him around for when they are able to legitimately contend again.

Speaking of cap space, the Falcons would need to free some up in order to get Garoppolo in the building, given that his cap charge is set to be $26.95 million in 2022. There are certainly ways to do that—finally trading Deion Jones, trimming a couple of spots on the roster, extending Garoppolo when he lands in Atlanta to drive that charge down—but it’s a big hit to take now and/or into the future for a non-elite starting quarterback.

Beyond the financial side of things, is this team in a position to surrender draft capital that could be useful in building up the roster elsewhere? We don’t know what the 49ers are going to get for Garoppolo and it seems unlikely to be a premium selection, so perhaps that’s not a huge factor. It’s still not a wise use of picks.

Finally, as I touched on above, the Falcons are not a great team yet. The Watson trade was, I believe, an Arthur Blank-fueled attempt to take a shortcut to contention, but all of Fontenot’s other moves the past two offseasons have suggested a man looking to dig out of a deep cap space hole and put the team on the path to win once they find daylight. To trade for Garoppolo, you would have to believe that he’s the right man to start for the 2023 and likely beyond Falcons, who will have dreams of grandeur. You would have to believe that in spite of Garoppolo’s good-but-not-great regular season track record and shaky postseason performances, and would be putting a hard cap on your upside at quarterback that would necessitate building a truly great offense around him.

Never say never—these are the Falcons and their moves at quarterback this offseason have been—but I’m having a hard time imagining this interest is anything but cursory, if it exists at all. Trading for Jimmy Garoppolo simply doesn’t seem to make sense for the Falcons.