Everybody wins in NFL's blockbuster trades – except Jimmy Garoppolo
By Geoff Schwartz
FOX Sports NFL Analyst
Not to be outdone by the NBA trade deadline Thursday, the NFL had a blockbuster deal of its own announced Friday.
The Miami Dolphins made the sports world buzz by trading the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to the San Francisco 49ers. In return, they got the Niners' 2021 first-round pick (12th overall), plus first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 and a third-rounder in 2022. Shortly after this trade was announced, the Dolphins flipped the 12th pick to the Eagles for the No. 6 pick in the draft.
The reason San Francisco made this move is clear: The 49ers have wanted to move off quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for more than a year now. The rumors started to fly immediately after their Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2019 season. While you might say it's odd for a team to move on from a quarterback following an appearance in the Super Bowl, I think two throws in that game explain why the Niners felt that way.
The first came with San Francisco leading late in the game, when Jimmy G failed to throw the ball to a wide-open George Kittle on third down. It was a perfectly designed play on which the first option was the tight end. Then, with the Chiefs up 24-20 and less than two minutes left, Garoppolo missed a wide-open, deep throw to Emmanuel Sanders, who had split the corner and safety. A completion would have given the 49ers a go-ahead touchdown.
I believe that's when the 49ers soured on their QB. Add Garoppolo’s injury history – he has started nine of 32 games between the 2018 and 2020 seasons – and the Niners are out on the seven-year pro.
Now, with the third overall pick, the 49ers can choose from a solid group of quarterbacks after Trevor Lawrence goes to the Jaguars at No. 1. I’d put my money on the Jets also taking a quarterback at No. 2. I’m sure the 49ers also offered this trade to New York but were turned down because the Jets know they want a quarterback.
With the third pick, the 49ers can draft whichever of the following quarterbacks the Jets don't take: Zach Wilson from BYU, Trey Lance from North Dakota State, Justin Fields from Ohio State or Mac Jones from Alabama.
Do not buy the nonsense about the 49ers being 100 percent committed to Garoppolo for 2021. This trade proves otherwise, and any of these quarterbacks is an upgrade over him. The lone season Garoppolo was healthy in 2019, the Niners' offense was unstoppable under coach Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan, a master-level offensive mind, knows he can return his offense to top form with the proper quarterback.
I absolutely love this new NFL in which teams aren't afraid to ditch quarterbacks as soon as possible. Teams used to be too embarrassed to move on after drafting a quarterback who busted out or after a big contract went bad. Now, screw it, they're moving on.
As smart as the 49ers are to make this move, the biggest winner is Miami, which has shown an outstanding ability to flip assets for better assets.
If you trace today's action back to the deal that sent left tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Texans in 2019, the Dolphins have now turned Tunsil into four first-round picks, two second-rounders and a third.
After the 49ers trade, the Dolphins flipped the 12th overall pick to the Eagles for the sixth pick. After everything, the Dolphins moved from No. 3 to No. 6 while picking up additional first- and third-round picks.
This move is a clear sign that the Dolphins are all-in on Tua Tagovailoa as their quarterback, and they can be just as flexible at No. 6 as they would have been at No. 3. The sixth pick can be used on Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell to continue to build the offensive line or to give Tua an offensive weapon such as Florida tight end Kyle Pitts or LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase.
The 49ers and Dolphins are the main players in this trade, but let's not forget about the move the Eagles made. If you thought the status of Jalen Hurts was confusing, it’s not anymore. Moving from No. 6 to No. 12 is a sign that Philly will not be drafting a quarterback and will instead focus on adding pieces to improve the team. I’m not sure which direction the Eagles will go at 12 – likely best player available – but the big takeaway is they are in on Hurts as their starting quarterback.
What's more, these trades don’t affect only the teams involved. They change the entire landscape of the draft. Before this trade, most thought the Jets might take a quarterback at No. 2, with the Dolphins taking a position player at No. 3. The Falcons, at No. 4, would have had several quarterback options if they wanted.
Now things get a little more complicated. The Falcons are in prime position to trade out of the fourth pick, assuming quarterbacks are taken first, second and third. Someone such as the Panthers or Broncos could trade up to No. 4 to ensure themselves a quarterback, and the Falcons could draft an impact player and also acquire more picks for next season.
The Bengals have to love where they are sitting right now. The two targets for them at No. 5 have always been Sewell and Pitts. There were chances, albeit small, that both players would have been taken by the fifth pick. Now, the Bengals are guaranteed to have one — and possibly both — available at No. 5. Maybe even throw in Chase to help Joe Burrow. The Bengals will get better because of this trade.
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.