The writing's been on the wall.
But head coach Kyle Shanahan clarified things on Tuesday in case there was any uncertainty. The San Francisco 49ers intend on trading quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. If they can, that is.
"I expect at sometime he’ll be traded, but it’s not a guarantee," Shanahan told reporters on Tuesday. "It went on hold when [shoulder surgery] happened."
Garoppolo started 15 games last season as first-round rookie Trey Lance largely learned from the bench. The No. 3 pick of the 2021 draft, Lance made a pair of starts when Garoppolo got injured in addition to some spot plays to harness his superior athleticism near the goal line.
With a season of development under his belt, it's time for the Lance era to officially begin — even if Shanahan has yet to declare a starter for 2022.
It's a bit startling to hear an NFL head coach speak so openly about the pending exit of his starting quarterback of the last five seasons. But Shanahan's never shied away from what was made obvious when the 49ers selected Lance last spring.
He said this in November with seven games remaining on the schedule and Garoppolo still starting for a team with playoff aspirations:
"There's a chance for anything, but I think we've made it pretty clear that Trey is our guy of the future, whenever that happens," Shanahan said. "But it's also nothing against Jimmy that we took Trey to be our guy of the future."
So Garoppolo's exit remains a matter of when and how rather than if. His surgery in March to repair labrum damage to his throwing shoulder has complicated things. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported at the time that the procedure wasn't expected to impact his trade status and that Garoppolo would likely be traded that month among "significant interest from multiple teams."
Will 49ers find a trade partner?
It's now late May, and that "significant interest" has not resulted in action. Meanwhile teams with quarterback needs have largely addressed them via the draft, trade or free agency. It seems that a quarterback coming off shoulder surgery due $27 million next season might not be the most attractive trade chip.
A couple of potential suitors remain with glaring needs at quarterback. The Carolina Panthers still place Sam Darnold at the top of their depth chart. The Seattle Seahawks, meanwhile, have a quarterback battle brewing between Geno Smith and Drew Lock. A trade between the NFC West rivals seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, 49ers general manager John Lynch has insisted that the team doesn't intend to release Garoppolo if a trade doesn't materialize. Time is running short, and the 49ers may face a tough decision with salary cap and locker-room implications in play if they don't find a trade suitor during the offseason.