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Seattle Seahawks

Commentary: If the Seahawks really want to ‘always compete,’ they should pursue Jimmy Garoppolo

San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo waves to the crowd after beating the Green Bay Packers 13-10 on Jan. 22 in their NFC divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Tribune News Service)
By Larry Stone Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The Seahawks stunned the football world on March 8 by trading Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. Also on March 8, roughly 2 minutes later (OK, maybe 1 minute later), a new parlor game kicked off: Who will be the Seahawks quarterback in 2022?

We still don’t know for sure. The Seahawks have made it clear all along that they had a much loftier evaluation of Drew Lock, the Broncos quarterback whom they acquired in the deal, than most of the rest of the industry. Their unwavering company line has been that they would be perfectly content to go into camp later this month with a competition between Lock and Geno Smith – and may the best man win.

Such a stance was buttressed when the likes of Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield, quarterbacks linked to the Seahawks to varying degree, landed elsewhere.

But now a new and highly intriguing name has emerged as a potential candidate for the Seahawks to pursue: Jimmy Garoppolo. While I do believe the Seahawks are sincere in their belief that Lock has much untapped potential and Smith is fully capable of running the team, I also feel it’s pretty clear Jimmy G is the man they should go after.

Pete Carroll, after all, is adamant that the departure of Wilson hasn’t turned this into a rebuilding or “step-back” season. What better way to ensure that than by landing a proven quarterback who has shown that he can lead a team to the highest levels? That’s something neither Lock nor Smith have done. For a team whose motto is “Always Compete,” this would be the logical pursuit.

It would be a complicated transaction, which means there’s no guarantee that it can be pulled off. For starters, no way the 49ers would trade Garoppolo to a division rival and risk having him burn them twice a year (and possibly steal a playoff spot from them). But the good news is that there’s a strong belief the 49ers will eventually release Garoppolo, perhaps by the end of the month. And at that point, he will be free to negotiate with teams.

Could the 49ers circumvent that possibility by working out a trade with a team that’s not the Seahawks? They apparently are perfectly willing to let Garoppolo’s camp discuss a reworked contract with prospective trade partners. Jimmy G is due $25 million in 2022, but once he passes his physical (he underwent off-season shoulder surgery but is said to be recovering well), the deal ceases to be guaranteed. So it would behoove Garoppolo to work out the best deal he can before the 49ers, who are fully committed to Trey Lance as their No. 1 quarterback, merely cut him.

Yet there is no obvious team for Garoppolo to go to. He has been linked in rumors to Houston, Detroit, even Tampa Bay (a reunion with Tom Brady that doesn’t really make any sense and has been denied by all parties), among others. But none seems to be a strong possibility.

The team that does make sense is Seattle. And earlier this week, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Seahawks have had internal discussions about “the possibility of Garoppolo playing for them” and have “done their film work to see how he would fit.”

Now, that’s hardly cause to go reserve a Seahawks jersey with Garoppolo’s name, but it does indicate he’s on their radar. And why not? Since he arrived in San Francisco in 2017 (following three years – and two rings – as Brady’s backup in New England), Garoppolo has been a steady winner. Taking over as starter in 2019, he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl with a 13-3 regular-season record and turned in a solid performance in a 31-20 loss to the powerhouse Chiefs.

Last year, he executed a playoff win against top-seeded Green Bay at Lambeau Field – a feat that has eluded Wilson – before a narrow loss to the Rams in the NFC title game. As a starter, Garoppolo has a .702 career winning percentage in the regular season, which is better than Wilson’s .662, albeit in over 100 fewer games.

Here are more reasons the Seahawks should “be all over” Garoppolo if the 49ers cut him, in the words of ESPN’s Louis Riddick.

His decision-making, a weakness earlier in his career, has become increasingly better (though still with some maddening lapses). Garoppolo is well-versed in the offensive strategy of Shane Waldron, which is similar to that of the 49ers. He has an exceptionally quick release and is maybe the best in the league at play fakes, both of which would suit Carroll.

True, Garoppolo doesn’t throw the best deep ball in the NFL, but the Seahawks aren’t going to get a quarterback devoid of weaknesses. What they would be getting in Jimmy G is the most accomplished quarterback on the market, and the one who gives them the best chance of winning in 2022.

That’s still the goal, right?