The Browns would be foolish to overpay a quarterback rehabbing from shoulder surgery to fill in while Deshaun Watson is suspended
The Cleveland Browns had enough problems with a quarterback with an injured shoulder on his non-throwing arm last season, but now the sports community seems to advocate that they invest $24 million (minus however much the 49ers are willing to eat in order to make him more tradeable) and some draft picks to obtain Jimmy Garoppolo from the San Francisco 49ers.
Garoppolo had serious shoulder surgery in March of this year and would need to fill in for Deshaun Watson beginning on Sept 11, with Watson presumably waiting in the wings to take over once his suspension is lifted.
There’s no complaint with Garoppolo the player, when healthy, other than the strong suspicion that he is overpaid, like most supposed “franchise quarterbacks.” He has been 31-14-0 for the 49ers as a starter and came within one pass of a Super Bowl victory. The main concern about him has been health, with 24 games missed in five seasons, plus a torn shoulder capsule that required surgery this offseason.
San Francisco’s front office as well as a substantial portion of the sporting press and fan base believes there’s a glass ceiling that he cannot surmount, and for that reason, Trey Lance, the supposed next-generation superstar “franchise quarterback,” was drafted after trading a pile of draft picks to the Miami Dolphins to move up.
According to overthecap.com, Garoppolo’s cap hit is $26.95 million, but roughly $2.7 million of that is in the form of bonus money that is charged to the 49ers if he’s traded. The new team would be on the hook for $24.2 million minus any amount the 49ers are willing to eat in order to move him.
Since Lance has apparently been born with the powers of invulnerability and pinpoint accuracy, the 49ers no longer have a need for Garoppolo. Nevertheless, they expect to be rewarded by a foolish team like the Browns that might swoop in and try to negotiate a deal.
So, is Garropolo worth it for the Browns?
Let’s first talk about major surgery to the throwing shoulder of a quarterback. There isn’t a huge amount of data on quarterbacks with this type of injury, but it’s in the same general area as the labrum or rotator cuff. Garoppolo tried to avoid it at first but finally concluded he would not be able to play effectively without it and went under the knife to repair a torn shoulder capsule in early March 2022.
That gives him only six months to recover before the start of the season. Not everyone comes back from that type of injury, though many do. Cam Newton, Mark Sanchez, Chad Pennington, and others were not as effective after having shoulder surgery. But the Browns have never shied away from taking a risk on a quarterback. They only look at the upside, and Garoppolo might be ready by September 11.
R.J. White of CBSSportsline.com had a very interesting article in 2020 which attempted to determine the value of starting quarterbacks relative to their backups. So, for example, if superstar Aaron Rodgers were to get injured, what would the betting line do if (then) rookie Jordan Love were to replace Rodgers?
The answer was an estimated 10-point swing in the point spread because Rodgers is really good and rookie quarterbacks like Love are usually awful. This was only two years ago, but it is very interesting to see what truths we still believe in, and what has become pathological.
Watson was worth nine points more than backup A.J. McCarron. Okay, we still think Watson is a superstar. McCarron was not and still isn’t proven. So that sounds reasonably accurate.
What about if Baker Mayfield (healthy, but coming off a 6-10 campaign under Freddie Kitchens), were to be replaced by Case Keenum? That was worth 3.0 points, says White. Keenum was thought to be not a bad backup, and Mayfield was coming off a weak year.
Now get a load of this: Jacoby Brissett was only 1.0 points below Rivers on a very good Colts team. Yes, Rivers was not in his prime, but was always well regarded and led the Colts to an 11-5 record, and Brissett was rated at only 1.0 points below him. This is the guy that many Browns fans just cannot wait to get rid of.
Even more surprising, remember Nick Mullens (the Browns practice squad quarterback who started one game in 2021)? He was Garoppolo’s backup in San Francisco. Garoppolo was worth only 2.0 points, coming off a 13-3 season and one throw away from a Super Bowl ring.
Are we really going to spend $24 million for a recovering player who two years ago was thought to be 2.0 points per game more than the third-string quarterback that the Browns jettisoned at the end of last season? These numbers aren’t quite adding up for those who are trying to build an argument that it’s time to give up on Brissett, and that Garoppolo is a sure thing.
But Garropolo went to a Super Bowl and almost won one.
Moreover, how happy is Garoppolo going to be to play for the Browns? He’s going to run an offense designed for someone else, and when Watson comes back, the Browns never want to see Garoppolo take the field again. We could take the attitude that Jimmy should just shut up and take his paycheck and throw till his arm falls off.
However, the Dawg Pound should be warned not to be shocked if Garoppolo isn’t excited by his new gig. Don’t be surprised if he starts the season on IR, either. What would make more sense is for the 49ers to wait till closer to the NFL trade deadline.
That would give him some additional time to heal and build back some arm strength. Some NFL team will need a quarterback and might be willing, possibly, to negotiate some sort of multiyear deal for Garoppolo that everyone will be happy with.
Really, it’s impossible to know now whether he will be good to go in September or October. This is a ridiculous high-stakes gamble for a quarterback who is still recovering from surgery. Since he’s only now starting to throw, he’s almost guaranteed to have the weakest arm in the NFL in September, with uncertain accuracy.
He will have acquired only moderate familiarity with the Browns personnel and their offensive playbook. Cleveland wouldn’t be investing in his past, which is impressive enough, but in his immediate future, which would be just a few games until the return of Watson. It’s anybody’s guess whether he will even be able to throw. Why does that justify an investment of $24 million dollars?
But you have to admit, it sounds so Browns that we cannot rule it out.