On Friday afternoon, the Miami Dolphins agreed to trade the third overall pick in the 2021 draft to San Francisco in exchange for the 49ers’ first-round picks in 2021 (12th overall), 2022 and 2023, plus a third-round selection in 2022.
Though San Francisco has been adamant that the deal does not spell the end for Jimmy Garoppolo’s time as the team’s starting quarterback, it is fairly obvious the Niners would not have given up that amount of draft capital to do anything but select a signal-caller at No. 3 overall. And while it’s always possible San Fran plans to take a quarterback and let him red-shirt for a season behind Jimmy G, it seems more than likely Garoppolo (who has missed 23 games over the last three years) has started his last game for the 49ers and will be traded or released before the season.
Should the Niners move on from Garoppolo in favor of a rookie option like Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones or Trey Lance, they’ll be among an unprecedented number of NFL teams with a different Week 1 starter than they did the previous season.
Due to trade, retirement, injury, poor play or some combination thereof, it appears that nearly a third of the NFL’s 32 teams will have a new starter to open the season. And with the upcoming draft at the end of April almost certain to lead to more deals and player movement, around half of the teams in the league could have a new starter at QB by the time the season starts.
As of now, we know for certain the Lions (Jared Goff), Colts (Carson Wentz), Rams (Matthew Stafford), Jaguars (Trevor Lawrence), Eagles (Jalen Hurts), Washington Football Team (Ryan Fitzpatrick), Bears (Andy Dalton) and Saints (Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill) will all have a new starting quarterback next season. It is also unclear if Joe Burrow will be healthy enough to start the season for the Bengals and whether Deshaun Watson will still be traded — or even allowed to suit up — amid a flurry of civil lawsuits alleging sexual harassment.
And with many more cleats to drop, it is certainly possible that the Broncos (Drew Lock), Patriots (Cam Newton), Jets (Sam Darnold), Panthers (Teddy Bridgewater), Raiders (Derek Carr) and, as mentioned above, the 49ers (Garoppolo) will all have new bodies under center by the time Week 1 rolls around. There’s an ever-so-slight chance that Russell Wilson’s documented dissatisfaction with the Seahawks will lead to a trade — and thus Seattle having a new QB — to start the 2021 season. If every single one of those proposed changes came to fruition (unlikely), you’d be looking at new starters for 17 of the 32 teams in the league.
What’s clear is that no matter how it all shakes out by the time the season kicks off, the NFL’s 102nd campaign is going to feature a raft of new faces (or at least the same faces in new uniforms) at the most important position in all of sports. Even for casual fans, that should make America’s favorite sport a more compelling watch than it already is.