The 49ers took a home run swing before Tuesday's trading deadline, acquiring promising quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots for a second-round pick.
The move made sense on a couple of fronts for San Francisco. They have so much cap room that signing Garoppolo to a contract extension will only put a dent in it, and, as Paul Calvisi adroitly pointed out in our podcast this week, they can now trade their first-round pick in 2018 to a quarterback-needy team and get a bounty back to recoup their loss.
The bold move by the 49ers and the Cardinals' lack of aggressiveness at the deadline exasperated fans, but that type of trade wouldn't have made as much sense for the Cardinals.
Even if several high-priced veterans come off the books next offseason, the Cardinals aren't going to have nearly as much cap space as the 49ers.They will still have high-priced stars like cornerback Patrick Peterson and outside linebacker Chandler Jones under contract, with running back David Johnson, left tackle D.J. Humphries and outside linebacker Markus Golden eligible for extensions.
A guy like Garoppolo is going to cost a pretty penny despite only two career starts to his name. If the Cardinals had traded for him and he became a Pro Bowler, then of course it would have been worth it. But if he became average or worse – Mike Glennon and Brock Osweiler both got paid handsomely before flaming out – it would have put the team in a bind.
"If you trade for a player who is a veteran and has not done it on a consistent basis yet, you're still having to pay them 'X' amount of money, which is scary," General Manager Steve Keim said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Tuesday. "Whether you can put something in place contractually, which isn't long-term guaranteed, you're still talking about guys nowadays getting anywhere from 18-to-20 million dollars stamped based on a résumé, which isn't very long."
Fan anxiety is completely understandable right now, as the Cardinals still have not identified their quarterback of the future. But the best-case scenario continues to be hitting on one in the draft, because a rookie deal is peanuts compared to what Garoppolo will make.
"I would much rather draft and develop if you had your way," Keim said. "Especially a young one that you believed in because you can grow with him. It not only helps you as a team (but) from a salary cap structure. You're paying a guy minimal money and you can build a team around him."