Jimmy Garoppolo has started seven games as an NFL quarterback, but when he signs his new contract with the 49ers, he’ll be the highest-paid player in league history.

According to multiple reports, the 49ers and Garoppolo have agreed to a five-year contract worth $137.5 million – that comes out to $27.5 million per season, the highest per-year salary for a player in the history of the league.

All that money, for a guy who has less than half a season under his belt as a starting quarterback?

Yep. And – get this – this new contract is already a bargain.

It doesn’t have to wait a few years for the circumstance where Garoppolo has the Niners in the playoffs annually and he’s a constant candidate for MVP – it’s already there.

He won’t even have to start another game for the 49ers to start recouping value.


Garoppolo might not have a great depth of experience, but the open market has declared that he is worth every penny of the contract the 49ers just handed him.

And if he continues to play the way he did for the 49ers at the end of last season, $27.5 million a year will look like a pittance.

Remember, Garoppolo is undefeated as a starting quarterback – he took a 1-10 team and turned them into an 6-10 team. There wasn’t massive roster turnover. There wasn’t a scheme change. The only difference between the 49ers being arguably the worst team in the NFC and being a hot pick to make the playoffs next season was the introduction of Garoppolo as the team’s starting quarterback.

How much is that worth?

To the 49ers – a franchise that was drowning in a pool filled with its own incompetent decisions over the last four years before Garoppolo showed up – it’s worth a lot more than $27.5 million a year.

He’s already a bargain.


But wait, there’s more:

Garoppolo might be the highest-paid player in the NFL today, but that reign won’t last long. Kirk Cousins is likely to become a free agent this winter. When was the last time a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback hit the open market? I can’t remember, but it’s going to get him paid – he could command $30 million per season.

But let’s pretend he gets less than that – let’s say Cousins lands the Garoppolo deal from the Jets or Broncos or Browns. Fair deal, right?

Well, in that case: would you rather have Cousins or Garoppolo?

I wouldn’t even debate it. You take Garoppolo. He’s as good now and has a ton of room to grow. We’ve seen the best Cousins has to offer – it’s not special.

And if Cousins doesn’t take the crown as the highest-paid player in the NFL then it will be Matt Ryan, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. All are due new contracts this offseason.


Garoppolo – at the worst (from the 49ers’ perspective) – agreed to a fair-market deal. And it should be noted that the 49ers have more room under the salary cap than they could possibly use in a single season – an estimated $115 million.

Before the deal was announced, I broke down the quarterback market and projected that Garoppolo would sign a five-year deal worth $130 million with $80 million in guarantees.

That was calculated after factoring in what Brees, Cousins, Ryan, and Rodgers would sign for this offseason, what Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford signed for last offseason, and the cost of buying Garoppolo out of his franchise tag years – as to avoid a situation like the one that happened in Washington with Cousins. If Garoppolo would have been tagged for two years, he would have been guaranteed at least $50 million in salary. Three years of the tag – roughly $90 million, all guaranteed.

And then he would be 29 years old and be looking for a five-year contract (like the one he just signed) with big guaranteed money on top of that.

Not a great situation.

If the 49ers had to overpay to avoid going into franchise tag limbo, it was money well spent, but there’s no indication that they did that.


Garoppolo received $7.5 million more than my overall contract projection, but $6 million less in guaranteed money. If the 49ers overpaid Garoppolo, it was by $1.5 million – one percent of the available money they have this offseason.

Still not feeling great about this deal, 49ers fans?

I get it – it’s a lot of money for a guy you’re not all that familiar with.

So let’s compare Garoppolo’s new deal to a quarterback you are familiar with – one that signed a new contract two weeks ago: Alex Smith.

The 33-year-old Smith, a former 49ers who led the Chiefs to the playoffs three straight years and four out the last five but was replaced by a rookie this offseason, was traded to Washington last month and was promptly signed to a new four-year, $94 million contract, with $71 million guaranteed.

I like Smith – I think he’s a good quarterback whose only sin was not being transcendent. The deal that he signed was fair-market value for a quarterback of his caliber.

Garoppolo is 26 years old, he’s shown that he has the ability to be a transcendent quarterback and he’s set to make $4 million more per season than Smith. I see no problem with this. And the reported guarantees in his contract amount to $3 million – total – more than Smith’s new deal.

You can upgrade from Alex Smith to Jimmy Garoppolo for $3 million?

Yep, that’s a bargain.

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