Though it's a year later than most expected, Jimmy Garoppolo's bags are all but packed for a San Francisco departure.
Following six seasons with the 49ers that featured success, injuries and ups and downs aplenty, Garoppolo should find a wealth of suitors when free agency hits on March 15.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that the Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans and Las Vegas Raiders are teams likely to be interested in Garoppolo.
Despite both of the Niners' young quarterbacks, Trey Lance and Brock Purdy, working their way back from injury, head coach Kyle Shanahan emphatically stated in February that he could not "see any scenario" in which Garoppolo returned to the roster.
Thus, Jimmy G is bound for free agency one offseason after he was expected to be traded. Garoppolo wasn't dealt, of course, as a shoulder injury threw a monkey wrench into the Niners' best-laid plans last summer. As it turned out, Garoppolo's presence on the roster proved to be pivotal after Lance's season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. Unfortunately, the veteran also saw his 2022 campaign cut short due to injury, There was hope Garoppolo might have been available for San Francisco had the team advanced to Super Bowl LVII, so he should be good to go for whomever comes calling in free agency.
The Texans (No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft), Raiders (No. 7) and Panthers (No. 9) are all positioned to potentially select a quarterback early in Round 1 -- and sign a veteran bridge QB.
The 31-year-old Garoppolo, whose affability and presence has long been lauded by teammates and coaches, could fill that role to aplomb. Last season, Garoppolo was 7-3 as a starter, throwing for 2,437 yards and 16 touchdowns against four interceptions in 11 games.
Garoppolo has history with Raiders coach Josh McDaniels, who was the Patriots' offensive coordinator for each of Jimmy G's three seasons in New England (2014-16).
Garoppolo also has ties to the Texans, with former 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans now the head coach in Houston and Bobby Slowik, a Niners assistant since 2017, the team's offensive coordinator.
Slowik didn't hide his interest in Garoppolo when speaking to reporters on Wednesday.
"We have a process we go through," Slowik said, when asked if he had interest in Garoppolo. "Jimmy is obviously part of that process. He's going to be a free agent. We grind through that as a coaching staff. We grind through that in the personnel department. We have conversations. I've had conversations with (general manager) Nick (Caserio). He has conversations with DeMeco (Ryans). Then, Nick and DeMeco put their heads together and lay out a plan of what we want to do going forward and we'll see where that takes us."
With Frank Reich taking over in Carolina, where Matt Corral is the only QB currently under contract, the Panthers will likely be in the market for multiple passers this offseason. If Carolina uses a first-rounder on a QB for the first time since selecting Cam Newton in 2011, Garoppolo would conceivably be a solid choice as a stop-gap.
Garoppolo, the highest-ranked passer (No. 22 overall) on Gregg Rosenthal's Top 101 Free Agents list, will be one of the biggest QB dominoes to fall this offseason. The Panthers, Raiders and Texans figure to have a say in where he lands.