When the 49ers' 2021 NFL season ended with a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game, not many expected quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to remain on San Francisco's roster in mid-May.
But as the quarterback carousel unwinded in a busy offseason around the league, no team answered the 49ers' calls for a Garoppolo trade.
One of those teams that appeared to be a natural landing spot for the veteran quarterback was the Carolina Panthers, who entered the 2022 NFL Draft with Sam Darnold as their top quarterback on the roster. But the Panthers addressed the position in the draft by selecting Matt Corral out of Ole Miss in the third round, possibly signaling an end to rumors regarding a possible Garoppolo exchange.
Per ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler, however, the Panthers are still interested in acquiring a veteran signal-caller like Garoppolo.
"The door is open slightly for [Corral] to potentially take the [starting quarterback] job because the Panthers are still essentially looking for veteran quarterback help," Fowler said on SportsCenter on Sunday. "They would like somebody else; that's why the Baker Mayfield situation, Jimmy Garoppolo might not be completely dead at this point. And so it certainly seems [Darnold] is the favorite to start."
Darnold, owed $18.9 million in 2022, is entering the last season of his contract. Over his four NFL seasons, he hasn't shown enough to secure a place in Carolina's future with a 76.9 career passer rating and nearly as many career interceptions (52) as touchdown passes (54). Adding a more established veteran like Garoppolo or Mayfield could aid the development of a young player like Corral.
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"They know Matt Corral is a bit of a project, a little like Malik Willis, because of the offense he came from in Ole Miss," Fowler said. "He's going to need some time to learn the nuances of the NFL game, but they love the talent. So, he could at least make this interesting for sure."