The preseason depth chart means nothing. The regular-season depth chart means everything. Or at least as close to everything as it can ever mean.
The 49ers released their Week One depth charter, and they have listed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter on the initial depth chart of the regular season. Rookie Trey Lance, who will have a package of plays, is the backup.
Given that Garoppolo, not Lance, will do the midweek press conerence, it was already assumed that Garoppolo will be the starter. But it’s still a little jarring to see Garoppolo not only on the team but also on the top of the depth chart, given that the team invested three first-round picks and a third-round pick to get Lance.
There’s another wrinkle to watch as Week One approaches. If, as it appears, coach Kyle Shanahan will keep the door open indefinitely for Lance to take over as the starter, the 49ers could still approach Garoppolo with an offer he can’t refuse.
With a $24.1 million salary that becomes guaranteed if he’s on the Week One active roster, the 49ers could still say to Garoppolo something like, “We’ve paid you a ton of money the past few years. We can’t justify guaranteeing you $24.1 million. How about $15 million, and you can make the rest in incentives? And if you don’t like that, well, good luck finding it somewhere else a few days before the start of the season.”
Why wouldn’t they? Football is business, and it would be good business to squeeze some cash and cap space that could be used elsewhere now or later from a guy who, if things work the way they’re supposed to work, will be on the bench before too long. If they proceed with a starter who inevitably will be the backup at a firm $24.1 million salary, that definitely won’t reflect a good and prudent business decision by the 49ers.