Jimmy Garoppolo, The Raiders, and an Injury Waiver

A few days ago Mike Florio of PFT posted about an injury waiver in Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract with the Raiders that has somehow gotten people to thinking Garoppolo will never play a down with the Raiders and that has led to people going down the rabbit hole with thoughts on Garoppolo’s future and who will be the Raiders QB next season. So here are some thoughts on the issue.

The news on Garoppolo’s contract is nothing new. Garoppolo agreed to terms with the Raiders back in March. Those terms were leaked out and people ran with them as the contract, including us here at OTC. When there was a delay there was some speculation, by Florio in particular, that something was up.  I talked about it then as well saying it was likely a physical issue especially since the Raiders in the past have been ultra cautious with physicals of players that agree to terms with in free agency.

When the actual contract was signed the terms were modified from the original reports. This is not uncommon in the NFL and we had those numbers online since mid March. It was never a revised contract. It was the only contract he signed with the Raiders. I discussed this on the OTC podcast back in March around the 1:10 mark of the podcast. I threw a clip from it up on YouTube yesterday isolating the audio.

The difference is just in the framing of how we discuss the injury protection. I look at it as simply transactional so it doesn’t come across as a big deal. Florio took more of a disaster scenario angle and that leads to all kinds of speculation.

Injury waivers in NFL contracts are not uncommon. We see them all the time though they are not as widely used with star players. For example, back in 2012 the Broncos were willing to sign Peyton Manning despite a neck injury and were willing to guarantee his first year salary but they had some outs on future guarantees, specifically a guarantee in 2014 that would void if he was released due to his neck injury. That would likely be the framework for this contract with Garoppolo.

When Colin Kaepernick signed with the 49ers back in 2014 much was made of the 49ers insistence that Kaepernick purchase an insurance policy with the 49ers names as a beneficiary. Kaepernick was not even injured at the time, but the threat of injury made the 49ers look to mitigate the risk as much as possible by not being on the hook for the premiums of the policy.

A player having an injury waiver is by no means an admission a player is likely not going to play with the team. When the team feels that is the case they simply do not execute the contract. The Raiders did that years ago with Rodger Saffold who they failed for a physical and simply moved on. The Rams wound up re-signing Saffold with no concerns shortly thereafter. Saffold started 16 games that year and has missed a total of 16 games in nine seasons after signing.

The Ravens twice walked away from some big contracts. They agreed to terms with receiver Ryan Grant in 2018 on a $7.4 million a year contract and then would not sign him. Grant signed a week later with the Colts on a one year, $5 million contract. Grant played 14 games. In 2020 they failed DT Michael Brockers on his physical making his $10 million a year contract with $21 million in guarantees vanish. He went back to the Rams at $8 million a year but much less guaranteed. Brockers started 31 games in 2020 and 2021.

These examples just help illustrate how different doctors have different opinions on injuries. One teams failed physical may be a passed physical with another club. That isn’t to say that would have happened with Garoppolo but we don’t know since the Raiders did in fact ultimately execute the contract

The fact that the Raiders actually signed Garoppolo should mean they expect him to play. The injury waiver is a way to protect yourself from unknown scenarios. Imagine if the surgery went bad, the ankle gets infected, etc…you can find yourself in an Alex Smith situation. Smith’s situation with Washington was different in that his injury occurred in a game after his contract was signed but here you have a case where the player has a pre-existing injury which is not yet fully healed. This is about financial protection from the worst case scenario. Really it is no different than a player getting injury protection from the unknown.  You don’t expect the injury to happen but want to be compensated if it does.

The fallout that would happen from the Raiders guaranteeing Garoppolo to a contract with $34 million guaranteed and him never taking a snap with the Raiders due to a bum ankle that he had in San Francisco would be huge. Even with an injury waiver it would be huge. It would be a disaster for the head coach, GM, and anyone in the front office. An injury waiver offer’s them no protection from this at all. The only protection from that would have been not signing him at all and pivoting to another option. The fact that they didn’t do that is more telling than the injury waiver itself.