With Colin Kaepernick opting out of the last year of his contract, the 49ers are left without a quarterback on their roster.
With matching six-year deals, the Niners’ new braintrust of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have time to be patient and get the decision right.
Lynch met with the media last week during the NFL Combine but hasn’t offered much clarity on how he intends to fill the position — which has been his style throughout his short tenure with the 49ers.
This is the time of year for player movement, and armed with the No. 2 pick, anything is on the table. Especially with Lynch saying Friday that he’s “being aggressive in exploring every option, and we’ll continue to do that right down to draft day.”
Here’s who the 49ers could feasibly get, categorized by how they’d have to join:
Through the draft:
The former Clemson quarterback has fallen down draft boards despite dominating the national championship and beating Alabama — a team so good, it led to the unoriginal joking the Crimson Tide could beat the 49ers. His stock has fallen due to throwing 17 interceptions last year. But he’s the kind of talent the Niners could draft now, pair with a veteran in free agency and incubate until he’s ready to take over.
Notre Dame was straight up bad last season, and Kizer took responsibility for it on Friday when each prospect tried to convince the media he’s the best available. Lynch said about his meeting with Kizer on Tuesday, “This whole thing’s not about an interview, but if you were grading him on that alone he blew the doors off it. He’s an impressive young man.” Despite the Fighting Irish’s lack of team success, Kizer has tools and could be a great mid-round-pick investment.
It would be a mistake to draft this North Carolina product with the No. 2 pick, but he’s the top-rated thrower in the draft, according to Pro Football Focus. But as the No. 10 overall prospect, it seems the 49ers are in no-man’s land with him: They’d either need to reach or find a way to trade down, which is always easier said than done.
Patrick Mahomes II
His stats are inflated due to playing for Texas Tech (pass-heavy offense playing against miserable Big XII secondaries), but his talent is undeniable. Rated No. 33 overall, he could prove to be a bargain if he’s available in the second round. Lynch mentioned Mahomes when the GM said the draft is “a very talented draft class at that position. Mahomes is another guy that could ultimately be the 49ers’ franchise quarterback if they bring him up properly and don’t throw him out there behind a subpar offensive line too early.
He was the Cal quarterback for a year and can make every throw. He should be available late. Webb also stole the show at the Senior Bowl. So adding him to give him a chance to compete during training camp could pay dividends in the future. He’s represents the kind of low-risk, potentially high-reward prospect a team like the rebuilding-49ers can take a chance on. But he projects more as a career backup than someone who could be reasonably expected to make a difference in the near term.
Through a trade:
Wouldn’t recommend it simply because he won’t be worth the cost. But the 49ers might think he’s worth it as reports swirl that they could swing a three-way deal with Washington and Cowboys that would send Cousins to Santa Clara, Tony Romo to the capital and picks to Dallas. Cousins has been solid the last two years, but you don’t cash out the worst years in franchise history for a high-turnover, volunteer-shoving quarterback.
Jimmy G is the ultimate enigma of this offseason. How much would it take to get him? Would the Patriots only accept godfather offers for him? Is he even good? No one really knows any of these things. It strikes me that the 49ers wouldn’t surrender their first-round (plus another) pick for him, which is the presumed asking price. They might swing a deal like that for Cousins, someone Shanahan has worked with in the past, but not Garappolo who has so much uncertainty attached to him.
Through free agency
The 49ers could choose to sign a veteran to absorb hits while they bide their time for the right guy to come in or while a rookie gets up to speed on Shanahan’s intricate offense.
This year’s crop of free agents fall into the following molds —
The longtime 49er could be likely had at a discount, and despite his desire to get out of his contract — indicating he wanted out of Santa Clara — he went out of his way to thank Jed York and Paraag Marathe after the last game of the 2016 season. Kaepernick officially opted out of his contract Friday, making him the best free-agent QB available. Could make sense for both sides for him to helm the offense for another season.
Shanahan helped Hoyer have his best year as a pro in 2014 when they were both with the Cleveland Browns. Hoyer’s numbers weren’t good — 12 touchdowns, 13 interceptions — but he’d be familiar with Shanahan’s system and could easily be moved to the bench if/when a younger, more promising option becomes ready.
Assuming he’s released:
The latest report is that the Buffalo Bills are torn on whether to cut the 27-year-old quarterback who passed for more than 3,000 yards and ran for at least 500 more over both of the last two seasons. If they do, Taylor becomes the best QB in free agency. He’d offer the 49ers a quarterback who can win now, but won’t cost a contract that requires a long-term commitment. He’d also be a player the fanbase could get excited about and would benefit from a change of scenery.
Guys to avoid:
Always ends up starting when he’s brought in to be a backup, so don’t even make it a possibility by bringing him on board .
Asking price is going to be too high for the kind of production he’s going to give you.
Can’t imagine a possible upside to signing him, unless he finally shapes into the franchise quarterback — at the ripe age of 34 — some experts thought he could be a decade ago.
Only if they know they’re coming in as backups:
Would be in one of the two above groups, but he has rapport with Shanahan and could be a solid veteran presence.
The rest (ranked according to usefulness): Ryan Nassib, Landry Jones, Josh McCown, Shaun Hill, Thad Lewis, Matt McGloin, Geno Smith, Josh Johnson, TJ Yates, Kellen Moore, Matt Barkley
Instead of adding the following players, the 49ers would be better served with adding a young guy who hasn’t proven he’s incapable of playing in the league:
Contact Jacob C. Palmer at email@example.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.Blaine Gabbertbrian hoyercase keenumColin KaepernickDavis Webbdeshaun watsondeshone kizerJay Cutlerjimmy garoppolojohn lynchkirk cousinskyle shanahanmike glennonmitch tribiskypatrick mahomes iiRyan FitzpatrickSan Francisco 49erstyrod taylor