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Why 49ers Need To Sign Veteran QB This Offseason

  • Justin Melo
  • February 22, 2023
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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy is experiencing swelling in his elbow that has delayed his upcoming surgery until March, according to multiple reports. Purdy will undergo surgery for a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Purdy will attempt to get healthy in time for the start of the 2023 campaign, but a timeline for his return to play is being muddied by a multi-week delay to his surgery date. The 49ers should respond by adding a veteran quarterback this offseason.

The 49ers are expected to hold a fairly open competition between Purdy and Trey Lance to determine who their starting quarterback will be in 2023. The current issue? Lance himself continues to recover from a serious injury of his own after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. Impending free agent Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t expected to return to San Francisco in 2023. General manager John Lynch should be prepared to add insurance via a veteran backup quarterback.

The 49ers will maintain hope that both Purdy and Lance will be healthy enough to compete throughout the summer months. Their presence makes the 49ers extremely unlikely to pursue a top-tier quarterback on the market. Derek Carr or Lamar Jackson won’t be playing in the Bay Area.

Even the likes of Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield will likely be out of San Francisco’s price range. But not having a better backup plan than Josh Johnson doomed the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Lynch will be hesitant to avoid repeating that mistake while searching for a happy median.

Veteran options like Teddy Bridgewater and Jacoby Brissett immediately come to mind. Bridgewater spent the 2022 campaign playing for ex-49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel in Miami. Bridgewater is familiar with Shanahan’s offensive system as a result and found himself in a similar spot in Miami, backing up an injury-prone Tua Tagovailoa.

Brissett spent last season serving as insurance for Deshaun Watson’s suspension. The Browns may possess an interest in re-signing Brissett after he played quality football for them in 2022, but Brissett could have an interest in searching for a better opportunity now that Watson has been reinstated. Spotrac lists Brissett’s market value at approximately $5.4 million per season.

Bridgewater should fall into a similar price bracket after earning $6.5 million in 2022. If one of Bridgewater or Brissett were to be deemed an unnecessary luxury come August, the 49ers could trade them to a QB-needy squad in exchange for a day-three draft selection. Bridgewater and Brissett are high-end backup quarterbacks.

If the 49ers want to go even cheaper, Joe Flacco could represent an intriguing option assuming he possesses an interest in continuing his playing career. Flacco proved to still have an NFL arm in spot duty with the New York Jets last season, having thrown for 1,051 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions in five regular-season appearances (four starts). Flacco performed under the watchful eye of two ex-Shanahan disciples in Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur, so he too is familiar with Shanahan’s approach. A veteran quarterback with declining arm strength like Flacco could take advantage of Shanhan’s rhythm-and-timing-based offense.

Shanahan and Lynch could also turn to a familiar face in Nick Mullens. Mullens was traded from the Raiders to the Vikings last August and is now set to become an unrestricted free agent. Mullens, as Purdy did, captured lightning in a bottle for Shanahan and the 49ers during the 2020 campaign. Injuries thrust Mullens into San Francisco’s starting lineup, where he completed 64.7% of his passing attempts for 2,437 yards and 12 touchdowns. Mullens could be available for close to the veteran minimum this summer. C.J. Beathard is another veteran quarterback with experience alongside Shanahan that’s set to reach free agency. 

The 49ers are in a precarious position. Rostering both Lance and Purdy provides hope for excellent quarterback play in 2023, but their respective injuries indicate the 49ers need to buy some insurance in case of emergency. Shanahan and Lynch must approach free agency with that in mind.

Written By

Justin Melo