Eight QBs 49ers could target in free agency to back up Jimmy G


Changes are coming to the 49ers’ quarterback room for the 2021 season.General manager John Lynch acknowledged this week he is not satisfied with Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard as the reserves behind starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.Lynch, speaking on the “Eye Test for Two” podcast, reiterated he expects Garoppolo to be the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2021.But he said the 49ers must account for the possibility Garoppolo could sustain another injury that places the team's hopes on the backup.“We have to insulate ourselves better,” Lynch said. “We got to have better options if he’s not there.”Mullens is scheduled to be a restricted free agent, while Beathard is scheduled for unrestricted free agency.With a dropping salary cap from $198.2 million to somewhere north of $180 million, the 49ers face a balancing act of securing an upgrade at backup quarterback while also leaving plenty of cap space to address other areas of need.Garoppolo currently counts $26.4 million against the cap. The 49ers could easily gain approximately $10 million in cap relief with a restructured deal for Garoppolo that converts a large portion of his scheduled $24.1 million salary to a signing bonus.Not only would that cap savings help create room to re-sign left tackle Trent Williams and others, but a small portion could also be re-invested in strengthening the team’s backup situation behind Garoppolo.Here are some veteran quarterbacks who could be options to fill that role on the 49ers’ depth chart:

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Age: 28
Accrued seasons:  Five
Previous teams: New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts

How about a New England reunion? Brissett and Garoppolo spent time together in 2016 with the Patriots.

Brissett made more than $30 million over the past four seasons with the Colts. That price tag will fall dramatically this offseason. He likely will look for a new home with Carson Wentz coming to the Colts.

He started 30 games during his time in Indy. Brissett threw 31 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. Two areas of concern would be his low completion percentage (59.6) and his low average yards per attempt (6.6).

But, hey, there’s a reason he should not cost all that much as a free agent this offseason.


Age: 31
Accrued seasons: 10
Previous teams: Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers

Taylor should be affordable. The two-year deal he signed with the Chargers in 2019 averaged $5.5 million per season. His price likely will fall this offseason.

Obviously, he has no future with the Chargers as anything other than a backup after the way Justin Herbert blasted onto the scene last year as a rookie.

Taylor was a three-year starter with the Bills from 2015 to ’17. He played well during those seasons. He threw 51 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, while also rushing for 1,575 yards and 14 touchdowns.


Age: 33
Accrued seasons: 10
Previous teams: Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys

Dalton has nine years of starting experience. He started 133 games in nine seasons with the Bengals before moving on to the Cowboys, where he started nine games after Dak Prescott sustained a season-ending ankle fracture.

Dalton made just $3 million on a one-year deal last season. It will cost approximately $2 million to bring back Mullens as a restricted free agent.

There are a lot of similarities in the styles of Dalton and Mullens. Dalton would not give coach Kyle Shanahan the downfield passing ability for which he yearns. But Dalton has won a lot of games in his career, and he would provide a steady hand in a backup role.


Age: 26
Accrued seasons: Four
Previous teams: Chicago Bears

It’s worth keeping an eye on the market for Mitchell Trubisky, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the Bears declined to pick up the fifth-year option for the upcoming season.

Trubisky looks like an NFL starter. And he could certainly step into a few situations as an immediate starter, including a return to the Bears.

Washington and New England also are teams in need of starters with no clear paths to gaining one in the draft.

But if Trubisky does not find starter’s money on the free-agent market, the 49ers could swoop in with an offer.


Age: 38
Accrued seasons: 16
Previous teams: St. Louis Rams, Bengals, Bills, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins

Fitzpatrick is ruthless. Remember how he came into Levi’s Stadium in October and feasted on overmatched 49ers cornerback Brian Allen? Fitzgerald threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns in the Dolphins’ 43-17 crushing of the 49ers that day.

Fitzgerald has built his career on being ready to enter games at a moment’s notice. He is a gunslinger.

The equipment staff would have to order a supply of extra-long chin straps to account for his Darwin-esque beard. Fitzpatrick is still going strong after all these seasons, proving that his adaptability has accounted for his NFL survival.


Age: 36
Accrued seasons: 14
Previous teams: 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington

It is difficult to find a more perfect backup than Smith, due to his work ethic, knowledge and conscientiousness. He is a great teammate, and will do everything in his power to assist the team’s starter while also being ready to spring into action, if called upon.

But Smith and his family have some things to sort out this offseason. Namely, they must decide whether it makes sense for him to continue his NFL career after making a remarkable return last season from a life-threatening leg injury.

The 49ers would be taking a risk, too. Smith went through a lot to get back on the field last season. Would his body be able to hold up to an extended run as a starter?


Age: 27
Accrued seasons: Six
Previous teams: Titans, Raiders

Mariota is under contract with the Raiders. He is scheduled to earn $10.625 million in base salary this season. That sounds like an unreasonably high figure for a backup to Derek Carr, who is on the books for nearly $20 million.

If the Raiders try to trade Mariota, it seems unlikely they could find any takers. If they release him, then the 49ers could get involved to see if there’s a price that works for both sides.


Age: 24
Accrued seasons: Three
Previous teams: Arizona Cardinals, Dolphins, Buccaneers

Rosen has one advantage all the aforementioned quarterbacks do not: A contract with the 49ers.

The 49ers already have Rosen and veteran Josh Johnson under contract for the upcoming season. But, obviously, neither is guaranteed a spot on the regular-season roster.

The 49ers signed Rosen off the Buccaneers’ practice squad last season. He was Tampa Bay’s fourth quarterback behind Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin.

Rosen was the No. 10 overall pick of the Cardinals in 2018. He lasted just one season before new coach Kliff Kingsbury fell for Kyler Murray and selected him No. 1 overall in 2019.

Rosen’s short career consists of 16 starts, a 54.8 completion percentage, 12 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

Obviously, the 49ers do not head into free agency convinced Rosen is their backup. But he will have an opportunity to turn around his career and win the job.

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