SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 5: Green Bay Packers starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) tackles San Francisco 49ers’ Javon Kinlaw (99) in the second quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. ( Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
SANTA CLARA — Yes, the 49ers are really just going to let others steal the NFL’s quarterback bazaar.
They’re positioned to barely make a bargain, even after running out of healthy quarterbacks last season when their Lombardi Trophy drought reached 28 years.
Their hopes rest on the comebacks of Trey Lance (broken foot last season) and Brock Purdy (elbow surgery this Friday), a tandem that accounts for just $10.2 million of the 49ers’ $237.5 million cap hit next season.
No doubt they will bring in other quarterbacks via free agency and the draft.
Just don’t expect an A-lister.
These guys are either taken, too expensive, or not interested in a relationship at the moment. For example:
Aaron Rodgers: The New York Jets violated California airspace on Tuesday to court Aaron Rodgers. Two years ago, the 49ers made a move for the Chico native (and their 2005 NFL Draft rejection), but the Packers weren’t as interested in sending him to an NFC rival. The 49ers don’t have the assets to swoon over the Packers in a trade, or the $60 million needed this year for a quarterback they’re 4-0 against in the playoffs.
Tom Brady: Can he be coaxed out of retirement for a second straight year? “Anyone who thinks I have time to get back to the NFL has never adopted a 2-month-old kitten for their daughter,” Brady tweeted Tuesday. It came after NFL Network’s Rich Eisen relayed a rumor that Brady might not be done at age 45 and at ring No. 7. If Purdy’s surgery turns into a full reconstruction and a year of recovery, and if Lance’s foot has a setback, perhaps it could tempt Brady (with a salary figure in the millions to match his age).
Lamar Jackson: The Ravens awarded the non-exclusive franchise tag to the NFL’s 2019 MVP, meaning it would take two first-round picks to wrestle him away with a ridiculous offer Baltimore isn’t willing to see. (Odds are the Ravens will match any offer.) Because the 49ers lack a first-round pick next month, they’ll have to wait until after the draft to make their pitch with the 2024 and 2025 picks in hand. Jackson, meanwhile, could wait to sign on the tag or a higher rate as the market rises even further with summer extensions for Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert.
Derek Carr: He landed $100 million guaranteed after the Raiders took away his spot at the Vegas poker table. Carr grabbed the New Orleans Saints’ money Monday to instantly become the NFC South’s best quarterback, minus a playoff win, mind you. The Fresno State product kick-started the NFL’s QB spending spree.
Geno Smith: The 49ers certainly weren’t going to pay him $35 million a year, not after beating him three times last season. Still, Seattle was happy to keep Smith after he surrendered a playoff spot after replacing franchise icon Russell Wilson.
Daniel Jones: A 3,200-yard passer and 708-yard rusher? Sounds like the double production the 49ers were looking for from Lance. But they are happy to let the New York Giants pay $40 million annually for Jones – after four years of 60 touchdown passes, 34 interceptions and 42 fumbles.
Philip Rivers: Wait, who? Eisen also mentioned on his podcast that he heard last week that Rivers volunteered to the 49ers and Miami Dolphins for their playoff run that lacked healthier (and younger) options. Rivers, 41, disputed that, telling AL.com: “I didn’t contact anybody and I’m not going anywhere. I think maybe some teams, with some guys going down, maybe just looking for a contingency plan, but nothing came of it. … I think it’s done.”
Jimmy Garoppolo: He’ll be the No. 1 quarterback available in free agency, assuming Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch stick to their stance that Jimmy G feels lost, baby. Shoulder surgery last March kept Garoppolo around, to everyone’s benefit, but he took a pay cut with a no-tag clause allowing his freedom. Thus, a 4-foot break ended one of the most successful periods of a 49ers quarterback.
Next best options: Matt Ryan (Colts, if released), Marcus Mariota (Falcons), Baker Mayfield (Rams), Andy Dalton (Saints), Carson Wentz (Commanders), Sam Darnold (Panthers), Jacoby Brissett (Browns), Taylor Heinicke (Commanders) , Teddy Bridgewater (Dolphins), Nick Mullens (Vikings), Nate Sudfeld (Lions), Mike White (Jets), Joe Flacco (Jets), Drew Lock (Seahawks), Case Keenum (Bills), Jameis Winston (Saints, if released ) ).
“It just happens to be two young guys that we really like,” Lynch said Feb. 1 about moving forward with Purdy and Lance.
“We’re happy enough,” Shanahan added at the season-ending press conference.
Content is not the same as “ecstatic,” nor, for that matter, “desperate.”
Desperation got them Garoppolo in an October 30, 2017 trade with New England. And that got them Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft, on a layaway plan that includes their first-round pick in next month’s draft.
As desperate as they may seem again, a lot of money is tied up in a supporting cast of superstars, and a lot of draft money was spent on deals for Lance and Christian McCaffrey.
Kirk Cousins doesn’t walk through that door. Right?