Which QB Could Kyle Shanahan Go After in 2021?
By: Brennan Sokowski
Given the 49ers’ current quarterback situation, it’s an obvious thought that they could be in the market for an upgrade at the position. Jimmy Garappolo’s current contract situation gives the 9ers some much needed flexibility at the position, as he’s due just $4.6M in guaranteed money on his current contract if he’s cut today. From earlier reports, the 9ers are not currently happy with their current situation, as they’ve been active in trying to acquire a quarterback this offseason via trade, while being in on Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Derek Carr and others.
Jimmy Garappolo stands to make $26.4M in 2021, which is the highest cap figure the 49ers currently have on the roster. Given the amount of rookie contracts, and the just $2.8M owed to Garappolo if cut, they have the funds, and the roster, to be true contenders in the NFC West this season. Here are three options the 9ers could look for if Jimmy G is cut this offseason.
The Cowboys’ signal caller is due to enter Free Agency for the first time in his career, after being franchise tagged for the 2020 season. Reports coming out of Dallas have made it seem like the team and Prescott are far and away from a long term extension for the 2021 season.
Adam Schefter reporting that the Cowboys and Dak are not close on an extension means where there is smoke, there is fire. Even after coming off a fractured ankle, Dak represents the cream of the crop of the free agency class. After three straight seasons of passing for 3,300+ yards, Dak exploded in 2019 with 4,902 yards in a season that saw him complete 65% of his passes while throwing for 30 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.
Dak’s 2020 season was derailed by the aforementioned ankle fracture however, after playing just 5 games Dak passed for 1,856 yards with nine touchdowns to just four interceptions, which is a pace that would’ve set career highs in each mark, while improving his completion percentage by nearly three whole percentage points. Given Dak’s recent success, he will command a contract of $30M+ annually but, given the 49ers’ recent success without an average quarterback, they should be willing to commit this money to a proven commodity in Prescott.
Given the 49er’s draft position (12th overall), they may be willing to sit and wait to see if a college quarterback falls to their spot in the draft. However, there are few quarterbacks, not named Trevor Lawrence, in the draft that could rival the skill that Deshaun Watson possesses. Not just the skill, Deshaun Watson seems to be interested in the thought of playing for Kyle Shanahan.
Watson is coming off the most productive year of his young career, a year in which he set career highs in completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns, and a career low in interceptions. The Texans are asking for a kings’ ransom in return for their franchise quarterback, rightfully so as he enters the first year of his contract extension, however the team is losing leverage daily. Watson has already threatened to avoid team activities for the 2021 offseason, which is being supported by teammates and opponents around the league, and even sit out the 2020 season.
Watson would fit the exact mold that Shanahan looks for in a quarterback with his mobility and arm strength, while still maintaining accuracy outside of the pocket. Watson was second in the league in completion percentage and touchdowns thrown from outside of the pocket to only Patrick Mahomes. Watson should be the ultimate prize for the 49ers this offseason at any cost.
Lastly, a draft option for the 9ers to consider at 12. Trey Lance is a very raw prospect out of North Dakota State, the alma mater of Carson Wentz, who helped lead the Bison to an undefeated National Championship in the D-1AA division. Lance was the eventual successor to Easton Stick, currently of the Los Angeles Chargers, who won two national titles for the Bison as well.
Lance will come into the NFL as a very raw prospect with all the intangibles to succeed however, much like Carson Wentz, he must refine his skills to have success in the NFL. Lance offers the dual threat ability that Shanahan’s system thrives on, while having immaculate arm talent that would allow for deep plays down the field to the 9ers’ explosive receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. Additionally, pairing the dual threat ability of Lance with running backs Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. means an additional element for defenses to have to game plan against.
Lance does come with uncertainty given his raw ability, small sample of experience and low level of competition in college. However, in Lance’s one lone full season as the starting quarterback for Bison, he set an NDSU for passer rating at 180.6. Lance added to that with a 67% completion percentage and 28 touchdowns with ZERO interceptions in 287 pass attempts. Lance does come as more of a question mark than those mentioned earlier in the article, he may have untapped upside that the other two do not.
There it is, three premier options in each facet of the offseason for the 49ers. Any of these quarterbacks would make an instant impact on the 49ers’ chances of reclaiming their former Super Bowl aspirations under General Manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan. All three of these quarterbacks represent an upgrade over Jimmy Garappolo and all three would significantly increase their opportunity to WIN a Super Bowl rather than being there.
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