The San Francisco 49ers quarterback position is going to be a major talking point around the Bay Area once the 2021 NFL offseason gets going.
San Francisco sits at 5-8 on the campaign following an ugly Week 14 loss to the Washington Football Team. Embattled quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has played in all six games due to multiple ankle sprains. Nick Mullens was an absolute disaster against Washington, cementing his status as nothing more than a backup in the NFL.
All of this comes with the backdrop of these 49ers closing up shop on an injury-plagued and disappointing season that will likely lead to them missing the playoffs altogether.
As with other teams around the NFL, the 49ers quarterback situation is convoluted by their less-than-stellar cap situation. It’s going to make things interesting once the new league year starts in March. It’s in this that I look at the top-five 49ers quarterback options for the 2021 NFL season.
Jimmy Garoppolo remains 49ers quarterback, team drafts successor
This might be the most-realistic option for San Francisco. Despite signing a five-year, $137.5 million extension with the 49ers back in February of 2018, Garoppolo’s contract is not all that bad moving forward. He’s slated to count $26.4 million against the cap in 2021, the 11th-highest figure at that position in the NFL.
Garoppolo as the 49ers quarterback of the short term also makes sense in that he is one year removed from putting up one of the best statistical seasons in franchise history en route to leading them to a shocking Super Bowl appearance.
This scenario would include San Francisco, currently slated to select 12th overall in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, opting to add a quarterback with that pick. While the top-tier signal callers will likely be off the board, someone like Florida Heisman candidate Kyle Trask could be an option to be the 49ers quarterback of the future.
49ers trade for Matt Ryan
It’s not yet 100% known whether the struggling Falcons will have Ryan beyond the 2020 season. Owner Arthur Blank said this decision-making process will be up to their new head coach and general manager after the team cleaned house earlier this season.
What we do know is that Ryan is 35-year-old and might not want to partake in a Falcons rebuild. He also obviously has a built-in relationship with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Remember, Ryan earned the NFL MVP with Shanahan as his offensive coordinator back in 2016.
This fit makes a ton of sense in that Shanahan’s offensive scheme is predicated on intermediate accuracy and getting the ball to playmakers in stride. Throughout his 13-year-career, Ryan has proven capable of doing that (65.3% completion).
Related: Top 25 potential NFL free agents of 2021.
New 49ers quarterback comes via NFL Draft trade up
Another option to solve the 49ers quarterback issues over the long-term would be to bite the bullet and pull off a major trade up. It’s similar to what we saw with Jared Goff (Rams) and Carson Wentz (Eagles) a few years back. Move up for that one quarterback you are looking to build around.
San Francisco would have to sell the house (and then some) to move up with the New York Jets at No. 1 overall for Trevor Lawrence. He remains a pie-in-the-sky option.
Rather, trading up into the top-five of the 2021 NFL Draft for someone like Justin Fields (Ohio State) or Zach Wilson (BYU) could be the answer. Specifically, San Francisco has been linked to Wilson due to his accuracy. Could he be had in a trade-up scenario?
49ers trade Jimmy Garoppolo for Carson Wentz
Yet another option for the 49ers would be to trade for recently-benched Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Sure Wentz has been a complete disaster this season. He is also playing under a four-year, $128 million contract and is set to count $34.67 million against the cap in 2021.
Related: Carson Wentz trade scenarios
Even then, there’s something to be said about taking a chance on the much-maligned quarterback. From 2017-19, the former No. 2 overall pick averaged 3,470 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
A move of this ilk would likely require Philadelphia adding an asset or two in order to make it worth the 49ers’ while to take on Wentz’s bloated contract. Currently slated to select eighth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, moving that pick for the 49ers’ first rounder a bit lower on Day 1 could make sense.
For the Eagles, this would enable them to have Garoppolo as a stopgap until Jalen Hurts is ready. Heck, the team could also potentially move Garoppolo for draft pick compensation.
Next 49ers quarterback is Matthew Stafford
A cheaper alternative to Matt Ryan in terms of both salary and trade compensation, rumors continue to persist that the 49ers will chase after Stafford in a trade this coming offseason. The Detroit Lions are headed for a full-scale rebuild following the firing of general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia. At 32 years old, Stafford likely won’t want to take part in that rebuild.
He should finish up his prime on a contending team. That’s where Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers come into play. It seems to be a natural fit. Despite team-wide struggles this season, Stafford has still tossed 22 touchdowns compared to nine interceptions. He would be an upgrade over Garoppolo.