As we all know, the starting QB spot for the San Francisco 49ers is up for grabs. So in my first FanPost (please be gentle) I'll be looking at a lot of options at QB the 49ers should be looking at during the off-season.
First we'll look at the only QB on the roster.
David Carr - Age: 31. 10th season.
Carr was signed as a free agent on March 7, 2010 to a 2-year, $6.25 million deal. He only appeared in one game for the 49ers, in relief against the Panthers for an injured Alex Smith, and performed like he usually does. Throwing INTs and taking sacks. His performance was so underwhelming that Head Coach Mike Singletary started untested Troy Smith over him for the London game against the Broncos. He would not see the field again for the rest of the season.
Right now Carr's only saving grace is that he's the only QB on the roster. But I'd suspect he'll get no consideration to start over any other QB the team picks up. I fully expect that Carr will either be cut, traded, or start out the season as the 3rd string QB.
Marc Bulger - Age: 34. 11th season. Unrestricted Free Agent.
Bulger was signed to a 1-year deal during the 2010 off season by the Baltimore Ravens to backup/mentor Joe Flacco. He didn't attempt a single pass during the 2010 season.
Bulger's last good year, his greatest, came in 2006 with the Rams. He threw 4,301 yards, 24 TDs to 8 INTs, with a 62.9% completion rate making the Pro Bowl for a 2nd time. His last three years in St. Louis, 2007-2009, were pretty forgettable throwing a combined 27 TDs to 36 INTs. Which eventually lead to the Rams releasing him.
Bulger is an attractive target for teams looking for a cost-effective QB who has the potential to bounce back to his former Pro-Bowl self. This would be an absolute low cost - high reward signing.
Matt Hasselbeck - Age: 35. 13th season. Unrestricted Free Agent.
He became a full-time starter in 2003 making the Pro-Bowl three times (2003, 2005, 2007) and leading the Seahawks to the playoffs six times (2003-2007, 2010). His best season came in 2007 with 3,966 yards, 28 TDs to 12 INTs, with a 62.6% completion rating making the Pro-Bowl. He's had four season of 20 or more TDs, seven seasons of 3,000 or more yards, and five seasons of 60% or better completion rating. He had an injured plagued 2008 starting only 7 games, which he wasn't very good in. And in 2009 and 2010 he battled injuries constantly and has a combined 29 TDs to 34 INTs in 28 starts. He and the Seahawks have both expressed interest in making a new deal.
Hasselbeck wouldn't be my first choice as a starter, but he'd be capable enough. Hopefully he could keep the injury bug away, but I wouldn't hold my breath. My greatest fear with signing him would be to see the following headline shortly before training camp was to end:
"Hasselbeck sustains compound fracture in leg after rookie nudges him in lunch line."
Bruce Gradkowski - Age: 28. 6th season. Restricted Free Agent.
Gradkowski is an interesting player. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 6th round of the 2006 Draft and made 11 starts in his rookie year throwing 1,661 yards, 9 TDs to 9 INTs, with a 54% completion rating. He made no starts with the Bucs in 2007 appearing only in 4 games in limited action. He was picked up on waivers by the Rams (released shortly later), then by the Browns making one start in the Browns season finale against the Steelers. He was waived by the Browns. Later being claimed by the Raiders. He would make 6 starts, appearing in 10 games for the Raiders in 2009 and 2010 throwing a combined 1,702 yards, 10 TDs to 7 INTs, with a 54.7% completion rating. He would lead the Raiders in two very impressive comeback victories against the good defenses of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in 2009.
Although he is a Restricted Free Agent, Gradkowski is an interesting target nonetheless. He's played in a limited sample size, but he has shown flashes of being a good QB. He's shown to be a good leader and locker room presence when the Raiders rallied around him when he took over for JaMarcus Russell. There hasn't been a lot of talk of him returning to the Raiders, so he could become available.
Alex Smith - Age: 26. 7th season. Unrestricted Free Agent.
I think we all know this story.
I wouldn't be opposed to bring Alex back, but strictly under the understanding that he won't be guaranteed anything. But I don't expect him to come back. Too many bad memories for both sides. He'll go to a team that needs a veteran QB to start for a few games and mentor a rookie (Panthers, Bengals, Bills, Cards, etc.) or go be a primary backup for a good team (Colts, Ravens, Chargers, etc.).
Kevin Kolb - Age: 26. 5th season. Projected value: late 1st - early 2nd and mid-round pick.
Kolb was a 2nd round pick of the Eagles in the 2007 Draft. He filled in for an injured Donovan McNabb for 2 starts in 2009 in a loss against the New Orleans Saints (28th ranked pass defense, 25th total defense) and a win against the Kansas City Chiefs (22nd ranked pass defense, 30th total defense). He put up impressive numbers in the two starts, 718 yards passing, 4 TDs and 3 INTs, with a 60.8% completion against the Saints and 70.6% against the Chiefs. But as I already wrote, the teams didn't field good defenses. McNabb was traded to Washington after the organization determined Kolb was the future.
In 2010, the season started out with Kolb going 5/10 with 24 yards before getting concussed by the Packers before halftime in Week 1. In Week 4 against the Redskins Michael Vick was injured late in the 1st quarter with Kolb playing in relief. He played OK (22/35, 201 yds, 1TD, 1INT), but not well enough to beat the Redskins. He played well in the next two starts against the 49ers (21/31, 253 yds, 1TD) and Falcons (23/29, 326 yds, 3TDs, 1INT). But had another shaky start in a loss to the Titans (26/48, 231 yds, 1TD, 2INT). Kolb wouldn't play again until Week 17 against the Cowboys (18/36, 162 yds, 1TD, 3INT) when the Eagles started their reserves after they clinched a playoff spot by winning the NFC East in Week 16. In 5 starts during 2010, Kolb had 1,197 yards, 7 TDs and 7 INTs, with a 60.8% completion rating.
In Kolb's career, he's had two great starts (Chiefs, Falcons), one good start (49ers), two "meh" start (Saints, Redskins), and two bad starts (Titans, Cowboys). Right now it seems the Eagles think they can get an early 1st round pick for Kolb, but I don't think they'll get that. If I were the 49ers FO I would seriously consider offering a 2nd and 4th round picks for Kolb.
If we traded for Kolb, we'd have to consider trading Ninjames to avoid any "controversy" he might instigate. Maybe Bleeding Green Nation would like him. :P
Carson Palmer - Age: 31. 9th season. Projected value: 2nd round pick.
Carson Palmer went #1 overall in the 2003 Draft to the Bengals. In that time the Bengals have gone 46-51 in games Carson has started winning two division titles (2005, 2009). They've had three .500 season (04', 06', 03'), two winning seasons (05', 09'), and three losing season (07', 08', 10') during Palmer's career. This lead to Palmer demanding a trade after the 2010 season concluded. So far, owner Mike Brown has stated his refusal to give in to the demands, even after Palmer had threatened to retire if he isn't traded.
Palmer has had a roller coaster of a career. He sat his entire rookie year. He had great seasons in 2005 (3,836 yds, 32TDs, 12INTs, 67.8% comp.), and 2006 (4,035 yds, 28TDs, 13INTs, 62.3% comp.). Good/average seasons in 2007 (4,131 yds, 26TDs, 20INTs, 64.9% comp.), 2009 (3,094 yds, 21TDs, 13INTs, 60.5% comp.), and 2010 (3,970 yds, 26TDs, 20INTs, 61.8% comp.).
Overall, I'd think Palmer could bring stability at QB for the 49ers for 2-3 years while Harbaugh finds and grooms a future starter. I would offer the Bengals a 2nd round pick for Palmer, but under the condition that Palmer restructures his contract and takes a pay cut before we consider taking him.
Kyle Orton - Age: 28. 7th season. Projected value: 3rd round pick.
Orton has spent his last two seasons with the Broncos under the rule of Hoody Junior. And under McDaniels' system Orton has put up some good numbers. In 2009 he put up 3,802 yards, 21 TDs and 12 INTs, with a 62.1% completion rate. In 2010 he went 3,653 yards, 20 TDs and 9 INTs, with a 58.8% completion rate. And if McDaniels' system worries anyone, his last year with Chicago he went 2,972 yards, 18 TDs and 12 INTs, with a 58.5% completion rate. And with John Elway and the Broncos scouting almost every QB imaginable available in the 2011 Draft it seems it's the end of either Orton's or Tebow's stay in Denver.
Orton would probably be a last resort in terms of trade targets. He's a game manager who has the ability to put up some stats. He isn't going to win you games, but he won't lose them either. I'd give up a 3rd round pick if I was desperate for a starting QB.
Josh Johnson - Age: 24. 4th season. Projected value: 4th round pick.
Josh Johnson spent his collegiate career at San Diego with then Head Coach Jim Harbaugh from the years 2004-2007. He set many school passing records and holds the NCAA record for highest QB rating in a season (176.68). He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Bucs in the 2008 Draft in the 5th round. In his three years there he's started 4 games with his best start coming against the Eagles in 2009 where he went 26/50, 240 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTs. But with Josh Freeman becoming a franchise QB, Josh Johnson is nothing more then a backup. He should be easily had in a trade if the compensation is right.
Johnson is intriguing. He has a very successful history with savior Jim Harbaugh and can be affordable. We could offer a 4th round pick and cross our fingers. Johnson could compete in training camp for the starting position against rookie.
Matt Flynn - Age: 25. 4th season. Projected value: 3-4th round round pick.
Flynn was a 7th round selection from LSU by the Packers in the 2008 Draft. During the 2008 and 2009 seasons he played in some garbage time in blowouts or limited time when Aaron Rodgers was injured. But during 2010 he played significant snaps against the Lions when Rodgers was concussed and had the start in the next game against the Patriots. In the 2nd quarter of the Lions game Flynn took over from a concussed Rodgers. He went 15/26 with 177 yards and 1 INT. In his start against the Patriots he went 24/37 with 252 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. He's been under the tutelage of Rodgers and McCarthy for his entire 3 years and has experience in a version of the West Coast Offense.
He'd cost more then other backups because of Rodgers health situation. The Packers would love to have an able backup for Rodgers when he sustains his annual concussion or shoulder injury, but if a good enough offer came through they'd take it. Obviously any team that would like to trade for Flynn would be taking a shot in the dark. He's had only one start, but he was impressive in it. I'd offer a 4th round pick, maybe a 3rd if I really wanted him. He has certainly shown more the any rookie QB you would select with either the 3rd or 4th round picks.
Vince Young - Age: 27. 6th season. Projected value: 5th-6th round pick.
Vince Young is crazy, lets get that out of the way. You'd have to be really desperate or the Bengals to take a flier on him. He's shown flashes of being a good player, but as I've said he's mental.
Just. Stay. Away.
There's too many rookie QB options for me to write long summaries on. So I'll list my preferred rookies, what round I think we could get them (through a trade or if they fall), and a line or two of commentary.
1) Andy Dalton, late 2nd round.
I like Dalton as a prospect. I think he could be an average starting QB in the NFL and could start Day 1 if we get a whole off season. He played in a spread offense at TCU, but he has all the physical tools, has good mechanics, and had good production. He was a fourth year senior starter as well, a rarity nowadays. #45 might be a little high for him though.
2) Christian Ponder, early-mid 2nd round.
Sorry Drew, but I like Ponder as a 2nd round pick. He's another senior starter, but dealt with some injuries in 2009 and 2010 that have healed. He has good footwork and adequate accuracy, but doesn't have the greatest arm strength. Has some trouble with decision making every now and again. Technically sound with adequate physical tools. Like him as a Day 1 starter with our #45 pick.
3) Colin Kaepernick, mid 2nd round.
A four year starter from Nevada, Kaepernick has a ton of upside. He produced at Nevada and has all the physical tools. Most of the critiques are about the offense he played in, the Pistol. There is no way he could start Day 1, so the 49ers would need to have a veteran starter to hold the fort for at least a year while Harbaugh sprinkled his magic dust over Kaepernick.
4) Ryan Mallet, mid-late 2nd round.
I'll admit, I didn't really like Mallet for awhile. But a combination of further study and grantmp's excellent post swayed me somewhat. But no matter how much I may or may not like him, he's still has all the mobility of a corpse (if not less so). He's a big guy with a howitzer on his shoulder, but he doesn't have good mechanics. He also has a knack of throwing INTs in big moments. But he could be developed into a great passer, but you better hope your O-Line is one of the best.
5) Blaine Gabbert, 7th overall pick.
I don't like Gabbert as much as others do. He had mediocre production in a spread offense, he's not particularly accurate beyond 10-15 yards, and he has no pocket presence. But he does have a lot of upside. I think he should be more a mid-late 1st round pick, but I could understand if the 49ers chose him at #7 if he fell that far. He could start Day 1, but you better have a good veteran behind him to show him the ropes.
6) Jake Locker, very late 2nd-3rd round.
If Locker falls to the 3rd round he'd be a great value pick. He's got all the tools and is a great leader. He just isn't accurate. But his footwork wasn't that good. If a good coach could teach him better footwork, I think that may solve his accuracy problem. This guy is a two year project at best though.
7) Ricky Stanzi, late 2nd round.
Solid pro-style QB from Iowa. He's got adequate physical tools and good accuracy. His decision making isn't great, but can improve. I think he could eventually become a good starter with experience. Is a Day 1 starter if you have a solid supporting cast around him.
8) Greg McElroy, 5th-6th round.
Another pro-style QB from Alabama with adequate tools, but a little less arm strength then one would like. He's a fringe starter/career backup. There would be little point in drafting only McElroy if your teams has a hole at QB. You draft him as a backup alongside your higher round rookie.
9) Tyler Yates, 6th round.
Yet another pro-style QB from North Carolina. Exactly like previous two QB's in that he has adequate tools but not a lot of upside. Career backup/spot starter.
10) Nathan Enderle, 6th-7th round.
Pro-style QB from Idaho. First discovered by scouts that were studying our very own Mike Iupati. Another career backup but has potential to be a starter. His only weakness are poor mechanics.
Most likely the 49ers are going to avoid a 1st round QB selection in favor of a less risky 2nd-3rd round pick. Whoever gets selected will in some point have playing time during the 2011 season. And as the Panthers have taught us: Selecting a 2nd round QB in one year doesn't preclude you from taking one in the 1st round the next year.
In my opinion the 49ers should sign Marc Bulger as our veteran starter, take a QB in the 2nd round (Dalton, Ponder), and see what sticks. If the rookie QB shows promise we don't take a QB in the 1st round of the 2012 Draft.
2011 QB depth: Bulger, rookie, Carr.
What are your thoughts?