We are in the midst of a lockout so trades and free agent signing cannot be made. This hasn't stopped the rumor mill from churning in the 49ers direction. I don't think that this comes as a surprise to many of us, but the 49ers are interested in Buccaneers back-up QB, Josh Johnson.
What is interesting about this story is the fact that Josh Johnson, although not directly through words, seems interested in the idea. New 49ers Head Coach, Jim Harbaugh, coached Johnson at the University of San Diego for three seasons. And, in my opinion Johnson fits perfectly into the 49ers new WCO scheme.
The following quote is from Buccaneers QB, Josh Johnson
"I don't know what's going on with that situation, but we're locked out anyway," Johnson said. "So I'm still part of the Buccaneers, as far as I know. I wish I could speak on it, but I can't."
It seems that Johnson isn't too keen on returning to Tampa Bay as a back-up for Josh Freeman in 2011. He really cannot speak on the topic because of the current CBA situation and the fact that he is under contract with Tampa Bay. But, I can read between the lines; as I am sure many of you can.
It is important to note that Josh Johnson has a great relationship with Jim Harbaugh, still to this day. In fact, Johnson had some of the most mind boggling seasons in recent NCAA history under Harbaugh at San Diego.
JOSH JOHNSON STATS
Now listen, I understand that Johnson wasn't playing at a top college, but these are still some amazing statistics. You cannot discount a 43-1 TD/INT ratio at any level of college. Overall, Johnson had over 11,000 total yards and 128 touchdowns in four seasons with San Diego.
Johnson was drafted in the 5th round of the 2008 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was the 8th QB selected that season. Josh Johnson has had some success in limited action with Tampa Bay since 2008. However, with 4 TDs and 8 INTs; Johnson cannot be relied on as the #1 QB heading into the 2011 season. That said, I would love the 49ers to take a flier on him if the price is right.
What is the right price? Scouts call Johnson a perfect fit for the WCO, but what is his market? A 5th round pick that has a 0-4 record as a starter shouldn't cost too much. Last season the San Diego Chargers traded backup QB, Charlie Whitehurst, to the Seattle Seahawks. It does appear that Seattle did overpay for the unproven signal caller as they gave swapped 2010 2nd round picks (San Diego was picking much later in that round), and Seattle gave up a 3rd rounder this season for Whitehurst to complete the deal. I would think that this type of haul would be way too much for Johnson. If you translate the Whitehurst trade to the NFL Draft Value Chart, it would mean that Seattle gave up the equivalent of a 2nd round selection.
A Couple Scenarios That Could Work:
1. San Francisco trades their 3rd round pick (#76) and one of their 6th round picks (#174) To the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for their 3rd round pick (#84) and Josh Johnson: The combination of trading down eight slots in the 3rd round and giving up their first 6th round pick would seem to equal a high 4th round selection.
2. San Francisco trades CB- Tarell Brown and conditional 2012 draft pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for QB- Josh Johnson: I would assume that Brown's value is at about a 6th round level at this point. The 49ers would be adding in a conditional 2012 draft pick to sweeten the pie for Tampa Bay. If Johnson gets on the field and produces for the 49ers, the pick could go as high as a 4th round selection, if not it would be a 7th round pick. I think the conditional 2012 draft pick works best in this scenario because it will be on Johnson to produce. If he does the Buccaneers get value in return, if not they don't.
3. 49ers trade a 4th round pick (#108) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 5th round pick (#151) and QB- Josh Johnson: In reality the Buccaneers would be getting the value of a 4th round pick in this trade. Additionally, the 49ers would be trading down 43 slots in order to pick-up their possible franchise QB.
Of course all this is contingent CBA and whether or not the NFLPA is granted an injunction: which I believe they will be. The 49ers have a few different options to go through in order to get Johnson; if that is who they are looking for. All signs point to the 49ers going after him if they acquire the ability to. I wouldn't mind Alex Smith returning as the starter in 2011, Josh Johnson battling with him in the pre-season and then picking up a project QB during the draft. Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton and Greg McElroy come to mind first. If the 49ers are able to obtain Johnson they wouldn't be so hard-pressed to find a QB early in the 2011 draft and make a pick for Cameron Newton or Blaine Gabbert with the #7 pick. At this point San Francisco have a few different holes to fill. It makes sense to add a player like Johnson, draft a QB in the middle rounds and go for need with the #7 pick. The possibility of Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, Da'Quan Bowers or Nick Fairley excites more more than any of the top QB prospects.
I Want to end on a funny quote I found from Jim Harbaugh during his coaching days at San Diego with Josh Johnson. This is in response to Troy Smith winning the Heisman Trophy that season
"I've seen Troy Smith play," Harbaugh said. "Our guy's better." Jim Harbaugh in 2006
A little bit of a shameful plug here. On Tuesday, I had the honor of interviewing former Oakland Raider great, Cliff Branch. The interview went well and their was even some nice discussion in regards to the state of the 49ers franchise. The following is a link to a transcript from the interview on SB Nation Bay Area.