The San Francisco 49ers are midway through their offseason workout program, with rookie minicamp starting this Friday, and then the first set of OTAs scheduled to start Tuesday, May 27. The 49ers OTAs will take place May 27-29, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-10 and June 12-13. The team will wrap up the offseason workout program from June 17-19.
The offseason workout program provides the coaching staff with a chance to implement offensive and defensive schemes. For the returning players, much of it will already be familiar, and they'll be able to focus on the tweaks and adjustments the staff designs. However, for free agent, trade and draft additions, this football school is when they'll show how quickly they can start to retain the information. For draft picks in particular, it will provide the coaching staff an important look at them for purposes of deciding the depth chart at the start of training camp.
Certain aspects of the depth chart will be very fluid heading into August, but that won't stop us from analyzing it to death! I thought with OTAs eight days away, we'd take a look at the various position groups. I'll do one or two a day, with a format including offseason changes, a basic idea of what the depth chart currently looks like, strengths and weaknesses of the unit, and what it all means as far as the bigger picture is concerned.
We're going to start with the quarterback position. It has as much stability at the top of the depth chart as any, but the questions further down the depth chart will make for an interesting offseason and training camp.
The 49ers went into the offseason with Colin Kaepernick and McLeod Bethel-Thompson on the roster, and Colt McCoy hitting free agency. The team acquired Blaine Gabbert on the first day of the new league year with a 2014 sixth round pick and what appears to be a conditional 2015 pick based on Gabbert playing time. The 49ers then signed Kory Faulkner as an undrafted free agent immediately following the draft. Finally, they signed Josh Johnson late this past week.
The biggest strength is that there is no question who is the No. 1 quarterback. Kap's contract remains a question mark, but for the purposes of 2014, he will be the starter. Beyond that, Gabbert has a lot of work to do in his development process, but as a former first round pick, there is something there with which Jim Harbaugh can work. From this group, Gabbert's preseason work will probably be what I am watching closest.
While Jim Harbaugh likely can do some things with Gabbert, he is still a project quarterback. If there were ever any reason Gabbert would have to move into the starting lineup, I'm fairly certain most of us would be a wee bit uncomfortable. He's got a lot more weapons in San Francisco than he did in Jacksonville, but that doesn't mean he'l be able to execute. Much like last year, we just don't want to see what that means.
What it all means
Blaine Gabbert would seem all but certain to end up on the 49ers 2014 roster given the $2,011,587 in guaranteed base salary. It does not necessarily mean he'll be the backup, but I would be surprised if he did not make the roster. However, the addition of Josh Johnson is at least a little bit interesting. The former Jim Harbaugh protege thinks the teams adjustments since Kap took over will benefit him. When he was last in town, the 49ers were heading into the 2012 season with Alex Smith as the starting quarterback. The offense has made some adjustments since then, although not as many as some of us would like. Could it be enough that Johnson's athletic ability keeps him on the roster in the fall?
Ideally the 49ers would likely want to see Blaine Gabbert put together a strong offseason and training camp, and give the 49ers enough reason to just keep 2 quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, with Kory Faulkner on the practice squad. Of course, given how Jim Harbaugh enjoys tinkering with the quarterback position, it's hard to know what exactly we'll see at the end of August when final cuts take place.