Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
The San Francisco 49ers acquired Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert on March 11 for a sixth round pick in the 2014 draft, and a conditional pick in the 2015 draft. The condition is reportedly based on Gabbert starting eight games for the 49ers in 2014.
Gabbert arrives looking to rebound from a less than spectacular start to his career. The Jaguars used a first round pick on him, catching some folks off guard. Our friends at Big Cat Country were teased early, but Gabbert struggled and things just sort of fell apart. He's got the physical tools to be a solid NFL quarterback, but it seems like he has been unable to put it all together thus far.
Greg Roman has had some positive comments about Gabbert during minicamp, but as with anything we hear in camp, we have to take it with a grain of salt. It's certainly better than hearing negative comments, and odds are pretty good he claims the primary backup role. But until we see what Gabbert does in the preseason, it's hard to say for certain what any of this really means.
Why he might improve:
He's joining an organization with several solid quarterback mentors. He gets to work with head coach Jim Harbaugh, quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, and coaching intern George Whitfield. The Jaguars have made strides with their coaching staff, but I'm not sure they're at a point where they can match the 49ers staff. The only way he sees meaningful playing time this season is if Colin Kaepernick gets hurt, or the team is in some substantial blowouts. But that doesn't mean he can't improve as a quarterback.
Why he might regress:
He struggled in Jacksonville, and it is possible he is just not cut out to be an NFL quarterback. It is way too early to tell for sure, particularly given the fact that Gabbert's entire 2014 salary of $2,011,587 is fully guaranteed. However, with one year left on his contract, Gabbert is not really guaranteed much of anything moving forward. He'll get some opportunities, but it is entirely possible he is who we think he is.
Odds of making the roster:
I would be pretty shocked if Gabbert did not make the roster. He has the fully guaranteed salary, and he has the physical tools to potentially develop into a solid backup quarterback. I probably have more faith in him as a backup than I did with Colt McCoy. If Kap were to suffer an injury, Gabbert is not the most inspiring of options, but given the defense, run game, and passing game weapons in place, I do think this 49ers squad could still slip into the playoffs with Gabbert as the starting quarterback. It wouldn't be easy, and it would probably require some struggles by other teams, but Gabbert at the helm could result in more of a 2011 feel.
Ideally though, Gabbert never sees the field outside of blowouts. I wouldn't mind seeing the 49ers work out a 1-year extension that keeps Gabbert in town through 2015 so that the coaching staff could get a couple seasons to work with him. He's physically talented, but he has not had the greatest coaching thus far. If the 49ers added a second season, they could spread out his cap hit just a little bit, and potentially develop a nice little backup option.
For now though, he's making this roster. Josh Johnson could conceivably work his way into the mix, and McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Kory Faulkner are competing for some kind of role, but I really think Gabbert holds onto the No. 2 QB role. Matt Maiocco thinks Gabbert has done enough thus far to hold the edge. We'll see what training camp brings.