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2011 NFL Free Agency Primer: The Quarterback Position And Our San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers will have three quarterbacks on the roster when the lock out is lifted. In terms of quantity it would seem they have a full slate at that position. But, what about quality? How confident are you in any of the three leading a winning team?

It is pretty scary when that confidence is directed at a player 12 more losses than wins in his career, Alex Smith. That said, there is a nice amount of optimism in the position heading into the 2011 season. That optimism starts with Jim Harbaugh's ability to develop quarterbacks, which could help Smith moving forward. It continues with the selection of the talented Colin Kaepernick in the 2nd round of April's draft.

This morning I am going to take a look at options for San Francisco as they relate to the quarterback market once free agency begins. I am sure they are going to take a look at a veteran signal caller; lets see the options.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Marc Bulger, Baltimore Ravens

2009 Stats (DNP in 2010) 9 Games, 8 Starts, 56.7 Completion %, 1469 Yards, 5 TD, 6 INT

Analysis: Bulger would be a great backup option for the 49ers, however, it is apparent that he is going to sign a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals once the lockout ends. Not to worry, Bulger isn't a starting quarterback in the league anymore, and it seems that he is being brought in by Arizona to "compete" for the starting position. Mediocrity at its absolute finest.

Kerry Collins, Tennessee Titans

2010 Stats: 9 Games, 7 Starts, 1823 Yards, 14 TD, 8 INT

Analysis: Collins seems to redefine age as he seems to get better with age. He has experience leading winning teams and has a history of being a successful starting quarterback in the NFL. This would be the perfect signing for the 49ers. Collins would be able to create a bridge between Alex Smith and the ultra raw, Colin Kaepernick; while competing holding down the backup QB duties.

If Smith falters, San Francisco would be in a position to put Collins in the starting lineup and the offense wouldn't lose a step. I think this is the type of player San Francisco needs to look at. The problem is that Tennessee is going to seriously consider retaining Collins to groom Jake Locker.

Bruce Gradkowski, Oakland Raiders

2010 Stats: 6 Games, 4 Starts, 52.9 Completion %, 1059 Yards, 5 TD, 7 INT

Analysis: Gradkowski doesn't have the greatest arm in the world, but he makes for the perfect backup. He doesn't do anything great, but works the pocket extremely well and is very agile. This is the type of career backup you want on your team. Someone that can come in and provide a boost if the starter goes down. I think San Francisco will take a look at Gradkowski this off-season.

Rex Grossman, Washington Redskins

2010 Stats: 4 Games, 3 Starts, 55.6 Completion %, 884 Yards, 7 TD, 4 INT

Analysis: When is the Rex experiment going to end in the NFL. Shanahan decided to give the former 1st round pick another shot towards the end of the 2010 regular season, and they are looking at retaining his services to compete for the starting spot in 2011. Although Grossman played decently down the stretch, he is NOT a starting quarterback in the NFL. Grossman wouldn't be my first option, but San Francisco may consider him a solid back up option; which is all he will ever be.

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks

2010 Stats: 14 Games, 14 Starts, 3001 Yards, 12 TD, 17 INT

Analysis: A couple months ago it was reported that the 49ers would be interested in Hasselbeck. Now, it appears the long time Seahawk quarterback will return to the Pacific Northwest in 2011. I do think that Hasselbeck would have been a nice stopgap if the 49ers decided not to retain Alex Smith. But, with Smith on board we got the best of the deal over Seattle. Just look at the 2010 stats and you will know what I am talking about.

Tarvaris Jackson, Minnesota Vikings

2010 Stats: 3 Games, 1 Start, 341 Yards, 3 TD, 4 INT

Analysis: Jackson is not an accurate quarterback and it doesn't appear that he will ever be. What Jackson does bring is athletic ability and a strong arm. I think that his skills could be utilized well as a backup quarterback that could play in various formations.

Of course, the 49ers have the more talented CK7 on their roster, and he is the player I would rather see in such formations in 2011.

Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers

2010 Stats: 6 Games, 5 Starts, 55.2 Completion %, 857 Yards, 5 TD, 10 INT

Analysis: Moore had a breakout season in 2009, but fell back to earth last season. Some "cellar dwelling" franchise may decide to bring Moore in as a starting quarterback in 2011, but that won't be the 49ers. Instead, I could easily see us attempting to sign him as a back up.

Rookie Free Agents

Pat Devlin, Delaware

2010 Stats: 68.0 Completion %, 3032 Yards, 22 TD, 3 INT

Analysis: Devlin was one of the most mechanically sound quarterbacks of the entire 2010 draft class. The issue with the former Delaware signal caller is that he played at a small school and doesn't possess the arm strength that many others in the draft did.

That said, it is extremely surprising that other quarterbacks, names not to be mentioned, were drafted and Devlin never had his name called. I wouldn't have a problem with San Francisco signing Devlin as a competitor during training camp and hiding him on their practice squad in 2011.

Franchise Tag

Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

2010 Stats: 16 Stats, 66.3 Completion %, 4700 Yards, 33 TD, 17 INT

Analysis: Do any of us really think that Manning is going anywhere? Well, if you do can I have a little of what your smoking. One of the most successful quarterbacks in modern NFL history, Manning is the heart and soul of an Indianapolis Colts franchise that contends on an annual basis. Even if Manning wasn't given the price heavy franchise tag, he would have re-signed with the Colts this off-season.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

2010 Stats: 12 Games, 11 Starts, 62.6 Completion %, 3018 Yards, 21 TD, 6 INT 676 Rush Yards, 9 TD

Analysis: All that Vick's success did in 2010 was reinforce the notion that he was one of the best quarterbacks in the league. No matter your opinion of his off the field issues, this dude is extremely talented.

That said, there is absolutely no way that Vick leave the Eagles this off-season. First, they gave him a franchise tender which means it would cost two 1st round picks to obtain him. Secondly, he seems incredibly happy in Philadelphia, and isn't looking for a change of scenery at this point in his career.

Restricted Free Agents

Dennis Dixon, Pittsburgh Steelers

Contract Situation: Given original round (5th) by the Steelers, which means Pittsburgh will be compensated with a 5th round selection if he signs elsewhere.

2010 Stats: 2 Games, 2 Starts, 68.8 Completion %, 254 Yards 0 TD, 1 INT

Analysis: 5th round pick for a player that has shown tremendous upside in the NFL? I wouldn't mind San Francisco possibly picking up Dixon. First, Dixon has proven he can play as a spot starter as pro. Secondly, he has the talent to transition to a more important role in the offense. This is a type of risk that defines organizations. You can either sit idly by while your opponents pick up these type of players, or you can be ahead of the ball and acquire him yourself.

Now, I understand that many will question that previous statement. But, I rally do think that Dixon has incredible value as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He has the arm strength and athleticism to succeed, and is pretty darn accurate as well. There isn't enough competition when it comes to the quarterback position in the NFL. Dixon could challenge Smith at some point in 2011, and take over if need be. Additionally, he would act like a bridge between Smith and the inexperience CK7. Is a 5th round pick too much to pay for that? Well, you can answer that yourself.

Caleb Hanie, Chicago Bears

Contract Situation: Given a 7th round tender by the Chicago Bears and will be an restricted free agent.

2010 Stats: 2 Games, 0 Starts, 71.4 Completion %, 54 Yards, 0 TD, 0 INT

Analysis: Really no in-game experience at the NFL level except for a brief showing in the playoffs. However, scouts seem really intrigued by the notion of bringing Hanie in to compete for a starting job. Could it be an overreaction? Of course, but you are not really risking much with a 7th round tender.

This is another player that 49ers could take a look at, however, he doesn't have the playing experience the aforementioned Dennis Dixon has; so, I would be a little weary in getting an experience signal caller to sit between Smith and CK7.

Overview: I am not ready to see David Carr have the opportunity to play in any game for the 49ers this season. The guy is absolutely horrible at playing the quarterback position. I know that sounds a little harsh, but that is the skepticism you get when seeing a player butcher a certain position on the football field.

What does it all mean? Well, the 49ers desperately need to find themselves a veteran back up quarterback behind Alex Smith. There is a few different reasons as to why I come to this conclusion. First. Alex Smith hasn't given us much reason to be confident in his ability to lead a winning team. Secondly, CK7 just isn't ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He was drafted for the future, and there is no reason to rush him into the lineup.

What are the options? You see the options above, and as you can see they are not that great. San Francisco could either venture into the unrestricted market and grab a proven signal caller like Kerry Collins, or they could go to the unproven quality with the likes of Dennis Dixon and Caleb Hanie.

I do understand that there remain trade targets out there at the quarterback position, and I will have a completely separate post in regards to possible trade targets for the 49ers at every position sometime in the near future.