The San Francisco 49ers head toward free agency with 19 players scheduled to hit some form of free agency. They have 15 unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents, and two exclusive rights free agents. Since we have five weeks left until free agency gets going, I thought it would be worth going over each unrestricted free agent and considering what their future might hold come March. I'm focusing on UFAs for now because RFAs and ERFAs generally re-sign barring unusual circumstances.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at each unrestricted free agent, and offering some thoughts on why they might re-sign, and why they might not re-sign. We'll then provide a percentage chance they return, and include a poll for everybody to vote whether or not they think a player will return. Yesterday, we started with Perrish Cox. Today, we move further down the pecking order with quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The 49ers acquired Gabbert via trade last year, sending a 2014 sixth round pick, and potentially a 2015 pick if some unknown playing time requirement was met.
Gabbert had struggled during his time with the Jaguars, and the trade was a chance for him to get a fresh start. There was zero chance (barring injury) he was going to start for the 49ers. However, he had shown enough tools to get drafted in the first round, and I have to think Jim Harbaugh was intrigued by a project. He saw limited playing time, appearing in the 49ers loss to the Denver Broncos. He was 3 of 7 for 38 yards and a touchdown (their only fourth quarter offensive touchdown).
Why he will return
We did not get to see much of Gabbert, although he does get credit for having the only fourth quarter passing touchdown among 49ers quarterbacks. However, Trent Baalke, Geep Chryst and Steve Logan (no word on how weighted each opinion would be) could decide continuity is a good idea. Maybe Gabbert showed signs in practice that makes it worth bringing him back and building on whatever he learned in 2014.
Why he will depart
The general belief was that while Trent Baalke was in charge of the 53-man roster, Jim Harbaugh had significant input into quarterback decisions. We don't know specifics, but it would at least make sense given Harbaugh's background as a coach and player. If that is the case, Trent Baalke could decide he wants to invest elsewhere in the quarterback position. Gabbert saw limited action, so we don't have a lot to base our predictions on. Well, other than the fact that he is Blaine Gabbert and has struggled to make a significant impact in the NFL to date.
Gabbert will probably want to be a starter at some point. I don't know that one year working with Harbaugh will be something to sell the world on, but he also might decide there is another opportunity that provides him a chance of getting back into the starting lineup a little sooner.
Odds of returning
I'm going to go with 35%. I would have gone lower given Jim Harbaugh's departure, and him being Gabbert, but maybe Steve Logan puts in a word for him. Gabbert is a pretty big quarterback, but he is mobile. Logan is a big fan of mobile quarterbacks, and maybe he tries to convince Baalke Gabbert is worth bringing back for another year. I don't expect it to happen, but you can make a coherent argument for the 49ers to try and bring Gabbert back in 2015.