It appears the 49ers' plans at quarterback for the 2022 season are all but set in stone, with the exception of a seemingly never-ending rumor about Tom Brady playing his farewell season in the Bay Area. Let’s ignore that hypothetical scenario for now and instead take a look at the future under the assumption that Trey Lance is indeed the guy going forward.
With Lance being the presumed starter, the 49ers' next task is rounding out the quarterback room with a viable backup behind their franchise signal-caller. The good news is there is an abundance of options available at the position that would fill two needs.
1. Give the 49ers a viable replacement in a “break glass in case of emergency scenario” should Lance miss any time this season. The roster is too good to sacrifice any kind of short-term window, and having a quarterback who can simply keep the team from bottoming out without Lance would be a major victory for this front office.
2. Continue to give Lance a veteran voice in the quarterback room. It’s important to remember that Lance is only 21 years old, and no matter how high his ceiling appears to be, he still has a long way to go in his development. Having a player who’s seasoned in the business of the NFL would be a tremendous asset for Lance’s long-term development.
This list aims to lay out some potential candidates who check both these boxes while also falling within reason that the 49ers would have a realistic shot of signing or acquiring them this offseason.
6. Jacoby Brissett
Brissett spent the 2021 season in Miami, following five years with the Colts and Patriots. He comes with 37 games worth of starting experience and has shown the capability to be a player the 49ers could rely on in a pinch.
The bonus is, he likely won’t command top dollar and probably would fit into the 49ers plans financially as they look to retain a roster that has over half their players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency,
5. Andy Dalton
Dalton certainly checks the experience box, logging over 130 starts throughout a career that has spanned over a decade. Dalton likely isn’t going to be a player who wins games on his own at this point in his career, but he also has the ability not to be the reason a team loses.
The 49ers roster is strong enough that should Lance have to miss time. They don’t need someone to come in and drive the team to victory. They just need someone who can keep the car from going off the side of the road, and I think Dalton more than fits that mold.
4. Geno Smith
This one is very intriguing to me. Smith is an eight-year veteran who has spent the last two seasons with the division rival Seattle Seahawks. When Russell Wilson missed time this past season, I was very impressed with the way that Smith played. In three starts, here were Smith’s numbers for the Seahawks in 2021
68% completion percentage
103.0 passer rating
I felt like Smith not only kept the Seahawks in those games. He was actually hitting throws that I saw the incumbent starter in Wilson miss regularly earlier in the season. While I would never argue Smith is or was better than Wilson, he at least gave the Seahawks a baseline of competence that kept them competitive while their starter was out.
3. Tyrod Taylor
Taylor has starting experience, led a team to a playoff berth, and connected to assistant head coach Anthony Lynn after the time they spent together with the Chargers. Taylor has started 53 games in his NFL career and comes with a bit of upside as a player who can use his legs.
That rushing ability would allow the 49ers to continue to run a lot of the designed runs/ read-option stuff they likely have planned for Lance. Overall it gives the 49ers a steady presence who also allows them to not drastically alter their game plans should Lance miss any time.
2. Mitchell Trubisky
A former top-two pick, Trubisky spent this last season backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo. While Trubisky likely never lives up to his draft position, he still does possess the skill set to be a viable quarterback in this league under the right circumstances.
Trubisky provides a surprising amount of athleticism, and his ability to extend plays and or move the sticks with his legs would be extremely valuable. Playing in a quarterback-friendly scheme like Kyle Shanahan’s would do wonders for the overall perception of Trubisky, who is absolutely capable of executing the throws that are needed to have success in this offense.
1. Marcus Mariota
This is the best-case scenario. While the 49ers don’t need a backup who is going to propel the team to victory, it certainly couldn’t hurt to have one who is capable of doing so either. Mariota has the potential to be that guy.
The former #2 overall pick spent the last two seasons backing up Derek Carr for the Raiders, and in limited game action showed he still possesses the physical traits that helped him be a top pick when he came into the NFL.
Mariota would be a fantastic fit in the Shanahan offense and would give the 49ers a palpable path to winning football games in the event that Lance misses any time.
Given the number of serviceable quarterbacks on the market, the 49ers should be able to land a quality backup for Lance. Whichever player ultimately secures that backup spot doesn’t necessarily have to possess the exact same skill set as Lance, but having multiple players on the market who have a decent amount of mobility is certainly a bonus.
Fortunately, there are many very enticing options, and no matter who they choose, it will be a win for the team as long as the 49ers are able to end up with a backup who simply provides a baseline level of competence.