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Keeping Brock Purdy on the 53 man roster was a play for the long term

Shanahan’s new Nick Mullens 2.0?

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The 49ers cut their roster down to 53 players on Tuesday. However, there were a few surprises, the most notable of which was Jimmy Garoppolo sliding into the QB2 slot after agreeing to a restructure.

Amidst all of the moves the 49ers made to get to their final roster, a handful of transactions were made with a clear emphasis on the long-term instead of immediate impact in 2022. Among them was the 49ers’ decision to keep Brock Purdy on the final 53-man roster.

Upon hearing the news break about Garoppolo returning, I had to scrap an entire article I had prepared about why I thought Purdy had beaten out Nate Sudfeld for the QB2 spot. As good as Purdy was, there was no way he would make the roster over Garoppolo if they had only kept two quarterbacks, which is what I assumed they would do to prevent losing an impact player at another position.

At the time, I overlooked how much retaining Purdy on the final 53-man roster would benefit the 49ers in the long term. The 49ers appear to be quite fond of Purdy, and I can’t blame them after he put together an impressive preseason with reps like these.

I would speculate that when the 49ers drew this up while putting together the quarterback room before OTA’s, they would have Sudfeld back up Trey Lance with Purdy developing on the practice squad. However, the combination of Purdy wowing them repeatedly in the time since then, as well as Garoppolo returning, threw a wrench into those plans.

That left the 49ers with a dilemma. They have Garoppolo for the 2022 season, which is objectively a better backup option than Purdy at this moment. But they also really like Purdy, and he has demonstrated that he can develop into a valuable asset who can be a more than capable backup moving forward.

So they decided to keep three quarterbacks on the active roster, even at the cost of losing a veteran depth piece like Kemoko Turay or Malik Turner. They did this even though Purdy will all but assuredly not be dressing on game days when Lance and Garoppolo are available.

So why risk losing depth elsewhere to retain a quarterback who not only won’t see action most likely but won’t even be suiting up on Sundays? The contract. Retaining Purdy on the final 53 keeps his rookie contract intact, giving the 49ers maintain four years of team control at an amicable cap number while also not subjecting Purdy to waivers where another team could have poached him.

Let’s assume the 49ers are thrilled with what they have seen from Purdy thus far and feel great about his ability to continue to develop moving forward. They now give themselves the luxury of having their backup quarterback position solidified on a team-friendly deal for the duration of Lance’s rookie contract. That kind of value is too good to pass up, even at the cost of losing depth at the edge position or in the wide receiver room.