Realistic San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Options In NFL Free Agency

Regardless of how Brock Purdy’s elbow surgery goes this week or the San Francisco 49ers’ confidence level in Trey Lance, the defending NFC runner ups are going to add a veteran quarterback.

San Francisco simply can’t have a repeat of last season. Said campaign ended with Josh Johnson seeing extensive action in a blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.

With Purdy’s questionable return timeline and Lance’s lack of experience, adding a quarterback must be in the cards for general manager John Lynch. That much is already known.

“We may have to look at the quarterback market, in addition to Brock and Trey, to insulate ourselves from whatever may happen,” Lynch said at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this offseason.

With San Francisco currently a mere $7.82 million under the 2023 NFL salary cap, adding a high-profile veteran to the mix is not in the cards. Lynch and Co. also recently pretty much declared the end of the Jimmy Garoppolo tenure in Northern California. He’s set to hit free agency and will draw interest that will make a return to San Francisco impossible due to market dynamics.

What we do know is that Lynch and Co. will work to create more cap room before the NFL free agent tampering period starts on March 13. This should enable the 49ers to have their pick of the litter when it comes to second-tier quarterbacks in what will end up being a soft market for players of that ilk. Here, I look at five options that make the most sense.

San Francisco 49ers Admit Quarterback Help Might Be Needed This Offseason (

Baker Mayfield

Some quarterbacks in this tier will wait to see how the NFL Draft plays out before signing with a team. I am not expecting this to be the case with Mayfield. The former No. 1 pick is in a situation where he’ll likely land a one-year, prove-it deal. Finding a landing spot that gives him a real opportunity to start makes sense.

With Purdy’s timeline for return potentially extending into Week 1, San Francisco would be an ideal fit for Mayfield. It has the star power on offense to help him prove his worth.

From a 49ers perspective, the soft free agent market at quarterback could end up being beneficial. Typically, someone with Mayfield’s track record of success would earn a starting job on the open market. That’s highly unlikely to be the case this time around. Back in 2020 with the Cleveland Browns, Mayfield threw 26 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions en route to leading them to a rare playoff appearance.

Jacoby Brissett

Brissett is one of those quarterbacks who has teetered between bottom-end starter quality and top-end backup material. He’s also someone San Francisco should believe can step into a stopgap starter role and perform over the short term.

In replacing a suspended Deshaun Watson for 11 games with the Browns last season, Brissett completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,608 yards with 14 total touchdowns and six interceptions.

Like all of the options I have listed here, it’s going to be all about price point. If Brissett comes in at less than $10 million on a one-year deal, it’s something the 49ers will have to think a lot about.

Carson Wentz

Wentz would be the ultimate reclamation project for 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Here’s a veteran who has played with three different teams in as many seasons since initially starring for the Philadelphia Eagles. The former No. 2 pick is also seen as somewhat of a malcontent, which will limit interest he receives in NFL free agency.

At this point, the 49ers could probably add Wentz to the mix with a very low base salary in 2023. That is to say, $5 million or so with a ton of incentives written into the contract.

Prior to his struggles over the past three seasons, Wentz was seen as an up-and-coming young quarterback. From 2017-19, he accounted for 81 touchdowns and just 21 interceptions in Philadelphia.

Andy Dalton

San Francisco had real interest in Dalton before he ultimately landed with the Chicago Bears ahead of the 2021 season. It didn’t come to fruition after the former Pro Bowler landed a one-year, $10 million contract in Chicago. That was above what the 49ers were willing to offer.

The good news? Dalton’s contract with the Saints last season called for a mere $3 million guaranteed. The veteran knows where his value is at right now. And in reality, that fits into what the 49ers are willing to spend on a potential third-string guy.

As for Dalton’s recent success, he did tally 18 touchdowns compared to nine interceptions while completing 67 percent of his passes in New Orleans last season. Not too shabby.

Matt Ryan

Realistically, Ryan has hit that proverbial wall we’ve seen from every great quarterback of the past. The former NFL MVP was absolutely atrocious in his first season with the Indianapolis Colts, throwing 13 interceptions in just 12 starts.

Now that Indianapolis is going to move off him after just one season, a reunion with Kyle Shanahan could make some sense. Ryan would come in on the cheap. He worked under Shanahan when the latter was the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, ultimately earning the NFL MVP back in 2016.

San Francisco could hope that Ryan has one more decent season in him. A return to an offense he knows could help. At the very least, the borderline future Hall of Famer could act as training camp fodder in case Purdy’s recovery is extended and/or Lance fails to prove that he’s capable of being a starting quarterback.