49ers offseason preview: Potential Super Bowl team must figure out QB spot

John Lynch understands that his San Francisco 49ers have built a squad capable of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. But so far, the 49ers haven’t gotten the quarterback position right.

San Francisco played four different quarterbacks last season and ended the year in the NFC Championship Game with running back Christian McCaffrey taking snaps at the most important position on the field.

With a talent-rich roster capable of winning it all, GM Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan must do everything they can to make sure the team has quarterback insurance for the 49ers to achieve their full potential. potential

Tom Brady anyone? Lynch said this week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that the 45-year-old quarterback coming out of retirement for the second time is wishful thinking.

“I texted him when he pulled out,” Lynch said. “He was a teammate for about three weeks at one point, so I texted him, just congrats on one of the best runs I’ve ever seen in any sport. And I wished him the better, so we’ll leave. that.”

For now, San Francisco will start where it started a year ago, with former first-round draft pick Trey Lance as the team’s starting quarterback once offseason work begins in two months .

Of course, the North Dakota State product suffered a season-ending broken ankle in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks that required two surgeries to fix. Lynch said Lance is on the mend and the general manager has been watching the 22-year-old from his office window working the field. Lynch indicated during the combine that Lance should be fully cleared before the start of organized team activities in May.

“I’m seeing Trey out there taking drops every day,” Lynch said. “I don’t see any lameness. It doesn’t mean he’s 100 percent, but he’s coming back really well and doing a really good job. He just started pitching here recently.

“Trey’s rehabbing really well. He had this secondary procedure. It wasn’t really a setback. One of the plates was interfering a little bit with some of the tendons, things on my head. But they got through it. position, and he seems to be doing really well. We’re happy for him.”

Lance is the likely starter because last year’s breakout seventh-round pick Brock Purdy likely won’t be healthy enough to start the regular season. The Iowa State product played well as a starter during the second half of the year. However, a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow suffered early in San Francisco’s humiliating NFC championship loss to the Philadelphia Eagles has sidelined Purdy.

Initially reported as a six-month recovery, Purdy received a setback when Texas Rangers team physician and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Keith Meister told the 23-year-old quarterback that he should wait for the inflammation of the elbow disappeared before surgery.

Surgery to repair the torn ligament in his elbow, originally scheduled for Feb. 22, has been moved up to next week at the earliest, meaning Purdy likely won’t be fully healthy for the start of the season. regular season

“It’s a tough decision to make, but I really appreciate the courage and conviction to make that decision,” Lynch said of Purdy. “It’s all about the best outcome. Is it ideal? No, for a number of reasons, time is number one. You want every minute you’re awake, but at the end of the day, it’s [23] years. We want the best result.”

According to Lynch, re-signing Jimmy Garoppolo as a stopgap won’t be an option this season, which means Lance will likely get another chance to prove he can be the man to lead San Francisco to the Super Bowl.

With a team on the brink of the big game, we take a look at San Francisco’s offseason.

Three hot topics

1. Can the 49ers keep their QBs healthy?

A priority for San Francisco this offseason will be making sure players like Lance and Purdy are fully healthy, as well as working to keep them that way during the regular season.

“Early in my career, I struggled to stay healthy, and then I went through an eight-year stretch where I didn’t miss a snap,” said Lynch, a Hall of Fame safety. “So sometimes you just have to go through it. … That’s the biggest challenge. We’ve got a team that’s ready to do it now. [Lance] he has to go out and play. Brock had that opportunity this year. He took it and did great things. We’ll see at some point how we get Trey that opportunity because we really believe in who he is as a person and who he is as a quarterback.”

Lynch said Lance handled the adversity of his injury well, staying engaged throughout the year. Lance was the first person to speak to Purdy when he walked off the field after the series during the game, according to Lynch.

The 49ers also need to have a plan in case Lance and Purdy can’t stay healthy. Whether that means bringing in a veteran quarterback familiar with Shanahan’s scheme like Matt Ryan or selecting a quarterback in the draft, San Francisco can’t go into a dire situation at the quarterback position like it had in the postseason.

Lynch also discussed the potential of bringing in a third quarterback on game days in 2023.

“I was in a few meetings where the league discussed possible solutions for third quarterbacks,” Lynch said. “But the reality is that there are very few and far between where these cases occur.

“So, we’ll see and yes, we may have to look at the quarterback market in addition to Brock or Trey to insulate ourselves from what could happen.”

2. Sign Nick Bosa to an extension

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is entering the final season of his rookie deal, which is scheduled to pay him $17.8 million in 2023.

San Francisco will undoubtedly work to set up an extension this offseason that pays Bosa among the best defensive players in the league.

“It takes time, patience and persistence,” Lynch said of Bosa’s late-season signing. “And we’ll have that on our side.

“He’s pretty cool about it all, and I think with that in mind and each of us wanting the same thing, we’ll be able to come to an agreement.”

Nick Bosa wins “NFL on FOX” DPOY.

Nick Bosa wins the "NFL on FOX" DPOY

Niners edge rusher Nick Bosa won the “NFL on FOX” Defensive Player of the Year Award presented by Mark Sanchez and Chris Myers.

3. Rebuild chemistry on defense behind new DC Steve Wilks

The 49ers had the best defense in the league last season, led by DeMeco Ryans. But with the Houston Texans hiring Ryans as that team’s head coach this offseason, the 49ers will turn to former Carolina Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks as the new leader of their defense.

Lynch said San Francisco will maintain the core principles that have made the 49ers one of the best defenses in the NFL, year after year. And Wilks will have some of the best defensive players in the NFL in linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, safety Talanoa Hufanga and Bosa.

The best free agents to hit the open market

The 49ers have 23 players set to hit free agency when the new league year begins on March 15. San Francisco has about $6 million in cap space, so Lynch and Shanahan will have to be cautious about which players they want to keep in the fold or sign. in free agency.

Players like right tackle Mike McGlinchey, a pending unrestricted free agent who played solid last year, may be too expensive for San Francisco to bring back. The same could be said for corner Emmanuel Moseley and Garoppolo. Veteran kicker Robbie Gould, who turns 40, could also be headed to another team. Gould is an impressive 29-for-29 on field goals in the postseason, but the franchise tag for kickers is $5.4 million and the 49ers may have other pressing needs to address.

Other possible targets for the 49ers in free agency:

DT Greg Gaines: The Washington product can play both inside defensive tackle positions and is a good stuffer.

K Eddy Pineiro: Made 33-of-35 field goals (94%), including a long of 54 yards for the Panthers last season. Pineiro also had a 55% touchback rate.

QB Joe Flacco: The 38-year-old signal caller played in a similar scheme with the New York Jets and would provide a veteran presence in the quarterback room. Flacco visited San Francisco as a potential replacement for Garoppolo two years ago.

San Francisco and the draft

The 49ers currently have 10 picks in this year’s draft, but no first- or second-round picks due to their trades for McCaffrey and Lance.

The first pick for San Francisco is at No. 100 in the third round. According to Tankathon, the 49ers have the No. 28 draft pick in the NFL.

However, San Francisco has one of the most talented rosters in the league and can use the draft to try more developmental prospects that could help them down the road or create more depth at thin positions.

The Niners expect young players like defensive lineman Drake Jackson and cornerback Deommodore Lenoir to take another step in development in 2023.

Possible targets for the 49ers heading into the draft:

TCU QB Max Duggan: At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Duggan is physical and has completed 64 percent of his passes, with 32 touchdowns and just eight interceptions in leading TCU to the CFP title game.

Alabama OL Emil Ekiyor: A three-year starter at guard for the Crimson Tide, but at 6-foot-2, 310 pounds could slide inside to play center at the next level.

Iowa CB Riley Moss: The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Moss totaled 11 interceptions and 26 pass breakups in four years with the Hawkeyes.

Florida A&M DE Isaiah Land: The scrappy edge rusher was productive in college, finishing with 19 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss in 2021.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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