NFC West Reporter
As the San Francisco 49ers head into the offseason after another heartbreaking loss in the NFC Championship Game, coach Kyle Shanahan’s list of priorities will determine who will be his team’s starting quarterback for the 2023 season.
The 49ers currently don’t have a QB on the roster healthy enough to make a dent.
On Wednesday, Niners general manager John Lynch confirmed reports that rookie Brock Purdy tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow during the first quarter of San Francisco’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The initial prognosis is that the injury could require surgery to fix, putting him out at least six months and likely unavailable until training camp.
Purdy told reporters during the locker room cleanup this week that he has not decided how he will proceed to fix the injury and will seek a second opinion.
“For me to claim or say anything about what’s going to happen in the future, that’s out of my control,” Purdy told reporters. “I will do what I can to get back healthy and be ready to compete in the fall.”
Purdy’s replacement, fourth-string quarterback Josh Johnson, suffered a concussion during the game and was unable to return.
Trey Lance, a starter at the start of the regular season, suffered a season-ending broken ankle in Week 2 that required surgery. Lance has since undergone a second surgery on his right ankle to remove the hardware from the first surgery and told reporters that it is expected to be removed in three to four weeks.
“I’m excited to get back out there, excited to compete,” Lance said when asked how things will set up for the quarterbacks this offseason.
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And Lance backup Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a broken foot in a Week 13 contest against the Miami Dolphins that is close to being fully healed. Garoppolo will become a free agent in March. Both Lance and Garoppolo watched from the sideline as San Francisco was about to use Christian McCaffrey in the Wildcat formation for the final plays of Sunday’s game.
Shanahan was asked if he thought his play or scheme had anything to do with four quarterbacks being injured during the season.
“I think when you look at the injuries, common sense would answer that question,” Shanahan said. “I mean, how did they get hurt? I’m sorry Josh got a concussion when he hit the ground. I’m sorry, our quarterback bent his arm backwards on a normal drop back pass. I’m sorry with a dropback pass. someone rolled on jimmy’s ankle. and then we have a dual-threat quarterback who got hurt running the ball.
“No quarterback got hurt when we had to give it up the whole second half [against the Eagles]so you might look into it.”
Purdy, the last pick in last year’s draft, was a revelation as a third-string rookie. The Iowa State product finished 7-1 as a starter after taking over for an injured Garoppolo. Purdy completed 66.5% of his passes for 1,943 passing yards, with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions during the second half of the season and the playoffs.
Had Purdy been healthy, he might have been Shanahan’s projected starter through 2023. Purdy will make $870,000 in base salary in the second year of his rookie deal next season.
Yes, the 49ers drafted Lance with the third overall pick in the 2021 draft as their quarterback of the future, but his play was uneven before he got injured. The North Dakota State product will make $3.76 million in the third year of his rookie deal.
Purdy and Lance are the only quarterbacks under contract for San Francisco next season.
Garoppolo could once again make sense as a bridge quarterback for the 49ers due to injury issues with Lance and Purdy. But like those two, Garoppolo has also had injury issues, failing to complete an injury-free season in three of the last six years. On Wednesday, Shanahan said he doesn’t see a scenario in which Garoppolo returns to the team.
Of course, there was plenty of speculation surrounding free agent Tom Brady’s return to San Francisco. The Bay Area native grew up a fan of the 49ers and can still play at a high level, but the 45-year-old signal-caller announced he was retiring “for good” on Wednesday.
With the NFL setting the salary cap at $224.8 million for next season, the 49ers have about $16.4 million in cap space. Their top pending unrestricted free agents hitting the market in March include defensive end Jimmie Ward, running back Samson Ebukam, right tackle Mike McGlinchey, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, kicker Robbie Gould, defensive lineman Charles Omenihu and Garoppolo .
But figuring out the quarterback situation will be at the top of Shanahan’s list. On Wednesday, the coach said he’s pleased with Lance and Purdy as leaders in the quarterback room.
“I think those things will play out by training camp,” Shanahan said. “I know we have two starters on our team now that we can win with. So when you have that situation, you don’t want to look around as much.”
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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