On the first two days of the new league year, the 49ers last week went from experiencing the “liberating” feeling of no quarterbacks on the roster to signing Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.
With all due respect to Hoyer, whom the 49ers had targeted as their top quarterback on the free-agent market, he is not expected to be the long-term answer.
“I’m sitting here going into my ninth year with a great chance to be the quarterback for this team and that’s all I’m looking for,” said Hoyer, who signed a two-year, $12 million contract. “I think you go out and prove it every day. And that’s not just on Sundays. It’s coming in here and being a leader in the locker room.”
So as we kick off this edition of 49ers Mailbag, we look at the two-most likely options for the organization to add a potential franchise quarterback to eventually usurp Hoyer.
Who do you think we draft at #2 right now? (Tiny Martinez)
What are the chances Cousins plays for the Niners next year? (Jon Sekulic)
These questions are related, but not necessarily mutually exclusive.
There is nothing preventing the 49ers from, say, drafting Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick and, then, acquiring Kirk Cousins for the 2018 season.
But that’s a large investment of a top draft pick for a player whose ceiling is being a backup (unless forced into action due to injury).
Ultimately, it comes down to what Kyle Shanahan thinks of Trubisky or any of the other quarterbacks available in this draft. Trubisky appears to be the quarterback whose skills and ability to stand in the pocket mesh best with Shanahan’s vision for the position.
Do not dismiss Trubisky as a legitimate option at No. 2. Heck, do not dismiss Trubisky as a legitimate option at No. 1 for the Cleveland Browns, either.
If the Browns make the surprising play to go with Trubisky at No. 1, the 49ers’ move is easy. They need a pass-rusher, and Myles Garrett would be the clear choice.
But if the Browns go with Garrett, as expected, at No. 1, then the 49ers have no clear route to follow. If Shanahan falls in love with Trubisky, Deshaun Watson or DeShone Kizer, then it’s easy. If he does not see the value, the 49ers’ next-best option would be to find a partner with which to trade.
But in order to make a trade, there has to be a team that identifies a player they need and are willing to pay the price to move up to No. 2.
Could we see Brock get released, and do you think Brooks has another season of decent productivity in him? (Emerson Senden)
I think there’s a better chance of the 49ers trying to sign Tramaine Brock to a multi-year extension than the possibility of them releasing him. Right now, I’d envision Brock and Rashard Robinson as the 49ers’ starting cornerbacks.
Of course, this is before the draft. It remains a possibility the 49ers select a cornerback with one of their top two picks, which would create more depth and competition for roster spots and playing time.
The cornerback group of Brock, Robinson, Keith Reaser, Will Redmond, Dontae Johnson, K’Waun Williams and others gives new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh some options. The cupboard is not bare.
Meanwhile, if the 49ers had no plans for Ahmad Brooks, he would already be gone – like Torrey Smith, Antoine Bethea and Marcus Martin. The problem is the 49ers do not have many better options.
The 49ers must improve their pass rush. Brooks and Aaron Lynch remain as their two-best options. There should be some opportunities in the draft to add some talent who can help out the aforementioned cornerbacks.
What are we going to do about the O-line? (Theodore Tee Jay Carter)
Not a whole lot, it seems.
“I think one of the encouraging things, I think offensive lines are tough to build in this league, and you turn on the film and there’s a lot of exciting things to see with an offensive line,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said.
Shanahan might not have shared the same opinion about the 49ers’ offensive line at the beginning of his film study of the team he inherited. But there are indications the more Shanahan watched that unit from last season, the more he liked what he saw.
Carlos Hyde averaged 4.6 yards per rushing attempt. There probably was not another NFL-caliber running back on the roster. And Colin Kaepernick was sacked 36 times (with 331 pass attempts). The 49ers’ decision-makers pinned at least in part of the high sack total on Kaepernick's reluctance to get rid of the ball quick enough -- whether through indecisiveness or the receivers' inability to get open in a timely fashion.
Right now, the 49ers feel good about an offensive line that features tackles Joe Staley and Trent Brown, guards Zane Beadles and Joshua Garnett, and center Daniel Kilgore.
While the organization would seem to remain interested in adding at this position, it did not appear Lynch felt a sense of urgency to go strong after any free agents who might break into the starting lineup.