With no extension for Cousins, a look at 49ers' QB options for 2018

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USATI

With no extension for Cousins, a look at 49ers' QB options for 2018

The 49ers, under general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, are attempting to build for the future.

Rather than aggressively pursue a veteran quarterback via trade, the organization opted this offseason to keep their coveted draft picks and build out as much of the roster as possible.

It made no sense for the 49ers to be willing to pay the steep price that would only begin the conversations with the teams – Washington and New England – who had intriguing quarterbacks set to become unrestricted free agents a year from now.

The 49ers are in no position to compete for the playoffs this season. So the 49ers could afford to take it slow at the quarterback position while trying to add as many accessory pieces as possible.

Why not wait to get the quarterback of the future until the price is right and the quarterback has a better chance to succeed with better players around him – on both sides of the ball?

The team added their man target, Brian Hoyer, at the opening of free agency. Once Matt Schaub opted to remain in Atlanta, the 49ers secured Matt Barkley as the backup.

Lynch took a very public approach to his evaluations of the top quarterbacks available in the draft. He gushed over Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and others. Of course, he never mentioned C.J. Beathard, whom the 49ers traded up to select in the back end of the third round.

The 49ers carried out the strategy in the first round of the draft by, in essence, turning their picks in the first and second rounds into defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, linebacker Reuben Foster and a third-round pick next year. Along the way, the 49ers also picked up an additional second-round pick for next year.

The 49ers already have a long-term plan in the place. It would be inconceivable that the organization did not look three years in advance when charting the plan for this offseason. But, as always, that plan remains flexible.

A lot can happen in a year, but there are moving parts the organization will monitor before the plan is enacted.

HOYER AND THE IN-HOUSE CANDIDATES
Hoyer enters training camp as the starting quarterback. His performance this season will not be open to any kind of interpretation and projection. He gets the first chance to prove he should be the long-term starter.

Hoyer signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the 49ers. The onus is on him to take the starting job and hold onto it – give the organization no reason to look to upgrade.

Hoyer, who turns 32 in October, has shown to be a solid quarterback. But he also has not proven to be a dependable presence. After all, he has started 10 games or more only once in his career.

It is difficult to envision the 49ers would come out of this season convinced either Barkley or Beathard is the quarterback of the future. So short of a Pro Bowl-type season from Hoyer, the 49ers would likely be determined to add a long-term answer during the 2018 offseason.

COUSINS AND THE VETERAN MARKET
Of course, this is the Topic du jour because of Washington’s failure to reach a multi-year extension on Monday with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

It is simple to connect the dots. Cousins broke into the NFL in 2012 under Kyle Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator under his father, Mike Shanahan. Cousins is the kind of quarterback who fits what Shanahan wants.

Only Tom Brady has posted a better passer rating in both seasons since Cousins took over as the full-time starter. Shanahan likely believes Cousins could be even more productive in his system with his play-calling.

Cousins turns 29 in August, but that still leaves him at least a six-season window – if healthy – that he can remain in his prime.

Washington could place the franchise tag on Cousins again, of course. But Washington was unwilling to pay Cousins an average of the $23.94 million he is set to receive on this year’s franchise tag, Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported.

Next year, the one-year franchise tag would jump to $34.47 million. The 49ers currently have $66.8 million in cap room and will carry over all unused space this year into 2018. The 49ers can essentially go as high as they feel is necessary to get the quarterback they target.

Cousins is not the only veteran option for next year. Shanahan said he had a high draft grade on Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014. He enters the final year of his contract with New England. The Patriots will have a difficult decision next offseason. Can they retain both Tom Brady and Garoppolo?

Of course, Garoppolo remains mostly an unknown. He performed well in two starts last season during Brady’s suspension before sustaining a shoulder injury. Garoppolo turns 26 in November, and should have a lot of football ahead of him.

THE 2018 DRAFT CLASS
This is the last option -- coming nearly two months after the open of free agency. It is also the one option that is always the biggest unknown. After all, a year ago at this time Mitchell Trubisky was not even considered a draftable player – let alone the No. 2 overall pick.

Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Allen (Wyoming) and Josh Rosen (UCLA) project as three of the top quarterbacks in next year’s draft. But whom will Shanahan envision as the best fit for his scheme?

Then, will the 49ers be in a position to draft the quarterback Shanahan might target? Unless the 49ers lose every game this season, they may not be able to fully control which player to choose in the draft.

49ers rookie QB Beathard enters camp as No. 3 -- all the way around

49ers rookie QB Beathard enters camp as No. 3 -- all the way around

SANTA CLARA -- Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard comes to the 49ers as a third-round draft pick and No. 3 on the team’s depth chart behind presumptive starter Brian Hoyer and veteran backup Matt Barkley.

He also steps onto the practice field for the first time Friday wearing No. 3 for the 49ers’ rookie minicamp.

“There were a couple of options,” Beathard said. “It’s just for minicamp right now, but I think I’ll stay with that number if I have a chance to.”

Beathard wore No. 16 at Iowa. That option is not available with the 49ers. Joe Montana’s jersey number is retired and out of service. Montana was a third-round pick of the 49ers in 1979 in Bill Walsh’s first draft.

Coincidentally, Montana wore No. 3 during his college career at Notre Dame.

Beathard, who was lauded for his leadership skills while in college, will step into a similar role for the 49ers’ newcomers this weekend. He came from a pro-style offense at Iowa, so he’ll be expected to be further along in guiding his offensive teammates. Quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello sent him some excerpts of the playbook before reporting to Santa Clara on Thursday.

“I’ve been able to look it over the past few days and get a little look at what’s coming up the next few days,” Beathard said.

“I know how to break down an offense and look at an offense. The terminology is completely different, but it (the playbook) does make sense.”

The 49ers welcomed 31 new players this week to fill out its 90-man offseason roster.

The team’s rookies – 10 draft picks and 18 undrafted free agents – traveled to 49ers headquarters on Thursday to take part in a minicamp scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Here are the uniform numbers issued to the new players (it is common for teams to issue duplicate numbers during the time of the offseason when there is a 90-player roster):

Draft picks
3-C.J. Beathard, QB
33-Joe Williams, RB
41-Ahkello Witherspoon, CB
47-Adrian Colbert, CB
49-Pita Taumeopenu, DE/OLB
56-Reuben Foster, LB
66-D.J. Jones, DT
81-Trent Taylor, WR
85-George Kittle, TE
96-Solomon Thomas, DL

Undrafted rookies
1-Nick Mullens, QB
1-Victor Bolden, WR
6-Kendrick Bourne, WR
31-Zach Franklin, DB
46-Malik Golden, S
46-Cole Hikutini, TE
47-Tyler McCloskey, FB
48-Lorenzo Jerome, DB
49-Matt Breida, RB
60-Jimmie Gilbert, LB
60-J.P. Flynn, Montana OL
62-Erik Magnuson, OL
62-Donavin Newsom, LB
64-Evan Goodman, OL
64-Noble Nwachukwu, DE
69-Bret Treadway, OL
75-Darrell Williams Jr., OT
83-KD Cannon, WR

49ers rookie quarterback Beathard benefits from running pro-style offense

49ers rookie quarterback Beathard benefits from running pro-style offense

SANTA CLARA – While other quarterbacks around college football were putting up astronomical statistics in their spread offenses, C.J. Beathard compiled relatively pedestrian numbers.

But that was all part of his plan. And it paid off last week when the 49ers traded up into the end of the third round to select the Iowa quarterback with the No. 104 overall draft pick.

“When I came out of high school, I wanted to play in a pro system because I knew that translated a lot better to the NFL,” said Beathard, who arrived in the Bay Area on Thursday and was issued No. 3 with the 49ers.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he was drawn to Beathard, in part, because he saw him in college running an offense that is more adaptable to the NFL.

“One thing that helps is being able to see guys play the way you’re going to ask them to play,” Shanahan said. “I think that helps with being at Iowa, having watched the system that he’s in. it’s easier to see.”

Beathard said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis placed a lot of trust in him to make checks at the line of scrimmage and read defense. He also took snaps under center and called plays in an actual huddle.

Beathard threw for 1,929 yards in his senior season, completing 170 of 301 pass attempts with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In comparison, first-round pick Patrick Mahomes completed 388 of 591 attempts for 5,052 yards with 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

“It is frustrating sometimes,” Beathard said. “Those guys are throwing for 300 yards a game. But all’s that matters to me is really winning games and over the course of my two years starting, we were 12-0 in the regular season my junior year, and 8-4 last year.

“Obviously, didn’t finish the way we wanted to, but overall we had a successful two years. I’d rather than win a game and throw for 150 yards than lose and throw for 300.”

The 49ers selected Beathard's teammate, Iowa tight end George Kittle, on Day 3 of the draft.

“He basically willed us to 20 wins in two years, so that’s pretty impressive,” Kittle said. “He put the team on his back multiple times in games we might not have been playing well. He’s a guy, when he steps on the field, he steps on the field to win. You look at stats, numbers, it doesn’t really matter because he’s a guy who’s going to get the job done.”

After selecting Beathard to join Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the 49ers’ depth chart, Shanahan cited Beathard’s accuracy. But Shanahan said he looked beyond the less-than impressive 56.5 completion percentage that Beathard compiled as a senior.

“When I look at accuracy, do they throw where they’re trying to throw? You can call a bunch of bubbles and a bunch of quick screens and stuff and you can have someone be the most accurate completion percentage quarterback in the world,” Shanahan said. “That doesn’t mean that they can throw the ball all the time where they want to go. I look at when a guy’s in tight coverage, what shoulder does he put it on? How consistently does he hit a guy in stride? When guys aren’t open, it’s sometimes hard to get completions. It depends on the type of offense you have.

“They’re a little more NFL based where they’re not doing a bunch of bubbles and things like that. They do run the ball a ton. They do a lot of play-action keepers off of it and it’s tough to get completions, though. They’re harder completions. There’s not as many gimme ones and I think when you talk about completion percentage, you’ve always got to look into that.”