With only one quarterback currently signed on the roster, David Carr, to say the 49ers are badly in need of a new man under center is an understatement. The 49ers can pursue all three avenues of acquiring a new quarterback whether through the draft, trade or free agency. The 49ers have the number seven pick overall in this year’s draft so selecting a quarterback is not out of the question in the first-round. Most will agree that there are no Sam Bradford’s in this year’s draft meaning a quarterback that can start right away and successfully lead the offense and team to victories. If there is a Bradford in the draft chances are he will be picked before the 49ers make their first selection. There are four teams selecting before the 49ers (Bills, Bengals, Cardinals and Browns) who could select a quarterback. My bet is on the Bills and Cardinals to select quarterbacks which would leave the 49ers with the second or third best quarterback in the draft. I think it would be unwise for the 49ers to select a quarterback with their first pick if they are not getting the best available quarterback. The first pick can be better used on the 49ers other two biggest needs, defensive lineman and cornerback.
The next two avenues the 49ers can take is through trades (Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton) or free agency (Donovan McNabb, Vince Young, assuming they will be released). With a trade and for any of those three players listed the 49ers would most likely have to give up their first-round draft pick along with the others picks. That would only be worth it if the 49ers traded for Kolb. But even then giving up your only first-round draft pick is a steep price to pay when you have other holes to fill as well. If McNabb and Young are released by their teams signing McNabb would be the best option. But McNabb is a risk with his recent play, age and would only be a holdover for one to two years while Jim Harbaugh grooms the 49ers next franchise quarterback assuming they select one in the draft. Young is not exactly a quarterback to get excited about but with only having Carr signed he would be an upgrade. Trades and free agency right now however are a pipedream. With NFL owners recently walking out of negotiations with NFL players I highly doubt a new collective bargaining agreement will be hashed out by the time the current one expires on March 4.
A lockout is bad for any NFL team and the fans but for the 49ers it is compounded even more. With a new head coach coming in the 49ers are trying install a new offense. I have heard the lockout could last anywhere from one month to late summer and all the way into the beginning of the 2011 season. If a new CBA is not worked out until summer the 49ers are at a huge disadvantage. Presumably the new season would start shortly after that with a shorten off-season for trades, free agency, training camp and preseason which gives the 49ers less time to not only sign/trade for a new quarterback but for the quarterback to learn the new offense and get aquatinted with their new teammates. All NFL teams would be hurt from a lockout but the teams that are currently stable at quarterback and head coach would have an advantage over teams like the 49ers who don’t have a quarterback and are bringing in a new head coach because they can just pick up right where they left off last season. True, stable teams won’t be able to sign or trade for new players as well but with the most important pieces intact the 2011 season will be smoother for them.
So the 49ers choices for getting a new quarterback go from three to one, the NFL draft. But putting a rookie quarterback as your starter in week one is still a bad option even with Harbaugh’s tutelage. Which brings us back to Carr. The 49ers are currently coming up with their new offense but I would assume with the looming lockout they will want to give Carr something to study and learn from while he is lockedout from the owners. At the very least Carr would be able to come in and have an understanding of the new offense while still being at a disadvantage of trying to make it work on the field. Carr at least knows the receivers and offensive line having spent the past season with the 49ers. But is he really the best choice for the 49ers even if he is familiar with the new offense and the players? If Mike Singletary did not believe in you than I highly doubt Harbaugh will. Which leads us to…
Alex Smith. Yes, that Alex Smith who I think has played his last game for the 49ers after six tumultuous years with the organization. Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reports that Harbaugh and Smith have met face-to-face and have been on the practice field playing catch. Would he come back to an organization that has burned him and fans, including me, that have booed him? I think Harbaugh is taking a look at Smith because he is a better option than Carr. The 49ers have sole negotiating rights to Smith until March 4 and with Harbaugh meeting with him he might be trying to convince him that staying with the 49ers is his best option given the lockout and that not too many teams will be interested in signing him let alone make him a starter. If the 49ers do sign Smith Harbaugh could give him a blueprint of the offense that he can study and would be able come in, like Carr, familiar with Harbaugh’s offense and of course the players. Harbaugh is probably thinking with the lockout it is either Carr or Smith who is the best option for the 49ers to succeed next season. It is the lesser of two evils, in this case the lesser of two draft busts and Harbaugh is probably thinking Smith over Carr. If Smith were to listen to anyone within the 49ers organization it would be Harbaugh who is a fellow quarterback. Harbaugh is a straight shooter and would tell Smith the issues and dysfunction he experienced under Mike Nolan and Singletary will not happen with someone who respects the quarterback position. If Harbaugh can get Smith to re-sign he is the best option during the lockout. It is not the greatest of options but Harbaugh is someone that understands continuity.
Everyone hopes there is not an NFL lockout. For me I hope there is not one just so the 49ers don’t have to decide between Carr or Smith as their quarterback.