No. 1: Quarterback Nick Mullens
In 2020, it might seem irresponsible for Shanahan to try to replicate the same approach, especially if Beathard, who’ll command over $1 million this season, spends the season as a weekly inactive like he did in 2019.
The easy suggestion would be, of course, to trade Beathard. But with his 1-9 pro record, his value on the open market is nonexistent. Even while there are going to be more quarterback-needy teams this offseason than NFL Draft prospects and free agents available, it’s a foolish argument to think the 49ers could actually move Beathard via a trade.
That’s not the case with Mullens, however.
Ideally, the Niners would like to keep Mullens. An exclusive-rights free agent who thrived under Shanahan down the stretch in 2018, Mullens is going to be a cheap commodity under the team’s control for the foreseeable future.
But that also drives up Mullens’ value on the open market. The only question is which team would come calling.
The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have a first- or third-round NFL Draft pick in 2020. And it’s pretty clear neither Mason Rudolph nor Devlin Hodges are going to be adequate heir apparents to the veteran, Ben Roethlisberger, whose career is hitting its twilight.
Two fourth rounds might feel like an undersell for Mullens. But remember, Mullens has just eight starts at the pro level and a sub-.500 record during that limited stretch.
Yet that’s why the 49ers could work in a conditional 2021 draft pick, which could rise up to a third-round level if Mullens manages to start X amount of games in 2020 or passes for any given threshold of yards, a certain passer rating or whatever both teams agree upon.
That wouldn’t be a bad return, allowing San Francisco to replenish its mid-round draft stock in 2020, while adding a potential day-two selection in 2021.
And for Mullens, he’d get a realistic chance to emerge as a long-term starter, which is best for him.
Meanwhile, 49ers fans simply have to hope Garoppolo remains healthy.