Although SF 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens’ contract makes it likely he’s part of the team next year, now is the time to trade him.
Editor’s note: This article was written before ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Jimmy Garoppolo would be sidelined indefinitely after Week 8. Still, the idea of trading Nick Mullens contained herein is awfully provocative and interesting.
When any team loses its starting quarterback for an extended period of time, it’s a big deal and sometimes a season-ender. The SF 49ers are no different, although some could argue with head coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheming, they could work around it better than others.
In the end, though, the man behind center matters.
This fragility of a season related to a quarterback is exactly why No. 2 quarterback Nick Mullens has stayed on the roster for the last few years. As an undrafted free agent from Southern Mississippi, he burst on the scene following the benching of C.J. Beathard by lighting up the then-Oakland Raiders on Thursday Night Football in 2018 before proceeding to beat the Seattle Seahawks at home. Mullens played admirably well, and though some considered a quarterback competition to be a real situation, the general consensus was the Niners had a capable backup in case the starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, got hurt.
Fast-forward to the present. 2019 came and went, the SF 49ers went from burgeoning team to bonafide contender, Garoppolo was healthy and productive, if not a world-beater, and the season ended in disappointment. Then the 2020 season, where Garoppolo played poorly against the Arizona Cardinals, lit up the NY Jets for a half before finally succumbing to a high-ankle sprain, and in came Mullens.
Mullens was OK in a half’s work against the Jets — call it nerves — sensational against the NY Giants, and collapsed against the Philadelphia Eagles, playing a huge role in handing the SF 49ers a loss they should not have had. It was a stark reminder Mullens’ starting aspirations simply were not likely to come true.
Then Garoppolo came back and the offense, after struggling versus the Miami Dolphins, looked to be in a groove. Then the Week 8 Seattle Seahawks game happened.
With a must-win divisional game, Garopppolo faded and injured himself, while Mullens, while playing garbage snaps against a prevent defense, lit up the Seahawks to the tune of 238 yards and two touchdowns.
Not the same situation, but a good showcase of his peak performance.
The 2020 NFL trade deadline is coming up when Mullens is currently a pending restricted free agent. The Niners have no rush to trade him, technically. As a restricted free agent, they could slap a tender, and if a team signed him, it’d have to give up that type of pick (i.e. first-round tender equals first-round pick to the SF 49ers).
But for a multitude of reasons, it’s time to move on and capitalize something in return before the deadline. Let’s explore the two biggest ones.