SF 49ers should pass on tendering RFA Nick Mullens

Quarterback Nick Mullens #4 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Quarterback Nick Mullens #4 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The SF 49ers quarterback room is going to go through a sizable shakeup this offseason.

Aside from all the speculation and rumor surrounding the Niners’ starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, there’s an awfully good chance they move on from Jimmy G’s longtime backups, too, C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens.

Beathard, an unrestricted free agent in 2021, doesn’t figure to be back. Yet San Francisco has slightly more control over Mullens, who is a restricted free agent and could be retained if the team elects to tender him.

Weighing that option, though, it’s probably best for the SF 49ers to avoid doing so.

Mullens’ on-field struggles prior to his season-ending elbow injury late last year need little introduction. His 3.7 interception percentage was tied for worst in the league along with the Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz, and Mullens showed a clear regression from the hopeful numbers he posted in the wake of Garoppolo and Beathard’s injuries back in 2018.

Part of the reason why the Niners would be wise to simply let Mullens walk is because they’ve given him enough of a window to see if he’s capable of being a moderate backup. There’s no longer the “let’s see what this guy can do” attitude with putting Mullens back out on the field, and it’s clear the drop from someone like Garoppolo to Mullens is awfully steep.

But the bigger reason is likely due to the financial aspects.

Mullens would likely command a second-round tender, which is worth $3.384 million, according to Over the Cap. And even an original-round tender would cost San Francisco $2.133 million.

As far as underperforming backups go, that’s quite a lot of money for a cap-stressed team even if someone like Mullens is fully immersed in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Plus, the SF 49ers may have already indicated their decision regarding Mullens’ future.

The Niners officially announced a one-year extension for Josh Rosen, the former first-round quarterback they plucked off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad late last season to replace Mullens on the depth chart. While Rosen flamed out with both the team that drafted him, the Arizona Cardinals, and later the Miami Dolphins before landing in Tampa Bay, there’s always hope the 24 year old is able to resurrect his career under Shanahan to some degree.

If San Francisco was fully set on Mullens, there’d be little reason to retain Mullens.

Rich Scangarello is an SF 49ers X-factor for Nick Mullens

In addition to retaining Rosen, the SF 49ers brought back their former quarterbacks coach, Rich Scangarello, after his tenures both with the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles.

Scangarello was instrumental in the Niners initially grabbing Mullens as an undrafted free agent back in 2018, and there’s an argument to be made the quarterback’s success late that year was largely due to his coach’s presence. It’s safe to assume part of Mullens’ regression was due to Scangarello not being in the building anymore.

But that’s changed now, and there’s always the possibility Scangarello lobbies for Mullens’ retention.

Yet the final call ultimately lands with Shanahan, and it wasn’t hard to visibly observe the head coach’s frustrations with Mullens when things got out of hand for the bulk of 2020.

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If that’s any indication, Shanahan won’t see much of a need to keep Mullens around this offseason and won’t bother with tendering him a qualifying offer.