Why 49ers lock up Josh Rosen on a contract beyond 2021

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Josh Rosen (2) Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Josh Rosen (2) Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

It sounds like a weird idea, but there’s a scenario where the 49ers could extend backup quarterback Josh Rosen beyond his one-year deal for 2021.

Maybe the San Francisco 49ers turn into the first team with which quarterback Josh Rosen finds a “forever” home.

It sounds odd on the surface. After all, Rosen, the former No. 10 overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, has bounced around the league with the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before being a late-season emergency add by the Niners in 2020. And while San Francisco retained him on a one-year deal into 2021, there’s no guaranteed money on his contract.

Simply put, the 49ers can jettison him easily if he fails to impress during training camp and the preseason.

Also on the surface is the likelihood the Niners have already identified their top two quarterbacks on the depth chart: Jimmy Garoppolo and the No. 3 overall pick from this year’s draft, Trey Lance.

That leaves Rosen to compete with the other QB on San Francisco’s roster, Nate Sudfeld, for the No. 3 spot on the regular-season roster.

So, why would the 49ers even think about signing Rosen to a new deal beyond the cheap one-year, $850,000 contract he has for 2021?

Well, it’s directly related to Lance and Garoppolo.

49ers need a quality backup if Trey Lance wins starting job in 2021

All signs are currently pointing towards head coach Kyle Shanahan giving Garoppolo the starting quarterback gig this season.

Read More: 3 reasons why Jimmy Garoppolo starts for all of 2021

Garoppolo is already immersed in Shanahan’s complex offense. He’s far more experienced and has a rapport with the bulk of his pass-catching targets. And 2019 was proof enough he can be successful, provided he stays healthy and has a decent supporting cast.

But making immediate assumptions about the presumed roster and depth chart is both premature and irresponsible. The Niners traded up for Lance in the draft to get as much out of his on-field impact as possible. Shanahan won’t hesitate to pass the proverbial baton over to Lance the moment the head coach feels the rookie gives San Francisco as good a chance at winning games as Jimmy G.

If this happens — and this remains a sizable “if” — paying Garoppolo more than $26 million in his 2021 salary to ride the bench isn’t feasible. He’ll be jettisoned at the soonest possible moment, should this end up being the case.

And that’s where Rosen suddenly becomes a more important commodity.

49ers could then extend Josh Rosen in response to Jimmy Garoppolo being moved

With one less quarterback in the fray, both Rosen and Sudfeld would be expected to make the 53-man roster.

Yet Shanahan’s complex offense isn’t easy to master, and many have argued it takes a full year for a quarterback to fully grasp the nature of the system. While Rosen isn’t necessarily that far ahead of Lance in this regard, he does have a modest understanding of the terminology from late in 2020.

On top of that, it’s important to acknowledge Rosen is only 24 years old. While the early beginnings of his NFL career have been anything but remarkable, he can still be associated with the “potential” moniker… someone who, perhaps, just hasn’t latched on with the right system, scheme or context.

Plus, with the understanding the 49ers are looking at both a Super Bowl window and a lengthy list of injuries the last two years, having a competent backup — something they haven’t had the last three-plus years — suddenly becomes more of a priority for the long run.

And not regularly switching out backup quarterbacks over the next two or three years.

Granted, regardless of what happens with Garoppolo and Lance, Rosen will need to showcase whatever upside he has left after flaming out multiple times with multiple teams since 2018. That won’t be easy, per se.

But if Rosen winds up proving his worth during camp, and Lance ends up beating out Garoppolo, the door would be open for the Niners to install some consistency within their quarterback room for the foreseeable future.

Next. Ranking 49ers' 10 worst quarterbacks in franchise history. dark