49ers depth chart 2021: Josh Rosen a QB2 or off the roster?
By Peter Panacy
49ers backup quarterback Josh Rosen may not get many more chances to revive his career, but his tenure as a Niners backup could be provocative.
Enough has been said about San Francisco 49ers third- or fourth-string backup quarterback, Josh Rosen, and how he’s managed to find himself associated with being a high-profile “NFL Draft bust” after being selected No. 10 overall by the Arizona Cardinals back in 2018 out of UCLA.
Rosen didn’t pan out his rookie year with the Cardinals, then was promptly traded to the Miami Dolphins a year later following the regime change in Arizona and subsequent drafting of its current starter, Kyler Murray.
And, of course, things didn’t go so well for Rosen in Miami, either, leading to that one-year stint ending with a 2020 designation on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad.
Only to join the Niners as an emergency 53-man add-on late last year because of an injury to then-starting quarterback Nick Mullens.
Quite the tumultuous journey for a player who only turned 24 years old this year.
|1 yr||1 yr||ARI||14||13||3-10-0||217||393||55.2||2278||11||14||5.8||66.7||45||1||2|
|1 yr||1 yr||MIA||6||3||0-3-0||58||109||53.2||567||1||5||5.2||52.0||16|
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Retained by San Francisco for 2021, this season might be the last opportunity for Rosen to resurrect his career, given his previous flameouts with three different teams.
Yet the trajectory of his potential role with the 49ers is pretty wide, almost completely contingent upon what happens with his own abilities during training camp and the preseason, as well as the high-profile camp battle for the QB1 role between Jimmy Garoppolo and the rookie, Trey Lance.
Let’s explore what the future role might be for Rosen and why it could potentially be awfully interesting.
Why Josh Rosen hangs around with 49ers in 2021
The Niners aren’t keeping Rosen to help revitalize his career. If that was the case, they probably wouldn’t have inked former Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld during the offseason.
Sudfeld will push Rosen, likely for the No. 3 quarterbacking spot on the 53-man roster, which will be an under-the-radar storyline during camp.
If Rosen wins that bout, he’s likely safe even though there’s nothing by the way of guarantees on his one-year contract with San Francisco. There is for Sudfeld, however.
The 49ers have been forced to play three different quarterbacks in two of the last three years, namely because of Garoppolo’s injury history. So, whoever winds up winning the designation as the No. 3 quarterback could have something of a vital role this year.
Especially if the Garoppolo-Lance competition takes a unique turn.
Why Josh Rosen flops with 49ers in 2021
A career-54.8 completion percentage is one of the many aspects about Rosen’s pro-level game that points to him being a draft bust.
Sure, the contexts with both the Cardinals and Dolphins need to be taken into consideration, as both teams were going through their own tumult during his time in both places. Yet Rosen never came close to capitalizing on the opportunity to at least show promise.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense is notoriously complex. And even though Rosen had a sniff of the system late last year, the general argument is it typically takes a full year to come close to mastering the system.
True, Sudfeld doesn’t exactly have this advantage either. But with Sudfeld’s previous work in Philly under now-Niners quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello, there might be a bit more continuity there as opposed to Rosen.
Not good for the former top-10 draft pick.
Josh Rosen’s trajectory with 49ers in 2021: off the roster or QB No. 2?
Yes, not a typo. Quarterback No. 2 on the depth chart.
True, Rosen is likely much closer to being off the roster by the time Week 1 rolls around. But there is an avenue to him actually being named the primary backup on game day.
The reason? Lance beats out Garoppolo during training camp.
Should this happen, and there’s evidence to suggest it could, San Francisco isn’t going to retain Garoppolo as a $26 million backup to Lance. Jimmy G will be jettisoned quickly, either via a pre-Week 1 trade or perhaps even an outright release.
Related Story: Why 49ers lock up Josh Rosen beyond 2021
That would leave Lance, Rosen and Sudfeld as the remaining options on the roster. If Rosen was to beat out Sudfeld in camp and the preseason, there you go. He’d be Lance’s primary backup on game day.
Again, it’s not a probable situation. A number of factors would have to work in Rosen’s favor to even come close to him being dressed on a weekly basis, let alone staying on the 53-man roster anyway.
But the possibility is there.
For Rosen, the more important element might actually be him trying to do whatever it takes to ensure 2021 isn’t his final season in the NFL.