Can Brock Purdy shoulder the 49ers? We might have to wait for 2025 to find out

Brock Purdy is a great quarterback. But can he carry a team on his shoulders?

Fans and critics alike may have to wait another year before answering that question.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) / Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Fans want to see if Brock Purdy will back up his MVP-caliber campaign from 2023 in 2024. But it's likely 2025 that'll reveal whether or not he's the 'real deal.'

Apologies for not having the link to it. But, years ago, Hall of Famer Steve Young told KNBR 680 that the best way to be a perennial Super Bowl contender was not to have an elite defense.

Instead, having an elite quarterback made teams perennial Super Bowl contenders.

Sure, good defenses and run games matter. And those can win a championship here and there. But, to get into the pantheon of dynasties, as the San Francisco 49ers found out (twice) at the hands of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, having one of those quarterbacks with a Mahomes-like pedigree can be the entire difference.

So, do the Niners have someone like that in their quarterback, Brock Purdy?

Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves and crown Purdy as the next Mahomes. Nor should we say Purdy is on the same trajectory, although Purdy was an MVP finalist after leading (or coming close to leading) nearly every significant passing category in 2023.

However, Purdy's detractors will argue that he's a system quarterback, a product of head coach Kyle Shanahan's scheme, who benefits from a star-studded offense and an elite complementary defense.

As such, fans will want to see if Purdy can replicate what happened in 2023 with another stellar outing in 2024.

Given that the Niners will retain 18 of last season's 22 starters, though, it's unlikely those criticisms will go away anytime soon.

Instead, if Purdy wants to separate himself from those critiques, it'll likely be in 2025 and not 2024.

Here's why.

49ers roster likely changes (a lot) in 2025

One of the reasons San Francisco was able to stockpile so much talent for 2023 and into 2024 was because of Purdy's contract. Set to earn a shade above $1 million this season, which doesn't even put him into the offseason's "51 rule" mandated to the 51 biggest contracts to count against a team's salary cap.

Purdy can't receive an extension until 2025 (more on that in a second), meaning he'll play on the cheap, allowing the 49ers to spend lucratively to bolster both sides of the ball.

That changes a year from now, however.

The Niners already started trimming payroll, namely by releasing veteran defensive tackle Arik Armstead with a post-June 1 designation, freeing up $18 million. But they still own plenty of top-dollar contracts for players like linebacker Fred Warner, left tackle Trent Williams, tight end George Kittle, running back Christian McCaffrey, cornerback Charvarius Ward, defensive end Nick Bosa (currently the highest-paid defender in football) and wide receivers Deebo Samuel, and likely soon, Brandon Aiyuk.

Speaking of Samuel and Aiyuk, San Francisco is aiming to extend the latter on a deal that could push well over $25 million, annually. The cost of keeping both seems unreasonable, which helps explain rumors about Samuel's future in a 49ers uniform.

It also helps explain why the general nature of the Niners' 2024 NFL Draft class wasn't to help with this year's Super Bowl aspirations but rather to prepare for 2025 and beyond.

Is Samuel playing his final year in a San Francisco uniform? Are many of the other blue-chip players also looking at the hard reality of being cap casualties?

And the lesser-talented the 49ers end up being, the tougher things will get for Purdy, right?

It sure seems that way.

But, wait. There's more potential challenges to Purdy.

Brock Purdy will find out big contracts mean big pressure

One of the quirks about Purdy, at least right now, is how little he's earning. It's safe to say he's vastly outplayed his contractual value, and then some.

That said, Purdy is in line to earn a contract extension that could make him one of if not the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league in a year's time. For what it's worth, Over the Cap valued Purdy's 2023 efforts at $32.6 million, and Spotrac's market-value tool suggests he could receive a deal that pays him north of $46 million, annually.

Related story: What would a Brock Purdy contract extension look like?

Fans and analysts jump at criticizing players who regress or statistically decline after a big payday, but they're especially critical of quarterbacks.

The money soon owed will cut into that star-studded Niners roster, and the context is set up for Purdy to have that regression immediately after cashing in on a massive deal.

So, that leads us to the original question. Can he put San Francisco on his shoulders?

2025 will be litmus test for Brock Purdy as 'the guy' carrying a team

Going back to Young's comments, elite quarterbacks keep their teams as perennial Super Bowl contenders for years almost regardless of the supporting cast.

Mahomes is in that category. He's lost star players like now-Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill, had inconsistent run games in support while not always enjoying an elite defense on the other side of the ball.

Outside of wide receiver Davante Adams, the Green Bay Packers regularly failed to surround their former quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, with elite-level offensive pass catchers. Back with the New England Patriots, future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady wasn't always blessed with elite receivers in each one of his Super Bowl victories.

Yet all of them continued to put their respective teams on their shoulders.

That might be the final proving ground for Purdy, coming at a point when the 49ers no longer boast such an elite cast of players in support. If he can still thrive under center and maintain the Niners' stance as a Super Bowl contender despite whatever losses that may come, yes, he'll be in that elite category.

We all might just have to wait a year to find out, though.

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