49ers Rumors

49ers Likely To Carry Three QBs; Brock Purdy Ramps Up Throwing Program

The 49ers closed last season with only Josh Johnson backing up Brock Purdy, moving to that two-quarterback setup after Jimmy Garoppolo‘s foot injury. That approach’s conclusion ended up leading to the NFL changing the rules regarding QB availability.

Going into this year, the 49ers will likely take a more conventional approach. They are prepared to carry three quarterbacks on their active roster, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

San Francisco’s offseason roster houses four quarterbacks — Purdy, Trey Lance, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen — and the team just worked out recent XFL arm Jack Coan (along with four-year veteran wide receiver Jason Moore), KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. With a four-QB arrangement rarely used during the regular season, one of the team’s current four passers will not be on the active roster once the team sets it August 29. This does invite questions regarding Lance and Darnold coexisting, but Allen could make sense as a practice squad option.

Despite Allen spending the past three years as Joe Burrow‘s Bengals backup, he landed with the 49ers midway through the offseason. Allen would pass straight to free agency if cut in late August, opening the door for a spot on San Francisco’s 16-man P-squad. It is possible another team would view the veteran backup as a second- or third-string candidate, however. In the event the 49ers do pull the trigger on a Lance trade — a rumored scenario earlier this offseason, though John Lynch has veered in the other direction as of late — Allen makes sense as their third-stringer.

He’s obviously not just a camp arm around this league,” Shanahan said of Allen. “He’s been a backup for a while.”

Allen, 30, is going into his eighth NFL season. For now, Lance and Darnold are splitting first-team reps while Purdy recovers. But after the events of last season, the 49ers could carry three QBs on their active roster and have an insurance option on the P-squad.

Lance went down in Week 2 of last season and underwent two ankle surgeries, while Garoppolo’s Bay Area run coming to an end in early December. The latter issue led to a March surgery, which has affected the Raiders’ 2023 plans. Purdy’s UCL tear did not lead to Tommy John surgery, but it has still thrust the 49ers into another offseason headlined by post-surgery rehab. Garoppolo came back from shoulder surgery last year, moving off the trade block and into the role of Lance’s backup. Johnson, signed off the Broncos’ practice squad after Garoppolo’s injury, suffered a concussion that brought a severely compromised Purdy back into the NFC championship game. Last month, the NFL approved the return of the emergency QB rule, which allows for teams to designate a non-active-roster passer as its game-day emergency option — only in the event its top two QBs go down.

This scenario opens the door to the strange proposition of Lance or Darnold not dressing but being an emergency option. Purdy continues to look like he will not need a stay on the reserve/PUP list to start the season. Although the second-year passer’s rehab timetable may still threaten his regular-season availability, the 49ers will likely play it week to week and keep Purdy on their 53-man roster in that case. Not long after beginning to throw post-surgery, Purdy has ramped up his throwing program to three times per week, Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News notes.

Considered ahead of schedule in his recovery from an internal brace procedure, Purdy remains in the driver’s seat to start for the 49ers. Training camp will provide a better indication of Darnold or Lance’s capabilities at unseating last year’s Mr. Irrelevant, but for the time being, Purdy’s grip on the job remains firm.

49ers Sign DL Darryl Johnson

The 49ers have added a veteran defensive lineman. Matt Barrows of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that Darryl Johnson has signed a one-year deal with the 49ers. To make room on the roster, the team waived wideout Shae Wyatt.

Johnson, a former seventh-round pick out of North Carolina A&T, got into 31 games with the Bills through his first two seasons in the NFL. He was traded to the Panthers prior to the 2021 campaign, but a hamstring injury limited him to only three games.

He was snagged off waivers by the Seahawks at the end of the 2022 preseason. He collected four tackles in four games (one start) for Seattle before a foot injury ended his season early.

The 49ers have been busy adding to the defensive line this offseason. They selected USC defensive end Drake Jackson in the second round, and they gave veteran Javon Hargrave a four-year, $84MM contract. Despite adding top-end depth to a defensive line that already includes Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, the 49ers could still keep Johnson around as a back-of-the-depth-chart option and special teamer.

Wyatt went undrafted before signing with the 49ers back in May. The receiver had a standout season at Tulane in 2022, finishing with 35 receptions for 692 yards and seven touchdowns.

Latest On San Francisco’s OL Plans

There weren’t many doubts heading into 2023, but 49ers offensive line coach and run game coordinator Chris Foerster has provided some clarity about some roles on the team’s offensive line for the year. While the left side of the line from center over was solid last year, with left tackle Trent Williams grading out as the league’s top tackle, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the right side of the line was viewed as a bit more up in the air.

The biggest question facing the offensive line was who would replace departing starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who signed with the Broncos in free agency back in March. Foerster confirmed that the team intends to utilize fourth-year tackle Colton McKivitz in the starting lineup to begin the season, according to Nick Wagoner of ESPN. The former fifth-round pick out of West Virginia has been asked to step up a few times, starting five games over his young career. It’s been a long road to become a starter as McKivitz spent the majority of his sophomore season on the practice squad and dealt with a high ankle sprain that landed him on injured reserve for four games last year.

San Francisco doesn’t have a ton of options behind McKivitz. Jaylon Moore has competed with McKivitz in the last few years for a backup role, starting five games over the last two seasons, and the team brought in Matt Pryor for depth in free agency. Pryor was also considered a possible replacement for McGlinchey as he has the most starting experience of the three, but he will instead be providing some experienced depth off the bench with starts under his belt at both tackle and guard.

Another question lingered on the right side after Spencer Burford showed room for improvement as a rookie starter last year. The 49ers asked a lot of their fourth-round selection, cementing him in that starting role fairly early into his tenure with the team. Of 77 guards graded last year by PFF, Burford’s rookie season ranked him 67th in the group. Despite the team bringing in some possible competition, Foerster confirmed that Burford should be returning to his starting role from last year.

The options behind Burford are much better than behind McKivitz. As mentioned above, Pryor comes in with starting experience at guard as well as tackle. The team added another veteran with diverse experience in Jon Feliciano. Feliciano started games at both guard spots over his time with the Raiders and Bills before spending last season as the Giants’ starting center. He provides San Francisco with a strong option as a backup center, but a recent report claimed that the team intends to use Feliciano back in his natural guard role. It appears he may be the 49ers’ top backup option for any of the interior roles.

San Francisco also has second-year guard Nick Zakelj, but Foerster wants Zakelj to give Feliciano a run for the No.2 center job behind starter Jake Brendel, according to Wagoner. Foerster says that they’d like Zakelj, who appeared in five games as a rookie last year in minimal work, to be able to provide depth at all three interior positions.

Hence, Foerster has provided us a strong portrait of the depth chart for San Francisco’s offensive line. A starting lineup that includes (from left to right) Williams, Aaron Banks, Brendel, Burford, and McKivitz will have strong competition and replacement options in Pryor, Feliciano, and Zakelj. With some of the best players in the country at running back, wide receiver, and tight end, and several strong options at quarterback, Foerster is doing his best to make sure the offensive line is not a weak spot on the 49ers offense.

2023 NFL Cap Space, By Team

The start of June has served as a key NFL financial period for decades. While teams no longer have to wait until after June 1 to make that cost-splitting cut designation, teams pick up the savings from those transactions today. With a handful of teams making post-June 1 cuts this year, here is how each team’s cap space (courtesy of OverTheCap) looks as of Friday:

  1. Chicago Bears: $32.58MM
  2. Carolina Panthers: $27.25MM
  3. Arizona Cardinals: $26.68MM
  4. New York Jets: $24.79MM
  5. Detroit Lions: $23.72MM
  6. Indianapolis Colts: $23.39MM
  7. Dallas Cowboys: $20.48MM
  8. Houston Texans: $16.81MM
  9. Green Bay Packers: $16.57MM
  10. Pittsburgh Steelers: $15.73MM
  11. Cincinnati Bengals: $14.92MM
  12. New Orleans Saints: $14.27MM
  13. New England Patriots: $14.12MM
  14. Miami Dolphins: $13.9MM
  15. Cleveland Browns: $13.86MM
  16. Philadelphia Eagles: $13.85MM
  17. Los Angeles Chargers: $12.61MM
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars: $12MM
  19. Washington Commanders: $11.57MM
  20. Baltimore Ravens: $11.54MM
  21. San Francisco 49ers: $10.72MM
  22. Atlanta Falcons: $10.7MM
  23. Denver Broncos: $10.13MM
  24. Minnesota Vikings: $9.75MM
  25. Tennessee Titans: $7.99MM
  26. Seattle Seahawks: $7.94MM
  27. New York Giants: $3.82MM
  28. Las Vegas Raiders: $3.37MM
  29. Los Angeles Rams: $1.49MM
  30. Buffalo Bills: $1.4MM
  31. Kansas City Chiefs: $653K
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $402K

The Dolphins gained the most from a post-June 1 cut (Byron Jones) this year, creating $13.6MM in cap space from a deal that will spread out the cornerback’s dead money through 2024. But the Browns (John Johnson, Jadeveon Clowney) and Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott) created more than $10MM in space as well.

The Jets’ number is a bit deceiving. They are still working on a restructure with Aaron Rodgers, as the trade acquisition’s cap number — after a Packers restructure — sits at just $1.22MM. In 2024, that number skyrockets to $107.6MM. Rodgers’ cap hit will almost definitely will climb before Week 1, so viewing the Jets along with the other teams north of $20MM in space is not entirely accurate.

Minnesota is moving closer to separating from its $12.6MM-per-year Dalvin Cook contract. The team already created some space by trading Za’Darius Smith to the Browns. Cleveland, which is one of the teams connected to DeAndre Hopkins, added Smith and did so with help from its Deshaun Watson restructure. Watson was set to count $54.9MM against the Browns’ 2023 cap. That number is down to $19.1MM, though the Browns’ restructure both ballooned Watson’s mid-2020s cap figures to $63.9MM — which would shatter the NFL record — and added a 2027 void year.

Tampa Bay and Los Angeles sit atop the league in dead money, with the Bucs — largely from their April 2022 Tom Brady restructure — checking in at $75.3MM here. That total comprises nearly 33% of the Bucs’ 2023 cap sheet. The Rams, at more than $74MM, are not far behind. Despite the Bills and Chiefs — the teams most frequently tied to Hopkins — joining the Bucs and Rams near the bottom of the league in cap space, both AFC contenders also sit in the bottom five in dead money.

Brock Purdy Resumes Throwing, Remains Frontrunner To Start

Brock Purdy did end up beating early post-surgery projections. The second-year quarterback’s previously reported plan to throw this week is a go, and John Lynch said no setbacks emerged after the session.

The 49ers will still be, understandably, proceeding cautiously with last year’s third-stringer-turned-starter. But Lynch said during a Sirius XM Radio appearance the team is “incredibly encouraged” by Purdy’s early recovery stages.

[RELATED: Trey Lance Not Considering Trade Request]

Last year’s Mr. Irrelevant underwent UCL surgery March 10, following a slight delay due to swelling, and his recovery timetable could run up against the 49ers’ regular-season opener. Should Purdy continue to progress and make it back in time, Lynch said he remains the “leader in the clubhouse” to start. Lynch, as expected, praised Trey Lance — who has taken the bulk of the 49ers’ first-team reps during OTAs thus far — and labeled the Purdy-Lance-Sam Darnold setup an open competition.

Is it a flash in the pan or is it the real deal?” Lynch said, regarding Purdy (h/t The Athletic’s David Lombardi). “As we’ve gone back and studied it, he played at a high, high level. Not only played within the system, he made a lot of plays outside the system by extending plays. He showed tremendous playmaking ability. He showed tremendous ability to run the system efficiently, effectively, push the ball downfield — he just had an incredible first year.”

In not chasing an upgrade and letting Jimmy Garoppolo walk in free agency, the 49ers effectively showed that confidence in Purdy building on his stunning rookie-year form. The team did add Darnold but did so after Lance underwent a second ankle surgery. Darnold has also taken first-team reps during OTAs, per the San Jose Mercury News’ Cam Inman, and represents a wild card of sorts given the advantages the Kyle Shanahan-orchestrated offense has on the Jets and Panthers’ attacks Darnold helmed during his first five seasons.

It will certainly be interesting to see if Darnold’s talent level begins to show during Purdy’s recovery, as he and Lance are currently slated to back up a former No. 262 overall pick. Purdy’s form once he receives full clearance will obviously bring attention, given the healthy options the 49ers now have at quarterback. For now, however, the 2018 and ’21 No. 3 draftees are in line for reserve roles — though, it will be difficult to envision either being a third-stringer in the event the 49ers keep all three come September.

Traded NFL Draft Picks For 2024

As teams regroup on potential trade talks, 2024 draft picks represent the top non-player assets available. Although the usual run of draft-weekend trades featured teams moving up and down the 2023 board, a high number of 2024 picks have changed hands. The Cardinals resided at the center of such movement, but many other teams have already made changes to their 2024 draft arsenals. Three first-rounders have already been traded, and a fourth — barring an Aaron Rodgers injury — will be expected to transfer.

Here are the 2024 picks to have changed hands thus far:

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

  • Lions obtained Vikings‘ pick in 2022 deadline deal that sent T.J. Hockenson to Minnesota
  • As part of Payton trade, Broncos collected Saints‘ third
  • As part of Anderson trade, Cardinals acquired Texans’ 2024 third
  • Cardinals picked up Titans‘ 2024 third in deal that allowed Tennessee to draft Will Levis at No. 33
  • Seahawks acquired third from Broncos in exchange for No. 83 overall pick (CB Riley Moss)
    • It is not yet known if Seattle will add Denver or New Orleans’ 2024 third
  • Texans landed third from Eagles in trade for No. 105 (CB Kelee Ringo)

Round 4

Round 5

Round 6

Round 7

Each NFL Franchise’s Richest QB Contract

The quarterback market has moved again this offseason. A year after Aaron Rodgers raised the average annual value bar past $50MM, Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson did so on long-term extensions. Overall, four teams have authorized the most lucrative QB deal in their respective histories this offseason. Two more — the Bengals and Chargers — are in talks about record-setting extensions as well.

On that note, here is the richest quarterback contract each team has authorized. Although teams like the Jets and Lions have acquired big-ticket contracts via trade, only teams’ extensions or free agency agreements will qualify here.

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

  • Jay Cutler, January 2014. Seven years, $126.7MM. $38MM fully guaranteed

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Carson Palmer, December 2005. Six years, $97MM. $30.8MM fully guaranteed

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

In trading this contract to the Jets in April, the Packers restructured the deal. Rodgers’ exit will still tag the Pack with $40.3MM in 2023 dead money.

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Carr’s second Raiders deal — agreed to in April 2022 — was worth $40.5MM per year. The full guarantee, thanks to the February escape hatch the team built into the contract, checked in lower than Carr’s initial Raiders extension.

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Cousins’ 2020 extension checked in with a higher AAV ($33MM) but did not approach his initial Minnesota pact for guarantees.

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Chad Pennington, September 2004. Seven years, $64MM. $23MM guaranteed.

The Jets have signed three quarterbacks to deals involving more guaranteed money, but each of those contracts — for Mark Sanchez (2009), Sam Darnold (2018) and Zach Wilson (2021) — was a rookie pact.

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

DB Notes: Lions, Joseph, Oliver, Cardinals

A scary scene transpired during the Lions‘ Week 5 matchup with the Patriots. An ambulance transported Saivion Smith off the field, and the Lions defensive back said he feared paralysis following a collision with Patriots running back Damien Harris. Smith left the game after the next play, after falling to the turf after a routine tackle attempt on Hunter Henry. The backup DB, however, said (via the Detroit Free Press’ Jeff Seidel) he made a failed attempt to return to the stadium from the ambulance and regained arm and leg movement at the hospital. The neck injury he suffered ended up requiring spinal fusion surgery.

Smith received full Lions clearance in April, re-signing with the team that month. The 25-year-old cover man’s deal is worth $940K and contains no guaranteed money, giving the Lions — who overhauled their secondary this offseason — flexibility to move on free of charge. The Lions moved Smith to safety last season, but he offers versatility. With the Lions adding two other DBs with extensive backgrounds at both safety and corner — C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Brian Branch — Smith stands to compete for a backup role.

Here is the latest news from NFL secondaries:

  • After years of shuttling Jimmie Ward between safety and the nickel role, the 49ers let the veteran defender walk (to the Texans) this offseason. They will use free agency addition Isaiah Oliver to replace Ward in the slot, per new DC Steve Wilks. “When [another Ward deal] didn’t happen, we wanted to make sure that we sort of got the best nickel in free agency, and that’s what we went out and did,” Wilks said, via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows (subscription required). “So I’m excited about Oliver. He’s long; he’s physical, can tackle, can cover. He’s going to be a good blitzer for us, everything that we do within this defense.” A former second-round pick, Oliver spent the past five seasons with the Falcons. The 210-pound defender is ticketed to work alongside outside corners Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir.
  • Kelvin Joseph may be in the Cowboys‘ nickel plans. After acquiring Stephon Gilmore via trade, the Cowboys are trying Joseph in the slot at OTAs, Jon Machota of The Athletic notes. The former second-round pick has worked as an outside corner over his first two seasons, though he has only played 330 career defensive snaps. The Cowboys lost both Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown to season-ending injuries last year. While Lewis remains on the roster, Brown, a longtime slot player, is unsigned.
  • Third-round Cardinals cornerback Garrett Williams received slightly more than the rookie-scale minimum to sign, per GOPHNX.com’s Howard Balzer, who notes the bumps come in Years 2-4 of his contract (Twitter link). This year’s No. 72 overall pick will earn between $1MM and $1.5MM from 2024-26. Third-rounders’ four-year deals are only partially guaranteed. Williams, a Syracuse alum, received a $1.1MM guarantee.
  • The Panthers brought back safety Sam Franklin earlier this offseason, tendering him as an RFA. But the fourth-year defender agreed to sign for slightly less than the low-end tender price. Rather than signing for $2.627MM (the tender number), Franklin is back in Carolina on a one-year, $2.51MM deal, Balzer adds (on Twitter). The Panthers gave the 27-year-old DB a $1.5MM signing bonus, which is spread through 2027 via void years. Franklin has been a core special-teamer in Carolina while working as a defensive backup.

Latest On Trey Lance, 49ers QB Depth

After getting only four starts through his first two years in the NFL, 49ers quarterback Trey Lance is now eyeing a backup role heading into his third NFL season. Thanks to his presumed spot on the depth chart, a number of teams have checked on the availability of the former third-overall pick. However, despite the outside interest, Lance never thought of requesting a trade out of San Francisco.

“No, not at all,” Lance told reporters yesterday (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle). “I knew where I wanted to be. I just want an opportunity to compete. I love it here. I love the coaching staff. … Love the quarterback room, love the guys in the locker room. This is absolutely where I want to be.”

Injuries have limited Lance’s progress through his first two NFL seasons. He spent most of his rookie season as the backup to Jimmy Garoppolo, and after heading into the 2022 campaign as the clear starter, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. Since then, 2022 Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy took the job and ran with it, guiding the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game.

The team made it clear that they’ll have Purdy atop the QB depth chart when they start the regular season, and the organization also brought in some veteran depth in Sam Darnold. Despite the fact that he might not even be the 49ers’ second option at the position, Lance admitted that he’s actually enjoying playing football for the first time in a while.

“I really feel like I’m having fun playing football again,” Lance said. “It’s hard those first years, my first year and especially last year, I thought I’d be able to get close to that point of not having to be so stressed and worried and have a better understanding of offense and defense. And I finally feel like I’m able to just have fun and enjoy it again.

“Obviously, there are ups and downs. And there is stress and anxiety that comes with playing the position and playing football. But this is the best I’ve felt, for sure.”

Even with the added depth at the position, Lance isn’t doomed in San Francisco. Purdy is still recovering from UCL surgery, although Kyle Shanahan told reporters that the QB should be throwing by next week (per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Twitter). It sounds like Purdy is a bit ahead of schedule, which is good news when it comes to his Week 1 availability. However, even a small setback could delay Purdy’s regular season debut, opening the door for a starting gig.

Per Rapoport, Lance has been taking the technical “first-team reps” at quarterback this week. However, Shanahan was quick to caution that this doesn’t mean a whole lot; Lance was playing with no offensive line and throwing to second- and third-string receivers. Ultimately, Rapoport believes there will be a real battle between Lance and Darnold for that QB2 (and potential QB1) role.

S Tony Jefferson To Retire, Join Ravens’ Staff

After missing more than two years because of an ACL tear, Tony Jefferson managed to land roles with multiple teams over the past two seasons. But the veteran defender will choose to step away rather than attempting to play a 10th season.

Jefferson intends to retire, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. He has another gig lined up, with Schefter adding the former Ravens safety is expected to join the team’s scouting staff. Jefferson played four seasons with the Ravens, working as a Baltimore starter in three of those. The 31-year-old cover man wraps his career having played for four teams, beginning with the Cardinals and including late-career stops with the 49ers and Giants.

Jefferson will follow punter Sam Koch in retiring and joining Baltimore’s staff. Current Ravens inside linebackers coach Zach Orr did the same in the late 2010s, moving from Ravens defender to coach. Jefferson did not finish his career with the Ravens, closing out his NFL run with the Giants last season, but he will stay close to the game as a member of the franchise. The Ravens announced Jefferson will be working as a scouting intern this summer.

The Ravens have signed several veteran safeties to big-ticket deals over the past several years. Jefferson joined Eric Weddle, Earl Thomas and Marcus Williams in this group. Baltimore teamed Jefferson and Weddle from 2017-18, when the two operated as the team’s starting safeties together. Jefferson signed a four-year, $34MM deal with the Ravens in 2017 and started 35 games over the next three seasons. During Jefferson’s final year as a full-time Ravens starter (2018), the team finished first in total defense.

A Week 5 ACL tear sidelined Jefferson for most of Baltimore’s 14-2 2019 season, and the Ravens released him with a failed physical designation in February 2020. Jefferson spent the 2020 season out of football. He eventually caught on with the 49ers in June 2021 but only played in two games with the team. He circled back to the Ravens in November of that year and ended up rejoining DC Don Martindale in New York just before last season. The Ravens released Jefferson on roster-cutdown day last August, his past with Martindale led to a Giants practice squad agreement. He moved up to the active roster and played nine games for the playoff qualifier.

Jefferson finished his career with 67 starts, lasting nine years despite entering the league as a Cardinals UDFA in 2013. Part of Bruce Arians‘ first batch of UDFAs, Jefferson played a regular role on the 2014 and ’15 playoff-bound Cardinals teams. He teamed with the likes of Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in Arizona’s 2015 secondary, which helped form a top-10 defense during a season that ended in the NFC championship game. Jefferson intercepted only four passes as a pro but registered 9.5 sacks and 34 tackles for loss. The future scout earned just more than $32MM as an NFL player.