The 49ers are going to have to make several critical decisions this offseason, but none bigger than determining the path forward at quarterback.
Does San Francisco stick with Jimmy Garoppolo? Or do the 49ers go in a different direction, whether it be trading for a veteran or using a high draft pick on a gunslinger?
At this point, all options are on the table. How the 49ers finish out the remainder of the current season could be a determining factor, particularly if Garoppolo is able to return from injury. San Francisco surely wouldn't mind getting another look at him before determining his fate.
If the 49ers do move on from Garoppolo, though, there's no shortage of potential replacements. The draft is loaded with talented QB prospects, and there should be some intriguing candidates available via trade or in free agency.
But for NFL Media's David Carr, however, there's one obvious choice for San Francisco that stands above the rest.
"John Lynch and [Kyle] Shanahan have proven to be very aggressive with personnel moves in the past, so I could see them making a big move for the right player," Carr wrote Tuesday. "Sam Darnold or Carson Wentz would thrive under Shanahan, but the one player the offensive guru should have his eye on is Matthew Stafford.
"There's been talk of Stafford and the [Detroit] Lions parting ways this coming offseason, and I can't think of a better option than to put Stafford on a team that has a legitimate chance to get back to the Super Bowl [if healthy]. The product Shanahan and Stafford would put on the field would rival that of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, and it would be glorious."
Whoa there. There's no doubt that Stafford is capable of putting up big offensive numbers, and he'd likely be held in higher regard had he not been stuck on the Lions for his entire career to this point. But Reid and Mahomes? That's the highest of standards.
Stafford, 32, is a few years older than Garoppolo, 29, but he still has one of the strongest arms in the league and likely would permit Shanahan to open up the offense a bit more, particularly vertically. His accuracy could stand to improve, but that might occur naturally when surrounded by a superior supporting cast.
Under contract for two more seasons, Stafford's cap hit rises to $33 million in 2021, but drops to $26 million for the 2022 season. That's a reasonable rate, and far easier to swallow than just about any other veteran QB contract the 49ers would consider bringing in.
The 49ers would have to create some cap space in order to acquire Stafford, but if he could take San Francisco's offense to the levels that Carr believes he is capable of? Then Stafford most certainly would be worth it.