The 49ers have to be patting themselves on the back right now. They have kept the band together, bringing back key free agents to another Super Bowl run this offseason after last year's injury-plagued season. However, there still remains a glaring hole on their offseason to-do list.
As it's currently constructed right now, the quarterback room simply isn't good enough. The 49ers expect Jimmy Garoppolo to be the starter for the 2021 season, but general manager John Lynch has made it clear San Francisco needs a better safety valve should Garoppolo's injury history continue.
The free-agent market now is extremely dry with options that wouldn't keep the 49ers' offense churning if Garoppolo goes down. Lynch and Shanahan certainly could target a QB in the draft, but if they feel this team has more glaring needs, they could explore the trade market. And a solid option might have just become more available.
With former 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Gardner Minshew might be on the move. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Wednesday that the "49ers are up to something at quarterback." He mentioned the 49ers spoke with Mitchell Trubisky before he signed with the Buffalo Bills, pushed to sign Andy Dalton before he landed with the Chicago Bears and had extensive talks with Joe Flacco ahead of him signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. And then there's Minshew.
"Rumors persist that Jacksonville quarterback Gardner Minshew II could be in their plans via trade," Fowler wrote.
The Jaguars are expected to select Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and have added Beathard on a two-year deal. Minshew could be on the outside looking in. That doesn't mean he won't be dealt for nothing. He's a viable QB on a cheap rookie contract who could soon be a hot commodity around the league.
If Minshew's price tag is in the 49ers' range, though, Lynch should take serious consideration in adding the mustached signal-caller. Minshew is just 24 years old -- he turns 25 in May -- and the former sixth-round draft pick is off to a strong start in his NFL career. Through 23 games (20 starts), Minshew has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 5,530 yards, 37 touchdowns and has been intercepted 11 times. Despite him playing fewer games and the Jaguars winning just one of his starts last season, Minshew improved his completion percentage from 60.6 percent to 66.1 percent, improved his yards per game from 233.6 to 251.0 and improved his quarterback rating from 91.2 to 95.9 in his second year as a pro.
While Garoppolo battled two separate ankle injuries and played in only six games, he had a 67.5 Pro Football Focus Grade last season. Minshew's PFF grade was 67.8 in 2020 and 70.3 as a rookie in 2019.
Minshew is competitive, mobile and would be an instant upgrade as the 49ers' QB2 over Josh Rosen and Josh Johnson. He would push Garoppolo and keep the 49ers as a strong offense if he had to step in.
The 49ers of course could look to the draft or have their eyes on other trade targets like Sam Darnold. But if the 49ers do indeed believe in Jimmy G and want to bring in a young backup at a reasonable price, targeting Minshew makes a lot of sense.