The 49ers shook up the NFL world when they traded the No. 12 overall pick, a compensatory third-rounder and two future first-round picks to the Miami Dolphins to acquire the No. 3 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft to find their future franchise quarterback.
Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have been open about their plan to have Jimmy Garoppolo still be the starting quarterback in 2021 as they believe he still gives the 49ers the best chance to win a Super Bowl next season. However, Shanahan and Lynch did say they would trade the 29-year-old quarterback if they were blown away by an offer. But the 49ers reportedly are asking for a first-round pick in exchange for Garoppolo.
Former 49ers offensive lineman Joe Staley understands why Shanahan and Lynch elected to target a quarterback in the draft, but knows Garoppolo is a winning quarterback when on the field.
"He took us to the Super Bowl. He was the quarterback when we went to the Super Bowl," Staley told Michael Robinson on "NFL Total Access: The Locker Room" podcast. "I think one of the things you said was, 'When he plays.' I think in any position, if you miss a lot of games, I think the old cliché is, 'The best ability is availability.' There's a double-edged sword to that because if you're Tom Brady and Drew Brees, I don't care how often you get hurt, but you're going to still be the starting quarterback. I think maybe that's a little bit [of the reason].
"... I think, two, the way contracts are structured these days in the NFL, you're almost better off having a rookie quarterback on a rookie deal and kind of building a team around him. If you look at the quarterbacks [who have] been in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady's probably the only one that's not on a rookie deal that has been there. I think Pat [Mahomes] was on his."
Staley knows the easiest way to build a Super Bowl roster full of talented veterans is to have a quarterback on a rookie contract, and he also sees the appeal in a coach and general manager picking their guy.
"I think it's just the way the NFL works now," Staley said. "I think everybody's kind of looking for the newest and greatest, and I think the one thing, too, is Kyle. I mean, I think any head coach wants this, especially when you're such an offensive-minded guy, like Kyle Shanahan is, is that he would love to kind of hand-pick his own guy.
"And I think, just looking from my perspective there seems like there's a lot of great quarterback options out there this year, in this year's draft. Obviously, they are excited about probably three of them if they're trading up to three. Maybe they've got three guys that they think are hand-picked guys that they could go for the next four or five or six years, be very, very competitive."
Shanahan said the 49ers view at least three of the five top quarterback prospects in this draft in the same light and believe that Nos. 4 and 5 might have the ability to get on that level.
It's safe to assume presumptive No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence is one of those three quarterbacks. BYU's Zach Wilson, who Steve Young believes is the 49ers' top QB choice, also is probably in that group. Lawrence and Wilson are expected to be the first two players taken in the draft which would leave the 49ers with the third quarterback in that top group, whoever that might be.
Shanahan and Lynch attended Alabama's Mac Jones' second pro day on Tuesday. While the 49ers' power brokers were in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Justin Fields was putting on a show with his legs and arm at his own pro day at Ohio State. Shanahan and Lynch said they would get an in-person look at Fields before the draft.
North Dakota State's Trey Lance held his pro day before the 49ers' made the blockbuster trade, so Shanahan and Lynch weren't in attendance as they didn't want to show their cards.
The 49ers will face a franchise-defining decision when they go on the clock at No. 3. Whoever they select will define the Shanahan-Lynch era.