free agency began, the 49ers needed a back-up quarterback. Many people believed that the 49ers would look to the draft to acquire one, but instead the 49ers traded a sixth round draft pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Blaine Gabbert. Even though 49ers’ fans knew that the team was in the market for a back-up quarterback, most were surprised and some were even upset that the 49ers made this trade.
With Colt McCoy being a free agent and the only other quarterback on the roster besides Colin Kaepernick being McLeod Bethel-Thompson (who?), the 49ers need another quarterback. The 49ers were expected to draft one in the later rounds, and while they did use a draft pick on a back-up quarterback, they didn’t use it in a way or on the player that anyone expected.
There was some vitriol from 49ers’ fans about trading away a draft pick for Gabbert. Many believed that the team was wasting away a draft pick on a player that isn’t even good. While that could be true, the trade does make sense.
Before the trade, the 49ers had at least 11 draft picks. With the shape that the 49ers’ roster is in, 11 rookies are not making the team. Even if the 49ers had kept that draft pick and used it, there is no guarantee that the player they picked would even make the roster. Even if they used that draft pick on a quarterback, he would still be a rookie with no NFL experience. That is where Gabbert’s value lies.
While Gabbert has had a less than serviceable career, he does have starting experience. The 49ers know that if Kaepernick goes down with an injury, they aren’t putting their football team in the hands of a rookie that has never taken a snap in a meaningful NFL game.
Say what you will about how badly Gabbert has played, but he was still drafted in the first round of the draft. That tells you that he has the potential to at least be an adequate starter. And if there is any man who can mold Gabbert into at least a serviceable player, it’s Jim Harbaugh.
People forget just how bad Alex Smith was when he first came into the league. Smith and Gabbert have a lot of things in common. Smith, like Gabbert, was a high draft pick in the first round. The 49ers, like the Jaguars, were essentially void of talent when they drafted their young quarterback. Gabbert even made the comparison to Smith in a recent interview. Heck, they even wear the same number.
No one is saying that Gabbert is suddenly going to change into this great player because he’s on the 49ers. It might very well be that he stays the same player and is out of the league in a couple years. The 49ers just wanted some experience at the back-up position like they had last year with Colt McCoy.
If the 49ers get what they want, they will restructure Gabbert’s $2 million salary and maybe even extend his contract. Then maybe Harbaugh and co. can turn Gabbert into a decent player and maybe even get another draft pick out of him. It’s a long shot to happen, but you never know with Harbaugh. 49ers’ fans are worried about what would happen if Gabbert gets in the game, but they should never want to see their back-up quarterback in the game no matter who the back-up is. And if the 49ers are fortunate, they will never have to see Gabbert play in a 49ers’ uniform.