Ever since the Jacksonville Jaguars acquired the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, it seemed inevitable that they would look to move quarterback Gardner Minshew. After all, new head coach Urban Meyer is ready to hand over the Duval kingdom to consensus top prospect Trevor Lawrence starting in 2021.
A potential Minshew trade has now become increasingly likely after Jacksonville signed former San Francisco 49ers third-round pick C.J. Beathard to a multi-year contract on Wednesday.
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Jaguars have had talks with other teams relating to the former sixth-round pick. Meanwhile, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN notes that the 49ers seem to be up to something at quarterback and could target Minshew.
“The 49ers are up to something at quarterback. They had extensive talks with (Joe) Flacco, who hit it off with Kyle Shanahan during a visit last week before ultimately choosing Philly,” Fowler noted. “Rumors persist that Jacksonville quarterback Gardner Minshew II could be in their plans via trade.”
The 49ers did have Flacco in for a visit earlier in free agency prior to the Super Bowl quarterback signing with the Philadelphia Eagles recently. They were also in on Mitchell Trubisky before he opted to surprisingly sign with the Buffalo Bills.
Reports earlier in the offseason suggested that San Francisco was looking for an upgrade over injury-plagued and embattled starter Jimmy Garoppolo.
With the Deshaun Watson situation up in the air following numerous allegations of sexual assault, it now looks like San Francisco is attempting to find a quality backup behind Garoppolo. Here are three reasons why a Minshew trade to the 49ers makes sense.
49ers general manager John Lynch has done well to retain most of the team's core free agents despite a less than stellar cap situation heading into last week.
Right now, the 49ers are an estimated $15 million under the cap after re-signing cornerback K’Waun Williams. With that said, they have pushed back against spending money on a backup quarterback behind Garoppolo. Flacco’s one-year, $4 million deal with Philadelphia adds to that belief.
As for Minshew, he’s a former late-round pick and remains under his rookie contract. That means any team acquiring the 24-year-old signal caller would face a combined $1.9 million cap hit over the next two seasons. For a 49ers team that needs money to find depth elsewhere, that’s an extremely valuable aspect to a potential trade.
San Francisco was previously linked to former New York Jets No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold. It made some sense. Head coach Kyle Shanahan was enamored with the USC product leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. However, that came mere months after the 49ers traded for Garoppolo during the 2017 season. Darnold was not an option.
It doesn’t appear he’s an option right now. The Jets have yet to decide whether to trade Darnold and go with Zach Wilson at No. 2 in the 2021 NFL Draft. Meanwhile, any team acquiring the struggling quarterback would face a spring deadline to pick up what would be a $25 million option on Darnold’s contract for the 2022 season. Given his performance, that makes no sense.
As for Watson, San Francisco is one of a number of teams still interested in the reigning NFL passing champion. However, recent allegations from over a dozen women of sexual assault in civil suits change the dynamics here. Simply put, it’s hard to envision any team dealing for Watson until that situation is resolved. That means Minshew might be the 49ers’ best option.
It’s fine to question Minshew’s raw talent. There’s a reason he was the 178th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. There’s also a reason Jacksonville is moving off him for Lawrence.
That’s all fine and dandy, but the tape and his stats tell us a story of someone who could, at the very least, be a top-end backup in the NFL. Minshew accounted for north of 6,000 total yards with 38 touchdowns against 11 interceptions in 20 starts over a two-year span with Jacksonville. Can we possibly ignore those eye-opening numbers, especially given the lack of talent in Duval?
At the very least, Minshew is a better option than the recently departed Beathard and an injured Nick Mullens. Heck, he has more of a proven track record in the NFL than a more heralded former prospect in Josh Rosen. With Garoppolo having missed 23 of a possible 48 games over the past three seasons, adding Minshew to the mix would give San Francisco a ton of insurance on the cheap.