Two questions now surround Brock Purdy: Will he be the starter moving forward for the San Francisco 49ers and the newest one being asked, will he be fully healed from his elbow in time for training camp?
Now there’s a third question attached to Purdy — who could be a suitable free agent for the 49ers if Purdy isn’t ready?
Bay Area radio station KNBR began thinking about the third question on Wednesday, February 22 following the Tuesday report from the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero of Purdy’s pending elbow surgery being delayed. They began thinking about who could be a potential fill-in to add some needed depth in the quarterback room in the event Purdy isn’t cleared. And one name mentioned? A three-time Pro Bowler with playoff experience expected to be available beginning March 15: Andy Dalton.
“Dalton is a guy the 49ers had rumored interest in going into this last offseason, and may have pulled the trigger on if they’d been able to deal Garoppolo early,” Hutchinson wrote. “He played extremely well last season for the New Orleans Saints and will assuredly make more than the one-year, $3 million, $5 million and $3 million deals he’s secured each of the last three years.”
Hutchinson adds: “But, he’s going to be a legitimate option in this scenario, and probably not prohibitively expensive. Without Purdy available, he’s maybe as capable as it gets here.”
Dalton Now in Backup Mode
At 35, plus having played for three different NFL franchises in the last three seasons, “Red Rifle” has now reached backup mode.
His last Pro Bowl appearance was in 2016 while with the franchise that drafted him as a second rounder the Cincinnati Bengals. That was also his last 4,000-yard season of his career (threw for 4,206 yards that campaign).
Since then, Dalton has only produced two 3,000-yard seasons since 2017 — his last one coming in 2019 which was a 3,494-yard campaign. But he’s been relegated to backup since that final year with the Bengals.
Per Pro Football Reference, Dalton has never thrown for more than 2,872 yards in a season and hasn’t thrown for 20 touchdowns since 2018. However, his 18 touchdowns this past season with the New Orleans Saints marked his most touchdown output since that ’18 season.
In a backup role the last three seasons, Dalton has produced a 13-16 record when he gets given the reins.
2 Ex-49ers Also Mentioned
Dalton may be the most decorated option should the 49ers pursue a free agent quarterback to allow Purdy to heal and give Trey Lance an extra presence behind center. But there are two other possibilities — both having familiarity with the 49ers. And here were the names mentioned by Hutchinson:
Nick Mullens: The 27-year-old spent his first three seasons in San Francisco including being on the Super Bowl 54 roster. Recently saw four games with the Minnesota Vikings and is an unrestricted free agent.
Blaine Gabbert: While he has no ties to Kyle Shanahan, he has ties to the 49ers having spent 2014 to 2016 there and went 4-9 as a starter per PFR. He was the backup to Tom Brady but he’s another UFA for March.