As the 49ers get ready to begin work toward the 2020 season, they have two backup quarterbacks.
By the time the regular season begins, however, it’s probable that either C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens is gone.
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan believes in both. Shanahan was high on Beathard when the team drafted him from Iowa in the third round in 2017, and he remains convinced Beathard has the arm and makeup to succeed in the NFL.
But Mullens, who went undrafted out of Southern Mississippi and was signed by San Francisco in 2018, outperformed Beathard in 2018, then won the duel to back up Jimmy Garoppolo in 2019.
Now, with Beathard entering the final year of his rookie deal – due to make just over $1 million in 2020 – it’s possible the 49ers could shop Beathard in return for a mid- to low-round future draft choice, suggests Martin Fenn of Bleacher Report this week.
Beathard is just 26 and has 10 NFL starts to his credit. Though he’s gone 1-9 in those games and has thrown 13 interceptions vs. 10 touchdown passes, Beathard has shown off a strong arm and has completed 57.3 percent of his throws for 2,682 yards.
In three exhibition games in 2019, Beathard was 24-of-37 (64.9 percent) for 280 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and a quarterback rating of 94.4. Summer games are far different from the regular season, but he’s shown he can play in the NFL.
Wrote Fenn: “The 26-year-old has not had a ton of success in the league, but he still has starting experience and might be able to slide into a backup role elsewhere. Whether the Niners can nab a draft pick in exchange for Beathard is another question.”
Rumors about the 49ers shopping Beathard have surfaced over the past year and a half, since the emergence of Mullens. Mullens is a cheaper and more effective option so far in his career. He’s signed through 2020 and due to get $750,000, but can be retained in 2021 as a restricted free agent.
In eight starts for the 49ers he’s 3-5, has 13 TDs vs. 10 interceptions and has completed 64.2 percent of his throws for 2,277 yards.
As Matt Barrows of The Athletic reported last August, 49ers general manager John Lynch said there had been a “lot of interest” around the league in both Mullens and Beathard, and that likely hasn’t changed. Barrows reported at the time the 49ers were looking for a fifth-round pick for either quarterback.
If San Francisco can get such a return – and if Mullens again looks like the better option behind Garoppolo again summer – a trade of Beathard will clear a roster spot, a bit of money under the salary cap and give Mullens a boost of confidence. Plus, Beathard would get a new opportunity elsewhere.