With the 49ers in desperate need of a quarterback and Baker Mayfield now untethered, are the two sides on a collision course?
After the Carolina Panthers released the former No. 1 overall pick on Monday morning, chatter immediately heated up that San Francisco would pursue Mayfield as they deal with yet another devastating quarterback injury.
On Sunday, Jimmy Garoppolo – who was never supposed to be the starter in 2022 before second-year QB Trey Lance got injured – suffered his own season-ending injury, fracturing his foot during San Francisco’s 33-17 victory over the Dolphins. Backup Brock Purdy stepped in and performed admirably, completing 25 of 37 pass attempts for 210 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but Purdy is a seventh-round rookie taken with the last pick of the 2022 Draft – this year’s “Mr. Irrelevant.”
The 49ers (8-4) are a playoff team, and while Mayfield has seemingly gotten worse every year since a promising start to his career, he still has playoff experience, leading the Browns to their only playoff win this century in 2020.
Whether or not the 49ers will even have a shot at Mayfield is another question. Mayfield now goes to waivers, and San Francisco is 24th in the waiver order – meaning 23 teams have priority if they would like to claim him.
The 49ers are the only contending team with an obvious need at quarterback, but their division rival, the Rams, are cycling through Bryce Perkins and John Wolford under center, and they have fourth priority. The Saints, Colts, Falcons and Jets are all ahead of San Francisco with varying degrees of quarterback uncertainty, though there’s no obvious reason to think they would be interested.
Whichever team claims Mayfield would owe him the remaining $1.3 million on his contract, per NFL Network. That would perhaps make it more prohibitive for one of the fringe teams to sign him; the 49ers have just over $6 million in cap space, per Over The Cap.
Should Mayfield end up with San Francisco, he would be reunited with Christian McCaffrey, briefly his teammate in Carolina before the Panthers sent him to the 49ers for a haul of draft picks.
The 49ers signed Josh Johnson off of the Broncos’ practice squad after Garoppolo’s injury.