Brock Purdy’s UCL tear in the NFC championship game complicated the 49ers’ offseason QB plan. Now his late-February elbow surgery has been delayed until at least early March while doctors wait for inflammation to subside. This throws a new wrench into San Francisco’s plan that might force them to alter course.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan indicated in his end-of-season press conference that the team was comfortable going into the season with Purdy and Trey Lance as the top two QBs, and that a third veteran QB wouldn’t be a high-profile player.
“The best available that can fit into the structure of our team and the salary cap and all that, but the best one available,” Shanahan said of the QB they’ll be looking to add.
That all tracked even after Purdy’s injury. He was due to return sometime in early-to-mid training camp, and the team would either insert him as the starter or play out a QB competition between him and Lance. The third QB would be a veteran in the QB room and an insurance policy in the event one of either Purdy or Lance was unavailable. If Lance struggled, then perhaps that QB could’ve gotten a look as the backup behind Purdy.
That could be all out the window with the latest on Purdy’s injury.
If his timeline is pushed into the end of camp or the start of the regular season, then the team would have to determine whether they want a QB to compete with Lance. In that case they may need to aim higher than they were originally planning for that third quarterback.
This would also be true if Purdy’s injury requires a reconstruction instead of a repair. Doctors won’t know exactly which surgery the QB needs until they get a look at the actual ligament. The reconstruction would put him on 9-to-12 month timeline for return, which exacerbates the conundrum of what to do with a third QB.
Time was originally going to be on the team’s side. Now with Purdy and his doctors not reconvening until early March, things could get complicated.
The legal negotiating window for free agency opens March 13. If the team doesn’t know by then the exact timeline for Purdy’s return, they’ll have to make a decision on another QB without knowing how much they’ll need him. The 49ers would still want “the best available that can fit into the structure of our team and the salary cap and all that,” like Shanahan said, only the structure of their team would look different.
A major elbow injury for a QB in the NFC championship game was never going to be easy to deal with, but the original path for Purdy’s return is now a little murkier, and clarity may not come until the 49ers have to act on a new plan.