Brian Hoyer brings short-term stability to 49ers' quarterback situation

1:00 | NFL
Three players poised to cash in during free agency
Wednesday March 8th, 2017

GRADE: C+

The San Francisco 49ers have their quarterback.

On second thought: the San Francisco 49ers have a quarterback.

Brian Hoyer has agreed to a two-year deal with the 49ers, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. With Colin Kaepernick opting out of his deal and every other 2016 49ers quarterback set to hit free agency, Hoyer (as of Thursday, when he can sign officially) will be the first QB general manager John Lynch pencils in on his depth chart.

Also expected to head to San Francisco via free agency: wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin, as Lynch begins the challenging process of rebuilding a depleted offense. Garcon figures to be Hoyer’s No. 1 target next season, assuming Hoyer settles in as the starter.

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The two immediate possibilities that could bump Hoyer to a backup role: 1) Lynch goes ahead and completes a trade for Kirk Cousins, as had been rumored earlier in the week. That’s an unlikely scenario now, but not entirely out of the question. 2) San Francisco drafts a quarterback, be it at No. 2 overall or elsewhere, that beats Hoyer out during the preseason.

The 49ers still are all but certain to use a draft pick on a QB. The 31-year-old Hoyer, now on his sixth NFL team, is nothing close to a long-term answer at that position, no matter how much of a wizard new San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan turns out to be. Hoyer was the Texans’ starter as they made the playoffs in 2015 and held his own for the Bears prior to breaking his arm last season, but there’s a ceiling on his talent.

His value, then, lies in his ability to hold down the starting gig while helping to mentor whichever young quarterback winds up in the Bay. Hoyer comes with a reputation for being an intelligent player.

“Brian’s unique in that he makes very quick decisions,” Chicago coach John Fox said last week of his now-former QB. “He’s very smart, been in a lot of different systems. He’s been on the field a lot in the NFL.”

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If nothing else, Hoyer can help provide some stability in the short-term. With Carlos Hyde in the backfield, and a Garcon-Goodwin-Jeremy Kerley trio at wide receiver, the 49ers’ offense at least resembles one of competence, on paper. Anyone who watched Taylor Gabriel blow up for the Falcons should have some idea of how Lynch and Shanahan may dream of using Goodwin’s world-class speed.

Hoyer has a background with Shanahan, too. The pair was together in Cleveland during the 2014 season, when Shanahan served as the Browns’ offensive coordinator. Hoyer started 13 games that year, posting 237.6 passing yards per game, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Cleveland did go 7-6 in Hoyer’s starts during Shanahan’s tenure.

This is a safer move for the 49ers than sending picks to Washington for Cousins. If Cousins is to be traded, his new team will have to either pick up his franchise-tag salary or extend him with a lucrative deal. Hoyer’s final contract numbers should be far more manageable, ideal for a bridge quarterback who helps set the table for San Francisco’s QB of the future.

Exciting? No. Necessary? Yes. The 49ers had to find someone to play quarterback, and Hoyer is a low-risk, moderate-reward option.

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