The San Francisco 49ers continue to clean house as they cut ties with David Akers on Wednesday. His release follows the departure of Randy Moss and impending trade of Alex Smith. With Akers and Smith no longer a part of the team, the 49ers will free up approximately $12 million in salary cap room. San Francisco has their share of needs, but the backup quarterback spot is one that should be closely examined.
Scott Tolzien, 25, is listed as Colin Kaepernick’s backup. However, he has never thrown a single pass in the regular season. Unlike Kaepernick, Tolzien has limited mobility. He’s at his best when playing inside the pocket.
Last season, the 49ers offense displayed its versatility. The team could operate under a more traditional offense with Smith under center or play towards Kaepernick’s strengths in the pistol formation. The coaching staff and offensive line were just two reasons why they experienced success no matter who was under center.
With the start of the new league year just days away, the 49ers must look into adding a veteran backup. Despite Kaepernick’s early accomplishments, he only has 10 career starts. Opponents will be better prepared for him in his third season and should he miss time with injury, there are doubts that Tolzien can fill in right away.
So who should be on San Francisco’s radar? Notable free-agent quarterbacks with experience include Rex Grossman, Matt Moore, Derek Anderson, Drew Stanton and Josh Johnson.
The first four options fit the bill of a prototypical pocket passer. With the 49ers’ talent on offense and defense, each of them could manage a game or two if something were to happen to Kaepernick.
But Johnson is intriguing candidate for the backup spot. The fourth-year signal-caller was signed by the Cleveland Browns in December after getting cut by the 49ers during the preseason. In 2010 he played in 11 games, completing 14 of 16 passes while posting a 95.6 quarterback rating. Even though it’s a very small sample size, the numbers show that he can take care of the ball.
Much like Kaepernick, Johnson is a threat to run or throw on any down. With their physical similarities, the offensive game plan would not need to undergo a drastic change.
After featuring two quarterbacks in 2012, San Francisco is undoubtedly resting its hopes in Kaepernick. He has become their franchise. Adding a veteran presence will only promote his growth.
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