Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports



The 2018 rookie quarterback class may start looking a lot more appealing to the San Francisco 49ers now that the quarterback market has, once again, been reset. During the offseason, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a new deal that will pay him an average of $25 million a season over the next five years.

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is expected to eclipse that cost for any team that is interested, which the 49ers reportedly are. It made some fans wonder if Cousins might command a deal averaging close to $27 million a year. You can forget that number now.

At the time of Carr's signing, his deal was the most lucrative in league history. That is no longer the case. On Monday, the Detroit Lions agreed to a five-year, $135 million extension with quarterback Matthew Stafford. That's an average of $27 million a year and, just like that, the quarterback market has been reset again. And it may not be done yet. Other quarterbacks like Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons await new deals. If that happens before Cousins hits free agency, it will drive his price even higher.

Could Cousins end up commanding close to $30 million a year from his suitors? How much is too much for a player like Cousins? He is already guaranteed close to $24 million for the 2017 season thanks to the franchise tag that Washington placed on him for the second straight year.

The 49ers could acquire a quarterback via the draft and secure him for up to five years at a fraction of that cost. After all, San Francisco is in the middle of a rebuild. While it has the salary cap space to sign a quarterback like Cousins, one has to wonder if the team may simply decide to draft a franchise signal caller and then use that money to build around the rookie. After all, head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will just be entering the second year of their unprecedented six-year contracts. Time is on their side.

Or perhaps rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard shows enough to prove that he might be the future for the 49ers. He was the only quarterback in the draft who Shanahan wanted. Shanahan wanted Beathard so much that the 49ers traded up into the third round to select him at the end of Day Two of the draft so they could sleep well that night.

"As we were sitting there, we had really zeroed in on C.J. Beathard for a long time during the draft process," Lynch said on KNBR in May. "We had studied him a lot. Kyle's got a very specific eye on quarterbacks. The traits he likes, the makeup he likes, and he was a guy who we had zeroed in on as being a great guy to work with and develop. We wanted him to come to us but we had such a fortuitous happening earlier in the draft – the trade with Chicago – that we had a lot of picks, a lot of ammo. We already came into the draft with 10 picks. We gained another in a trade with the Denver Broncos – another fifth rounder – so we had all this ammo and my feeling was, 'This is a guy that we want.'"

Through three preseason games, Beathard has completed 21 of his 36 passes for 370 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. His passer rating of 119.0 is the best among the three 49ers quarterbacks who have played during exhibition games.

The long-term forecast at quarterback for the 49ers remains a bit hazy. Things should clear up during the next offseason. Until then, it gives the media a whole lot to speculate about, which may make for some interesting reading until then.