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Steve Young on keeping the 49ers competitive after paying Brock Purdy

May 16, 2024 at 10:04 AM

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The San Francisco 49ers are gearing up to elevate quarterback Brock Purdy to their highest-paid player status starting next year. Negotiations for a contract extension with the young signal-caller, entering his third NFL season, are on the horizon.

Purdy's on-field performance has far exceeded his current salary. Last season, he set a single-season franchise record with 4,280 passing yards and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance while earning a base salary of $870,000. Even for the upcoming season, his salary will only bump up to $985,000. That may sound like a lot to the ordinary person, but it is only a fraction of the team's salary cap.

However, Purdy's next contract is expected to catapult him into the ranks of the NFL's highest-paid players. That title currently belongs to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, averaging $55 million annually. The Detroit Lions recently made quarterback Jared Goff the league's second-highest-paid player with a $53 million average annual salary.

Of course, that is potential earnings, which is a conversation for another day. For the 49ers, these are the types of figures the team's decision-makers have to start accounting for.

In a recent interview with Bay Area radio station KNBR, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young emphasized that devoting significant salary cap space to the quarterback position doesn't spell doom for a team. Nonetheless, the 49ers must make savvy moves, starting with ensuring their latest draft class delivers on-field contributions early in their careers.

It could also mean some tough decisions regarding the team's current star players.

"When you have to pay the quarterback, things change," Young told Tom Tolbert and Matt Kolsky. "This is a fact. And you're going to have to find first, second, third-year guys on rookie contracts that can be—you're wearing their jersey. By the end of the season, you're wearing that rookie's jersey because of how impactful they have been.

"And that's what's happened to us to allow this. Who had a Brock Purdy jersey two years ago? A lot of Brock Purdy jerseys today."

Undoubtedly, Purdy's superb play during his short NFL career will reward him financially, especially if he continues to perform at a high level during the 2024 season. That means less money is available to retain a lot of veteran stars in the future. It's why people speculate about the 49ers facing a choice between Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel in 2025.

"That's when you really get in a jam and that's when the jersey you're going to be wearing in a couple of years is probably not somebody that's on the team right now," Young continued. "And that's how you stay competitive. That's how you do it. You have to transition all the expensive superstars. At some point, two or three have to go to make room for rookie contracts, to make room for your quarterback, and that's just a fact."

Regarding which veteran offensive stars might be replaced first, Young believes it is easier to find an impactful receiver than an All-Pro tight end like George Kittle. This implies a greater willingness to part with someone like Samuel if the decision were his.

Young concludes, "The people that wear Deebo jerseys today, I need them wearing someone else's jersey if he's gonna go. Who is that going to be?"

You can listen to the entire conversation with Young below.

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