Going back through our definitive list of teams that need quarterbacks, we see how much the landscape has changed since January. Teams we assumed wouldn't have much interest, such as Minnesota and Arizona, are standing firm, while organizations like Cleveland decided to take a different direction after showing some initial interest.
However, there's still one place where it makes no sense they haven't picked up the phone: San Francisco. With a young core in place and two first round picks, they seemed to be the most rational fit from the start, but remain adamant about their lack of interest in Donovan McNabb, even now that the price has dropped to a second round pick. Keep both firsts and acquire a franchise QB? How can they pass up that opportunity?
The 49ers are slapping destiny across the face. What doesn't that team have in their favor right now?
A power running game? Check.
A playmaker at wide receiver? Check.
A viable red zone option? Check.
An adequate offensive line? Check.
A strong defense that cam carry the offense? Check.
A first round pick to fill another need? Double check.
A quarterback who wins games? By now, we all know what Alex Smith and David Carr are. They were both thrown into a rotten set of circumstances as rookies which hampered their development, but if either of them was anything special, they would have shown something, anything by now. Unless absolutely everything falls perfectly into place, most people would agree neither Smith or Carr are capable of taking San Francisco to the Super Bowl.
Donovan can though. Say what you want about Five, we know he can lead a team at least that far. Why on earth would they not jump at the opportunity to acquire what easily could be the final piece of the puzzle? Let's presume the main hurdle would be reaching a contract extension, either because they can't agree on length, or they aren't willing to pay him as an elite player.
How long does a team realistically commit to McNabb? Maybe in the the neighborhood of five years. Now suppose the final year is voidable—a club option, or all base salary. The deal actually runs through 2013. Leaping ahead, the 49ers could draft their QB of the future in 2011. If he's ready to play in 2013 after spending two seasons learning on the bench, the club could trade or outright release McNabb, taking only one year's worth of cap hits, which could easily be planned in such a way so the amount is not overwhelming.
As for the dollars spent, well... can they really put a price on Donovan McNabb if San Fran represents the NFC in Super Bowl XLV and/or XLVI?
To be fair, the sudden change at general manager greatly reduces the chances this deal would ever happen. It's hard to make such a fundamental change in approach just one month before the draft. How often does a sure thing like McNabb come along though?
Even if Alex Smith takes another step forward this season, the 49ers are banking a lot on the improvement of a guy entering his sixth year, who prior to last year had been flat out awful. The thing is, their window is open right now, especially with Kurt Warner retiring from the division rival Cardinals. Stay the course any other time would seem like a wise move, but they are quite possibly this one player away from becoming legitimate contenders. You might even call it a golden opportunity.