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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Blaine Gabbert deal is low-risk for 49ers

By Bill Williamson

Blaine Gabbert is no longer the Jacksonville Jaguars' problem. But it doesn't mean he is the San Francisco 49ers' problem either.

Many fans may be shaking their heads at the 49ers, who traded a sixth-round pick this year (and a conditional pick next year based on playing time) to the Jaguars to get Gabbert. He has been an unabashed bust since he was taken with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Look, the 49ers are not investing much here. They are simply taking a flier on a guy they liked three years ago at a bargain price. Expect the final year of his deal to be reduced; and the 49ers will still have 12 draft choices.

There is no guarantee Gabbert will even be the backup to Colin Kaepernick, who was taken 26 spots after Gabbert in 2011. Former NFL general manager Bill Polian said on ESPN on Tuesday he doubts Gabbert makes the 53-man roster.

But he will be given a chance by 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who went to his pro day at Missouri while scouting quarterbacks. Harbaugh loves quarterbacks. He and 49ers general manager Trent Baalke like Gabbert. Harbaugh and his staff will coach him up and see if they can salvage his career.

"We thought highly of Blaine as an early entry into the 2011 NFL draft," said Baalke, who took Gabbert's Missouri teammate Aldon Smith at No. 7 in 2011. "He is a high-character individual that will be given every opportunity to develop within our system and we are looking forward to working with him."

ESPN analyst Matt Williamson thinks the 49ers have their work cut out for them.

"Gabbert can throw it and maybe Harbaugh can get more out of him, but Gabbert has very poor pocket presence and awareness," Williamson said. "He plays scared."

The 49ers will likely give Gabbert the first crack to be the backup quarterback. But they could also draft a quarterback in the middle rounds and they like McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who finished the season on the practice squad.

This is a look-see trade. If it works, great. If not, the 49ers will continue their search for a long-term backup.