Alex Smith

49ers sign Josh Johnson, their second QB in two days

The 49ers signed former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Johnson to a two-year contract, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, and this crazy off-season keeps chugging along.

What’s the future at the quarterback position in San Francisco? At first glance it looks like it could go one of two ways.

1. The logical move: good-bye Scott Tolzein. He was third on the depth chart, signing Johnson makes Tolzein fourth, and nobody carries four quarterbacks in the NFL because that’s like carrying three catchers on a Major League Baseball team.

(San Francisco Giants fans, you can put your hands down. We see them, but we aren’t calling on anyone at this time.)

Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke want to have the three best players at the position as possible at any given time, and it’ll be an open competition this fall. Colin Kaepernick could be the No. 3 guy at the end of camp, he could be No. 1. It’s anybody’s guess!

Update: Matt Barrows noted that Tolzein has practice squad eligibility. After a pretty solid preseason for San Diego in 2011, I have the feeling Tolzein would get snatched up by another team if that occurred. Maybe I’m a little higher on Tolzein than most.

2. The Kaepernick move: namely, trading him. The Johnson signing isn’t exactly a vote of confidence for Alex Smith. Then again, neither were the overtures to Peyton Manning. Smith should still enter training camp as the presumed starter, seeing as he’s the incumbent who went 14-4 last season and…

— Josh Freeman started over Johnson in Tampa Bay, just a dreadful team last season. Smith’s probably as good as Freeman, if not quite a bit better. Forget physical tools, Freeman threw more interceptions than touchdowns last season and, even worse, seemed to lose his team along with coach Raheim Morris.

— If the 49ers thought Johnson was a better option than Smith, why sign Smith first to a significant amount of money if Johnson’s available, waiting to be reunited with Harbaugh the next day?

On the other hand, Kaepernick went too high in last year’s NFL Draft to get demoted to third string in his second season. Signing two quarterbacks in one week that you’d think would sit higher on the depth chart is a much worse sign for Kaepernick than HarBaalke’s flirtation with Manning was for Smith.

The 49ers almost surely wouldn’t get equal value (a 2nd rounder) for Kaepernick straight up, but the best they could get for Tolzein would be in the 7th round. If there’s a team who’s interested in a tall, athletic QB prospect with a strong arm, maybe Kaepernick could help sweeten the pot if the 49ers want to move up in the first round from their current slot, No. 30. You know, trade him to the Jets or something. Just kidding (sort of), but the Browns have two first rounders (Nos. 4 and 22) and Colt McCoy as their starter. No. 22 isn’t out of the realm, is it?

Two things I’m pretty sure the 49ers won’t do:

1. Run some gimmicky two-QB offense, with wildcat formations and quarterbacks running on and off the field.

2. Move Kaepernick to wide receiver. Tight end, maybe. But definitely not wide receiver.

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