49ers set for complete quarterback makeover

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The free-agent market is scheduled to open Thursday and teams may begin negotiations with those poised to hit the market beginning Tuesday. We'll count down to that with a position-by-position look at what the San Francisco 49ers have in place, who is set to hit the market, what they might need and who might fit the bill.

Position: Quarterback

Under contract: None

Pending free agents: Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Thad Lewis

What's needed: The better question here is what isn't needed? With Kaepernick opting out of his contract, the 49ers officially have zero quarterbacks under team control for 2017. While it's possible new coach Kyle Shanahan could want to bring back one of the team's own free agents, the more likely scenario involves a complete makeover of the quarterback room.

That means one of the top priorities this offseason is to find multiple players to handle the transition to Shanahan's offense. It's safe to assume that begins with finding a veteran with experience in Shanahan's scheme to serve as either a bridge to the long-term quarterback solution or as an in-house mentor and backup to one who might be able to step in and play right away.

The options to fill that bridge role are fairly obvious. Matt Schaub, who played for Shanahan in Atlanta and Houston, is a strong possibility to fill that job though someone like Chicago's Brian Hoyer, who played for Shanahan in Cleveland, also makes sense and is probably the better player at this point. Both would be helpful in implementing Shanahan's system and helping other players learn it.

From there, the options open up to a world of possibility. The 49ers are flush with cap space and hold valuable capital in the second pick of the NFL draft. That allows them to explore every avenue to find a potential solution. Washington's Kirk Cousins was franchise tagged again, leaving the 49ers only option to get him as a trade. That looks unlikely at this point, especially since the 49ers could wait a year and potentially sign him on the open market if Washington doesn't sign him long-term.

New England's Jimmy Garoppolo also doesn't look to be going anywhere but is another player the 49ers could at least make a call or two on to try to talk the Patriots out of keeping him. Then there are older veterans such as Jay Cutler and Tony Romo, both of whom would probably prefer to land in a situation where they could win right away, but could be the type of transitional quarterbacks who would give the 49ers a chance to get back to respectability sooner than some of the other options.

Of course, the 49ers will also look closely at the top draft prospects to see if there's an answer to be found there. To their credit, general manager John Lynch and Shanahan have made it clear they plan to be patient in finding their franchise quarterback. If that means that none of the options listed here is the right answer and they wait until 2018 to find that player, so be it. But Lynch and Shanahan seem to understand that the worst thing they can do is commit big money (and possible trade compensation) to landing a quarterback that won't offer long-term dividends.

With so many needs at the most important position of all, it's all but certain to expect the 49ers to add quarterbacks via multiple means before this offseason is over.

Possible fits: Kirk Cousins (Washington), Tony Romo (Dallas), Matt Schaub (Atlanta), Brian Hoyer (Chicago), Mike Glennon (Tampa Bay), Jimmy Garoppolo (New England/trade possibility), Jay Cutler (Chicago), A.J. McCarron (Cincinnati/trade possibility).