Josh Dobbs signing with 49ers, per agent: What the QB brings to San Francisco

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By David Lombardi, Matt Barrows, Alec Lewis and Greg Rosenstein

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs is signing with the San Francisco 49ers, his agent announced on social media Monday. It is a one-year, $2.25 million fully guaranteed deal that includes $750,000 in play-time incentives, according to multiple reports.

Dobbs, 29, started eight games for the Arizona Cardinals last season before being traded to the Minnesota Vikings in October. In Minnesota, he started four games and threw for 895 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. This included a big first game with the Vikings in which he was 20-for-30 passing for 158 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 31-28 win against the Atlanta Falcons. He was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance.

Dobbs is expected to be a backup quarterback in San Francisco behind Brock Purdy. Former backup Sam Darnold signed with the Vikings this offseason.

Why the 49ers made this move

Dobbs played well against the 49ers in 2023 when he was with the Cardinals. What’s more, he did a good job executing Arizona’s run-first offense, which undoubtedly caught the attention of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.

The 49ers paid Darnold $4.5 million to be Purdy’s backup last season. Given the injury catastrophe they’d suffered at the position in the 2022 season, the 49ers wanted a QB with starting experience to provide them with some level of reasonable insulation there in case Purdy went down. Dobbs should fit that task at a slightly lower price than Darnold. — David Lombardi, 49ers beat writer

Fun Dobbs trivia

Here’s some fun trivia: Jauan Jennings — a restricted free agent whom the 49ers have tendered — was Dobbs’ college teammate at Tennessee. Jennings caught a famous touchdown from Dobbs, a Hail Mary to beat Georgia in 2016. But Jennings, a former QB who threw a touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey in the recent Super Bowl, also threw a TD to Dobbs on a trick play in college.

It was actually the play that inspired the Jennings-to-McCaffrey connection in the Super Bowl. — Lombardi

How Dobbs fits in San Francisco

The 49ers only had two quarterbacks under contract, Purdy and Brandon Allen, before agreeing to a one-year deal with Dobbs. He probably arrives as the No. 3 passer in the pecking order considering that Allen, who was signed to a modest, one-year deal earlier this month, was in San Francisco in 2023 and has a head start on the offense. Dobbs certainly has some work to do. His teams were 3-11 in his 14 starts last season and he threw 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a rather humdrum 77.3 passer rating. Still, he has a chance to overtake Allen this summer. He showed impressive steel on a bad Cardinals team early in 2023 and happened to have a good game in a Week 4 loss to the 49ers. He was 28-of-41 for 265 yards and also rushed 12 times for 48 yards. He also looked good the week prior — a game the 49ers studied intensely — in a 28-16 upset over the Cowboys. — Matt Barrows, 49ers beat writer

Summing up Dobbs’ time in Minnesota

The best word would probably be mayhem. The Vikings acquired Dobbs from the Cardinals on a whim. Minnesota was in a pinch in the aftermath of Kirk Cousins’ torn Achilles. Dobbs arrived, then days later, was thrust into a game against the Falcons. Working in tandem with coach Kevin O’Connell, Dobbs lifted the Vikings to a victory that day. He performed admirably the following week against the New Orleans Saints. Then the turnover bug bit him. Dobbs looked uncomfortable while trying to operate within the rhythm and timing of O’Connell’s structured offense. By the end of the season, Dobbs’ early heroics seemed like a distant memory, and O’Connell replaced him with fellow former 49ers backup Nick Mullens. — Alec Lewis, Vikings beat writer

2024 impact

That will depend on Purdy’s health. For example, last season’s backup, Darnold, attempted only 46 passes, most of them in the meaningless regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Rams. Still, Purdy was sacked 28 times in 2023 and suffered a concussion in the team’s Week 7 loss to the Vikings. The 49ers infamously ran out of quarterbacks by the end of the 2022 season. — Barrows

Cap update

Dobbs signed a one-year deal with $2.25 million fully guaranteed and $750,000 in playtime incentives, according to multiple reports. Because Dobbs started 12 games last season, a good chunk of those incentives should be deemed “likely to be earned” (LTBE), which means most will count against the 49ers’ 2024 salary cap. If Dobbs does not earn them, the 49ers will be refunded in 2025. Even if the entirety of Dobbs’ incentives count against the cap, his 2024 hit will only be a bit above $3 million. That’s a good rate for a backup quarterback and cheaper than the $4.5 million Darnold commanded last season. — Lombardi


General manager John Lynch likes to say that the 49ers are a product of their experiences, and one such bad experience was how the 2022 season ended — with the team running out of healthy quarterbacks in the NFC Championship Game. Therefore, the 49ers have put continual emphasis on fielding a deep quarterback room. They re-signed Allen as their No. 3 last week and will now slot Dobbs as their backup to Purdy. It’s a schematic fit and the money falls right in line with the role. Now, the 49ers hope they won’t have to use Dobbs. But he is part of their insurance policy at the most important position. — Lombardi

Required reading

(Photo: Stephen Maturen / Getty Images)

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