The Blaine Gabbert era has come to a merciful end.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, who selected the quarterback 10th overall in the 2011 NFL draft, announced Tuesday the trading of Gabbert to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round pick this May and a conditional pick in 2015. Gabbert’s future with the Jaguars was already on shaky ground before last week’s re-signing of Chad Henne, who played every offensive snap of their final 11 games after replacing the ineffective and much-criticized Gabbert.
The trading of Gabbert overshadowed several other moves by the Jaguars on the opening day of free agency, including the signing of Zane Beadles, a four-year starter at guard for the AFC champion Denver Broncos, to a contract estimated at $30 million over five years.
Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell told reporters during a conference call that 49ers general manager Trent Baalke had expressed interest in Gabbert when the two teams faced each other in London in late October.
”We were talking about some things and Blaine has a lot of physical toolset, and we didn’t think much of it,” Caldwell said. ”Then we talked a little bit at the combine (last month) and on Saturday, he called and made an offer. We talked about it and went back and forth, and felt like it was a good move for both parties.”
Gabbert goes from a team that finished with a 4-12 record a year ago to one which reached the Super Bowl in 2012 and lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC championship game this January. He will compete for the backup job to Colin Kaepernick, who was taken by the 49ers in the second round of the same draft where the Jaguars picked Gabbert in the first round.
Gabbert started the last 14 games of his rookie season and threw for 2,214 yards and 12 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. The Jaguars’ record was 1-8 the following year when a right forearm/elbow injury against the Houston Texans knocked him out for the rest of the season.
Despite an injury during this past preseason, Gabbert was named the opening day starter by new Jaguars coach Gus Bradley. He threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, in a 28-2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, a game where he suffered an injury to his thumb and passing hand in the closing minutes.
Henne started at Oakland and Seattle before Bradley gave Gabbert the nod in Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts. Once again, Gabbert had an interception returned for a score and the Jaguars failed to score a touchdown.
A hamstring injury two weeks later at St. Louis wound up serving as the end to a season where he completed less than 50 percent of his passes with just one touchdown, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 36.0. He finished with a 5-22 record as a starter with 22 TDs and 24 picks.
Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, who was drafted by the Jaguars in the fourth round the same year as Gabbert, sent out wishes to his former teammate via Twitter:
Other than Henne, the only quarterbacks now on the Jaguars’ roster are Matt Scott and Ricky Stanzi. Speculation that they will select a quarterback with the third pick in the draft appears to have cooled, making Henne the clearcut first-stringer heading into Bradley’s second year.
”When we signed Chad, we made a commitment to give him a starting position and build around him,” Caldwell said. ”We felt like he was going to be a starter and there is a possibility we would draft a young quarterback in the draft somewhere along the line and he would come in and be the backup and learn behind Chad. That left Blaine to compete for that, and I just felt like it was a good opportunity for us to move on and possibility get a draft pick for someone who can come in and help us this year instead of a backup quarterback.”
Beadles, 27, was part of a line which enabled Peyton Manning and the Broncos to lead the NFL in both total offense and passing offense while setting a league record with 606 total points.
With the retirement of center Brad Meester and the release of guard Uche Nwaneri, upgrading the offensive line was a high priority for a team which ranked 31st in rushing offense. Several other available guards went off the market when the San Diego Chargers agreed to keep Chad Rinehart and the Atlanta Falcons signed Jon Asamoah, late of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The team also re-signed cornerback Will Blackmon to a two-year deal and were said to be actively pursuing linebacker Dekoda Watson, who was most recently with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond.