Are they really betting on Nate Sudfeld to save the season if necessary?

While we wait for the 49ers to trade Jimmy Garoppolo – any day now, folks! — we’re going to start this post by discussing a QB who many also soon thought would be an ex-Niner: Nate Sudfeld.

Instead of moving on, however, the 49ers signed last year’s No. 3 QB to a surprise deal. They’ve signed Sudfeld to a one-year contract with $2 million guaranteed, ESPN reported.

Relatively speaking, that’s not a lot of money. But that’s more money than teams give QBs they expect to be third strings, meaning Sudfeld looks like the favorite to serve as Trey Lance’s backup in 2022.

This brings us to the first mailbag question (some questions have been edited for length, grammar, and/or clarity):

@Giants_Niners: How does signing Sudfeld as a backup QB make sense? His style is completely different from Lance’s, plus he hasn’t shown that he’s very good. The Niners are one Lance injury away from blowing out another season.

To start, let’s talk about Sudfeld’s style. He doesn’t share Lance’s dual-threat ability — he’s a classic retrograde QB — and head coach Kyle Shanahan has often said he prefers his QBs to have similar skills.

My takeaways? Shanahan doesn’t tear up his offense, like he did with rookie Robert Griffin III in Washington in 2012, to account for Lance’s mobility. In other words, the 49ers will add wrinkles that play to Lance’s strengths, but the tenets of Shanahan’s system will remain, allowing a QB such as Sudfeld to seamlessly take over the job.

Or not? The 49ers clearly like Sudfeld, but that’s likely based primarily on his practice performance. Sudfeld, 28, is a 2016 sixth-round pick who didn’t play last season, has just 37 regular-season attempts and has a career preseason passer rating (84.7). The last time he played in a meaningful game – when he was inserted late in the Eagles’ six-point loss in their 2020 regular season finale – the then head coach, Doug Pederson, was accused of tanking for a higher draft position.

JaMycal Hasty of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with Nate Sudfeld after Hasty’s 35-yard rush in the 3rd quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders in the Niners’ 34-10 win in the NFL preseason game at Levi’s Stadium of Santa Clara, Calif. on Sunday, August 29, 2021.

Scott Strazzante / San Francisco Chronicle

The 49ers will likely add competition for Sudfeld, but his contract suggests he won’t be one of the more expensive free agent options, like Houston’s Tyrod Taylor or Las Vegas’ Marcus Mariota.

The 49ers went a combined 10-22 in 2018 and 2020 when Garoppolo missed 23 games through injury and his replacements Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard couldn’t salvage those seasons.

Despite his limited playing time, Lance suffered two injuries (finger, knee) last year and his style increases his risk of injury. At this point, it looks like the 49ers have placed a $2 million bet on Sudfeld to salvage the 2022 season, if necessary.

@lilpaypal : Does Russell Wilson’s trade mean Jimmy is also traded today/this week?

That question arose Tuesday after the Seahawks traded Wilson to the Broncos, a deal that obviously didn’t instantly trigger a Garoppolo trade.

So what’s the deal with Wilson in Denver, Aaron Rodgers staying in Green Bay and Carson Wentz now in Washington? One potential reason: Garoppolo underwent shoulder surgery on Tuesday and interested teams may need more time to do their due diligence.

Plus, it’s possible another QB domino will have to fall before teams turn to Garoppolo as a Plan B option: There would be a robust trade market for Houston’s Deshaun Watson, who hasn’t been indicted by a grand jury Friday on charges of harassment and sexual assault. .

Either way, it would be considered a shock if the 49ers didn’t trade Garoppolo at the start of free agency at 1 p.m. Wednesday. The benefit of the $25.55 million they would create in salary cap space could outweigh what they receive in trade compensation.

@burnherzog1982 : Free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore would bring over 15 more sacks of coverage per season. Change one’s mind.

It’s more of a command than a question, but I’ll allow it. And I would start by suggesting that it’s probably best to aim a little lower when it comes to the 49ers and signing outside free agents. They will likely use the same playbook they open their wallet in to keep their players and bring in a few mid-level free agents.

It would be amazing if they deviated from that in the offseason when:

• They won’t swim in salary cap space (even if they trade Garoppolo);

• They want to re-sign left guard Laken Tomlinson, who will have a strong market;

• They want to sign pass rusher Nick Bosa and wide receiver Deebo Samuel for high-end extensions.

Last year, for example, they kept left tackle Trent Williams making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history, retained fullback Kyle Juszczyk – making him the highest paid in the league at his position – and signed Fred Warner to an extension that briefly made him the highest paid inside linebacker in the NFL.

Their biggest outside free agent additions in 2021 were pass rusher Samson Ebukam and center Alex Mack, 36, a perennial Pro Bowl selection who signed a relatively modest deal that was a nod to his age.

Five-time Pro Bowl pick Gilmore might be the best cornerback on the market behind New England’s JC Jackson. Pro Football Focus expects Gilmore to land a two-year, $25 million deal with $17.5 million guaranteed.

The 49ers starting outside cornerbacks in 2022 could already be on the list: Emmanuel Moseley and Ambry Thomas. The 49ers would feel more comfortable if Gilmore was their starter instead of Thomas. But it would be amazing if they put in place what it would take to make that happen.

@sdg2813 : Rumor has it they’re going to be players for Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Is this leverage for the Deebo contract or could they have a legitimate interest in placing him in the No. 3 WR role that Jauan Jennings had at the end of last season?

The 49ers have two capable wides in Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and rank below league average when it comes to using three-wide formations. In other words, don’t expect them to pay what it would take to land Smith-Schuster (PFF projection: 1 year, $8 million) or a similarly priced pass-catcher.

What about leverage for Samuel’s contract extension? Samuel, a first-team All-Pro, won’t be afraid to sign a below-market extension because he thinks the 49ers could add a No. 2 wide receiver.

Until this “rumour”? It was from “NFL Rumors”, an unnamed Twitter account, which means it could be run by your football-mad neighbor. Also, the definition of a rumour: “a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or dubious truth”.

All of which leads me to say: I’ll walk to Waxahachie — that’s somewhere in Texas — if the 49ers sign Smith-Schuster.

Eric Branch covers the 49th for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @Eric_Branch