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Two 49ers signings make list of worst contracts of 2017 NFL free agency

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The inclusion of Kyle Juszczyk suggests they are not thinking this through entirely.

The San Francisco 49ers were incredibly busy last week, signing 11 unrestricted free agents to contracts. The team has a host of holes to fill, and plenty of cap room to make it happen. They focused on the offense, but also added Malcolm Smith to the linebacker corps.

The 49ers gave out a sizable chunk of money on some of their contracts, although as is always the case, they have some options to get out of them if the players do not pan out. However, some of the numbers popped out and have landed them on lists ranking the worst contracts of free agency.

The 49ers have three particularly notable contracts that some are questioning. They belong to wide receiver Pierre Garcon, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and linebacker Malcolm Smith. Garcon got a lot of big money for a 30-year old, but given his recent performance and his history with Kyle Shanahan, a lot of folks are giving it a slight pass.

However, the Juszczyk and Smith deals are getting a little more scrutiny. In a recent analysis of the worst contracts through one week of free agency, included the two of them on their list. They had this to say about the deals.

Successful teams set a price for a player and stick to it. The 49ers appeared to lock in a list of players they planned to obtain and only accepted signing them right away. That's how Juszczyk, a great fullback, came to be paid as one of the top-10 running backs in football at $5 million per year. He's earning double the amount of the previous highest-paid fullback in salary and guaranteed money. Linebacker Malcolm Smith, a bust in Oakland at $3.5 million per season, received $12 million fully guaranteed over the next two seasons. The 49ers' large swath of signings wasn't all bad. The numbers just stood out. It looks like agents smelled blood in the water with new general manager John Lynch and knocked him around at the negotiating table.

The Smith deal does raise some questions. The 49ers have options to get out, but they are giving a sizable chunk of money to a player to play in a position that requires strengths that are not high on his list. The weak side linebacker in this defense will need to be able to drop back in coverage. He has shown plenty of ability, but there is too much inconsistency when it comes to that aspect of his game. Of all the 49ers signings, this is the only one where I was really scratching my head.

The Juszczyk contract on the other hand seems destined to be misunderstood for most of the rest of the offseason. When people hear a fullback received a four-year deal worth $21 million, naturally it will make them question it. The first issue with that is the fact that it is a year-to-year deal for the 49ers. They can get out after one year having paid $7.5 million, and owe nothing more.

Some would still say that’s a lot for one year of a fullback. If you think of Juszczyk in a traditional fullback role, then yes, it’s a lot of money. However, if you think of Juszczyk as a player who will be getting work at fullback, tight end, running back, and even some wide receiver, it could be a bit more reasonable. Nobody is saying Juszczyk is going to kill it in his new role, but if the 49ers can use him the way it sounds like they want to, this could prove to be a valuable deal.

Juszczyk is making plenty more than the next highest paid fullback, but among tight ends, his deal would rank No. 22 in average per year and No. 20 in total guaranteed money. I realize he is not a tight end, but the idea is that it is not a matter of comparing this deal with other fullbacks. He’s not going to be a traditional fullback. I don’t think this deal will end up listed among the “best contracts” a year from now, but if he does what the 49ers hope he can do, I suspect it will be viewed as a perfectly reasonable contract.