On Monday, Fooch posted his latest projected Final-53. I couldn't find much fault with it ... but it left me feeling less than excited ... pretty plain vanilla. When I think about what this season should be all about, I'd like to offer a somewhat more radical alternative. Whether you like it or not probably depends upon whether you lean toward "honoring the past" (I find that difficult, given the results) or "building the future".
Some folks would like to pretend that this is potentially a one-year turnaround opportunity; if you believe that I think that you fail to realize just how bad the roster that Lynch/Shanahan inherited really was. I think that if we're really honest with ourselves we fully recognize that this team is nowhere near being a playoff team. A 4-12 record this year is very likely; reaching something like a 6-10 record would be a huge achievement given where this team really is and has been.
IMO, at the very least, it will take several significant free agent signings and another above-average draft next spring for this team to get close to breakeven much less playoff status.
That said, what should this team really be focusing on? It seems to me that the most productive things to do this season are:
- Continue to try to improve the roster ... through trades or post-cut-down claims.
- Cull the roster carefully ... try to retain the guys who are most likely to make significant contributions in the future.
- Get the entire team fully immersed in the new offensive and defensive schemes.
- Provide learning opportunities (which only really comes from actual playing time) for the young guys to hasten their development.
Accordingly, I'd offer this alternative Final-53 proposal:
QB (3): Hoyer, Beathard, Barkley
Obviously CJB is the superior #2 for the future; if Hoyer is injured, while Beathard should get some opportunities to play in selected situations, I think that it would be a mistake to throw him to the wolves as the starter, as Alex Smith was ... that would just likely bury his confidence if he is overwhelmed ... and there is nothing to be gained from that. Thus, keep Barkley.
Carlos Hyde is not the future in Shanahan's system; thus, it doesn't make sense to extend him; thus, trade him ... get something now rather than nothing later. Depending upon how well Mostert develops, he could be replaced next spring. This group is a substantial upgrade to the RB roster that existed last year and Hightower will likely be replaced next spring.
FB (1): Juszczyk
WR (6): Garcon, Goodwin, Robinson, Bourne, Taylor and the best of Bolden/Patrick/acquisition
Acquire via trade or claim a young, better WR off waivers (maybe Tim Patrick could be that guy); trade Kerley ... he is not the future; keep the best of Bolden, Patrick or a trade/claim acquisition and try to waive the other two to the Practice Squad. Guys like Smelter and Burbridge have had opportunities and have done very little with them.
TE (3): Kittle, Paulsen, Hikutini
Like Hyde and Kerley, McDonald is not the future (or even the past) ... trade him for whatever can be had; Paulsen fills McDonald's blocking role. Hikutini still needs development but has potential ... if waived to get him to the PS, he is likely to be claimed.
OG (3): Garnett, Fusco, acquisition
Acquire via trade (somebody like the Patriots' Ted Karras, for example) or claim a better young OG off waivers; Beadles remains at OG until Garnett returns to the active roster; then, move Beadles to the backup OT role.
OT (3): Staley, Brown, Williams (until Garnett returns), then Beadles
Waive Williams to the Practice Squad when Garnett returns.
C (2): Kilgore, Magnuson
Cut Barnes ... but he will likely still be available to be re-signed if Kilgore is injured; I would only give Magnuson limited playing opportunities, if any, during the regular season.
Trade Dial (who has trade value) ... in order to acquire an upgrade at OG, CB or possibly WR. I've substituted Chris Jones, who is actually a better scheme fit.
DE (5): Thomas, Carradine, Armstead, Lynch, Dumervil
OLB (3): Harold, Watson, Taumeopenu
Cut Brooks ... like Hyde, Kerley & McDonald, he is not the future. Saleh has been playing Taumeopenu at both Leo and Sam and he's improving; he still needs development but has potential ... if waived to get him to the PS, he is likely to be claimed (everybody is looking for pass-rushers).
ILB (3): Bowman, Foster, Armstrong
Cut Coyle ... bet he will likely still be available to be re-signed if any of the ILBs is injured for an extended period.
S (4): Reid, Tartt, Ward, Jerome
I would try to waive DB Colbert through to the Practice Squad ... assuming that he doesn't get claimed.
CB (6): Robinson, Witherspoon, Williams, acquisition, two others from current roster
Acquire via trade (somebody like the Patriots' DB Eric Rowe, for example) or claim a better young CB off waivers. Retain the two best of this group: Johnson, Reaser, Redmond, Colbert. If more that one better CB can be traded for or claimed, go for it.
So, compared to Fooch's proposed Final-53, these guys would be gone: RB Carlos Hyde, WR Jeremy Kerley, TE Vance McDonald, OT Garry Gilliam, C Tim Barnes, DL Quinton Dial, LB Ahmad Brooks, ILB Brock Coyle, and possibly CBs Johnson, Reaser and/or Redmond. In the long term, are we really going to miss any of these guys?
In place of the above we would have added RB Raheem Mostert, WR Bolden/Patrick/or acquisition, TE Cole Hikutini, OT Darrell Williams (temporarily), OG acquisition, C Erik Magnuson, DL Chris Jones, LB Pita Taumeopenu, and one or more CB acquisitions.
With respect to trades ... I would only accept in return a player(s) who improves our roster or is the highest draft pick available ... no trades just for trade sake ... the bird in the bush must be better than the bird in hand.
Ask yourself ... if using this approach in formulating the Final-53:
- Would the win/loss outcome this year be appreciably different?
- Would the team be better positioned for further development next spring?
- In short, what the hell do we have to lose ... other than mostly past mistakes?