The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up the 2017 season and have begun their work to prepare for 2018 free agency and the draft. We’ll be breaking down plenty of what that means, but in the meantime, we wanted to take a look back at the season that was for the 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo capture our imagination, but the 49ers rebuilding process was extensive last year. We are going to take a look at every notable addition and provide a forum for grading how that signing, trade, or draft pick worked out.
The new regime got going before full free agency even began last year. The Miami Dolphins released defensive tackle Earl Mitchell in February, and after a week of visits, he signed with the 49ers.
At the time, we were excited just to see the team getting aggressive before free agency even began. Trent Baalke had signed free agents, but after 2011, it rarely felt like the team was overly aggressive in doing so. The salary cap has gone up considerably, but the 49ers have had sizable cap space for much of the new collective bargaining agreement. I don’t think most of us were looking for the team to “win the offseason,” but there were opportunities to fill holes, and the front office seemed reticent to do so.
All that being said, the Mitchell signing proved to be a solid one this season. He was brought in for a specific role, playing the nose tackle role in the 49ers 4-3 front. The 49ers have invested heavily on the defensive line, and Robert Saleh said that at some point, the hope is that Solomon Thomas will replace Mitchell as a run defense option.
For a team that was in the early stages of rebuilding in 2017, Mitchell brought some leadership and experience to settle the middle of the line. He is not a guy you want starting long term, but he provides a step in the right direction.
As the team looks ahead to the 2018 season, I would not be at all surprised to see him replaced sooner rather than later. The team acquired Sheldon Day off waivers, and he put together some really strong work off the bench. He’s not built like Mitchell in that more traditional nose tackle body type, but I could see him working his way into more snaps at Mitchell’s expense. I don’t think we see Mitchell cut this offseason, but he will face more competition in training camp.
How do you grade the Earl Mitchell signing?
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