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NN Mailbag: NFL Draft, free agency, Le’Veon Bell, pass rushers and more

Addressing your 49ers questions and concerns before Sunday’s Week 12 matchup against the Buccaneers.

NFL: New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers got some much-needed rest over their Week 11 bye, with the entire 53-man roster expected to make their return to practice for the first time this season. The team now prepares for their trip East to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who recently named Jameis Winston their starting quarterback, again.

I’m back with my second mailbag before the 49ers’ Week 12 matchup. You’re welcome to drop questions in here for next week’s mailbag or tweet me @Rob_Lowder.

“John Lynch recently stated that he would be looking at both free agency and the draft for pass rushers. Who do you think he has in mind?” Robert Knight

Fortunately for the 49ers and general manager John Lynch, there seem to a respectable amount of quality pass rushers for the taking this offseason. Some intriguing possibilities in free agency include Kansas City ChiefsDee Ford, Detroit LionsEzekiel Ansah, Dallas CowboysDeMarcus Lawrence and Houston TexansJadeveon Clowney (more on those, later). The bulk of the options reside in a 2019 NFL Draft class loaded with edge rushers. Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell, Kentucky’s Josh Allen, Florida’s Jachai Polite, Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat, and Florida State’s Brian Burns are considered the best at the position and could all go in the first-round.

“Why would the 49ers be interested in Le’Veon Bell when they’re currently #3 in rush yds/gm and 10th in yds/rush. Shouldn’t they be using their available cap to improve the secondary?” Ritij Kapoor

The 49ers’ interest in Le’Veon Bell should be exploratory at best. As Ritij pointed out, Shanahan’s offense is already fielding a competent run-game despite the loss of Jerick McKinnon before the season. Matt Breida has proven himself a capable starter while backup Raheem Mostert was picking up steam before his season-ending injury. A projected backfield of McKinnon, Breida and Mostert in 2019 should excite 49ers fans. The inflated salary the 49es would have to pay a player of Bell’s caliber should be put to better use elsewhere.

“With only five draft picks and about 70 million in cap space, how “aggressive” will the 49ers be in free agency compared to the last 2 years?” Jon Justus

The 49ers are again projected to among the league’s leaders in salary cap space, with a projection $68.4 million per I would expect Lynch and Shanahan to maintain the same level of aggression they’ve shown since landing in San Francisco, with a willingness to target key players in free agency and pay the price is takes to land them. Cornerback Richard Sherman, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, center Weston Richburg, receiver Pierre Garçon, and McKinnon were all high-priced free agents that the 49ers aggressively signed.

“Should the 49ers take another chance on a defensive player even if it’s Bosa or should we trade down for a collection of picks? If so what is our most pressing needs?” NinerGuy77

Former Ohio State pass rusher Nick Bosa is the consensus top-player in nearly every reputable draft board. If the 49ers get the opportunity to land a player of Bosa’s caliber at a position of dire need, they should draft him and not think twice about it. On the other hand, with only five picks in 2019, the 49ers will undoubtedly entertain trade offers to bolster their opportunities. In a first-round chalked full of defensive talent, where the 49ers’ roster needs the most help, Lynch is in a good position to improve his team either way.

“At this point in the season would you say the 49ers season has been a complete failure? What is the plan for next season?” Blue Turf

Absolutely, and that’s what Shanahan and Lynch would tell you. There’s no other way to spin a 2-8 season. I’d also be willing to bet that there isn’t a team in the NFL that could lose their starting quarterback and running back and go on to have a successful season, or at the very least, one that met the offseason expectations. Shanahan made it clear that 2018 is now about evaluating the roster and finding out who’s going to be a part of the plan going into 2019. For now, moving forward is about gaining experience on the field, improving the roster and hoping for a successful recovery from both McKinnon and Garoppolo.

“If Nick Mullens ends the season as the starter, what do you think the 49ers should do with their QBs once Jimmy is back?” Fernando D. Rodriguez

The 49ers will likely hold on to both Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard throughout most of the offseason until Garoppolo returns to full health. Should Mullens show out for the rest of the season, Shanahan and Lynch will need to decide if he holds more value as a backup or as a trade piece. At this point, the 49ers know exactly what they have in Beathard, their third-round pick in 2017. The final six games of 2018 will add clarity to who the regime will likely choose to serve as Garoppolo’s backup moving forward.

“Seems like safety, edge rusher, corner opposite Sherman, receiver and guard are 5 biggest needs of upgrade going into next year. How many of those spots realistically seem like we will in fact upgrade there?” Doug the Head

Doug’s analysis of the 49ers’ needs is accurate, although I’d shuffle the order a bit. The primary concern should be the defenses’s lack of pass rush, which can help alleviate perceived weaknesses in the secondary. The 49ers will likely add multiple edge rushers in the offseason, through free agency and the draft. Safety is another significant weakness, with Adrian Colbert struggling before going on injured reserve. It’s a critical position for a 49ers defense that routinely relies on a single-high safety. It’s a safe bet to assume the defense receives the bulk of the offseason attention.

“Who do you think is the team’s top rated Edge Rusher after Bosa?” Sean Patrick Scott

It’s impossible to know how the 49ers have arranged their draft board, especially this early in the process. Here’s Matt Miller of Bleacher Report’s top-five EDGE defenders and where they fall on his big board:

No. 1 overall: Nick Bosa, Ohio State
No. 10: Josh Allen, Kentucky
No. 13: Jachai Polite, Florida
No. 17: Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
No. 20: Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

“Other options besides Clowney to pair well with Bosa?” Mazel

Bosa is no guarantee, and neither are most of the options slated for free agency. Clowney will likely receive the franchise tag after the season, securing his services in Texas for another year. The same can be said for Lawrence in Dallas, with a stronger likelihood for a new contract. The most intriguing option currently is Ford in Kansas City. He’s putting together a monster season, totaling 32 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 21 quarterback hits and nine sacks. He’d be the ideal speed rusher off the edge the 49ers need. It’s unclear if the Chiefs plan to tag Ford, extend him or allow him to hit free agency.