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NN Mailbag: McKinnon and Breida backfield, Earl Thomas, Nick Bosa, free agency and more

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Addressing your 49ers questions and concerns before Sunday’s Week 13 road matchup against the Seahawks.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers are moving on from an embarrassing Week 12 that saw the arrest and release of linebacker Reuben Foster and a blowout loss to Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kyle Shanahan’s team is now preparing for Sunday’s matchup against the Seattle Seahawks at the always challenging Century Link Stadium.

We’re back with this week’s mailbag before the 49ers’ Week 13 matchup. You’re welcome to drop questions in here for next week’s mailbag or tweet me @Rob_Lowder.

“With the way Matt Breida has played this season do you think the 49ers will release Jerick McKinnon and get a cheaper running back in the draft or bring in another free agent?” Markus Brown

Absolutely not. Shanahan and the 49ers’ offense will be eagerly anticipating running back Jerick McKinnon’s return to the starting lineup after a torn ACL before the season. A tandem backfield of McKinnon and Matt Breida was always the plan. Breida’s emergence as a bonafide lead back only makes the prospect that much more enticing. Think Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in 2016 under Shanahan as the offensive coordinator. The pair combined for 1,599 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground and 883 yards and five touchdowns through the air.

“With Adrian Colbert struggling, any chance Richard Sherman could convince Earl Thomas to come here next year?” CJ Dillard

Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas seems destined for free agency after a fractured leg ended his season on a contract year that began with a holdout in hopes of a new deal. Free safety is among the 49ers’ most dire needs on defense. Coordinator Robert Saleh employs the same Seahawks scheme that Thomas thrived in since he was a first-round pick in 2010.

As CJ mentioned. former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman seems like the perfect ambassador to campaign in the 49ers’ favor. The only thing standing in San Francisco’s way is Thomas’ desire to play for the Dallas Cowboys, which was the talk of the offseason. Thomas would be a perfect fit among a young defense if the 49ers can win him over.

“Seems the 49ers have had to overpay for free agents, with even Aqib Talib declining to play in San Francisco. Do the tea leaves suggest this trend will continue or will opportunity prevail?” Brian Stalker

The 49ers agreed in principle to a trade with the Denver Broncos for cornerback Aqib Talib during the offseason. Talib declined the trade and opted to join the Los Angeles Rams and his former defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips. The presence of Phillips likely had more to do with his decline than it did not wanting to play in San Francisco. With that said, the 49ers will continue to overpay for free agents until they begin to find real success. The allure of Jimmy Garoppolo and the five-game win streak to close 2017 has worn off. The team is now 2-9 and vying for 2019’s No. 1 pick. The 49ers are projected nearly $70 million in salary cap space for 2019.

“If you were making the decisions, who would be your #1 FA targets this offseason on offense/defense?” Kevin Stockbridge

If I had the ear of general manager John Lynch, I’d first insist the 49ers targeted Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford. The team’s biggest roster need is a pass rusher capable of threatening opposing quarterbacks off the edge. Among premier pass rushers slated for free agency like Cowboys’ Demarcus Lawrence and Houston TexansJadeveon Clowney, Ford is the one most likely to hit free agency. The Chiefs’ linebacker racked up 32 combined tackles, seven tackles for loss, 21 quarterback hits and five sacks this season.

The options available to the 49ers on offense are uninspiring. As boring as this may be, I’d ensure the 49ers re-signed guard Mike Person. The veteran offensive lineman has filled in wonderfully at right guard for the 49ers. He’s currently Pro Football Focus’ sixth-ranked guard in the NFL with an overall grade of 75.5, showing out well in both pass and run blocking. The 49ers’ offensive line has, for the most part, been a bright spot this season. Maintaining continuity would go a long way towards bouncing back in 2019.

“Nick Bosa at No. 1 overall or trade back to 4 or 5 and pick N’Keal Harry and get extra picks?” Jayson Bennett

If the 49ers land the No. 1 overall pick, which is still very much in question, selecting former Ohio State pass rusher Nick Bosa should be the obvious choice. Bosa, like Myles Garrett in 2017, is far-and-away the draft’s best pass rusher and the top player on nearly every reputable draft board. An edge threat like Bosa would immediately transform the 49ers’ defense, taking pressure off the secondary and providing more opportunity for interior standout DeForest Buckner. Lynch shouldn’t consider trading out of the opportunity to draft Bosa unless the offer is multiple first-round picks, and more.

“Outside of injury what would it take for Shanahan to go back to CJ Beathard this season?” Jon Justus

Shanahan was quick to acknowledge quarterback Nick Mullens’ struggles against the Buccaneers in Week 12. He also made sure to point out the entire team’s lack of execution on the road against Tampa Bay. The 49ers’ head coach didn’t dismiss the idea of Beathard returning to the starting lineup, but made it clear that Mullens was going to get his fair share before Shanahan would consider a switch at quarterback. After two seasons and 10 starts, the 49ers know what they have in Beathard. They’ll likely roll with Mullens to close out the season, pending a meltdown, to ensure they’re able to make a fair evaluation of the third-string quarterback moving forward.

“Any word on how Marquise Goodwin is doing?” Sean Engel

Marquise Goodwin remains away from the facility while he attends to a personal matter after missing the team’s Week 12 matchup against the Buccaneers

“It’s a family matter, as you guys know, something personal,” Shanahan said Sunday. “He definitely wasn’t in trouble because he’s going through a serious situation. Our prayers are with him.”

Goodwin’s situation is clearly the priority and has the respect of the team. As of Wednesday, Shanahan still wasn’t sure when Goodwin will return.

“Do we make a trade for Jalen Ramsey and if so what will it take to pry him from the Jaguars?” 49ers Armchair GM

The 49ers would undoubtedly explore a trade for Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey if he were made available. Ramsey is among the league’s best at the position. He has another season on his rookie contract as well as a fifth-year option. The 49ers would also need to be comfortable with the cost of the extension that would be in the works as part of the acquiring Ramsey. I assume it would take at least a first-round pick to pull Ramsey from the Jaguars. Maybe more.

“Should we at least kick the tires around for Le’Veon?” Kaizer Soze

The 49ers don’t need Le’Veon Bell. Not for the cost it’s going to take to sign him. Bell wants to be paid like a top playmaker in the NFL, given his impact in both the run and pass game. He’ll likely demand a contract on par with today’s highest paid receivers. He probably won’t get that, but that’s what he’ll seek. The 49ers’ backfield in 2019 of McKinnon and Breida is solid, to say the least. The money that would be allocated for Bell should be used to strengthen other areas of the team, like the pass rush and secondary.

“Is there any reason to watch this team and not do yard work on Sundays in the next couple of years?” Victory Tattoo Chico

If you’d said “in the next couple games,” I’d have recommended yard work. For the next couples years? Absolutely. If quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and McKinnon make successful returns from their torn ACLs, which they should, and the team adds some key defensive pieces, the 49ers should be remarkably better in 2019. Before Garoppolo’s injury, the 49ers were competing with the likes of the Minnesota Vikings and the Chiefs, both playoff-bound teams. I expect the 49ers to return to competitive form next season.