The San Francisco 49ers were decisive early in the NFL free agency period, landing cornerback Richard Sherman before it formally got going, and then signing center Weston Richburg and running back Jerick McKinnon immediately after the start. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have since said repeatedly Richburg and McKinnon were their top targets, and they were willing to pay up to make it happen. Sherman was their second choice after Aqib Talib, but once Sherman was in the building, the deal got done.
There has been some talk about the money the 49ers are paying out to Richburg and McKinnon in year one, but there is a general consensus that they are strong fits for what Kyle Shanahan wants to do. Recently, ESPN’s Mike Sando sat down with various coaches, executives, and others to get their thoughts on how each team did in free agency. Here’s what one evaluator said about the 49ers moves.
“Richburg upgrades them, and they were able to trade their other center [Daniel Kilgore],” an evaluator said. “Jerick McKinnon is very good for what Kyle Shanahan wants to do. They don’t have a first- and second-down guy, but this guy gives them ability on three downs. He can help in the passing game.”
There was one other quotation from an “insider” that offered an interesting different take on the 49ers decision-making.
“It’s interesting to watch the new regime,” this insider said. “They have talked about ethos, but when you pay Kilgore and say he is the type of guy you want, then turn around and trade him a month later, players in the locker room see that. It’s like talking about the ethos they want and then drafting Reuben Foster or the running back from Utah [Joe Williams] who quit, had injury concerns and got hurt as a rookie. We will see what happens.”
If anybody in the locker room is all that surprised by the Kilgore trade, I’m not sure they have been paying attention over the past year. The team has made it clear in both words and actions that a player has a spot on the team until the team finds somebody better. Shanahan and Lynch have both said this, and we’ve seen the team make move after move to clear players out. The team signed Kilgore to a deal that provided them an easy out. If they had not landed Richburg, they would have held on to Kilgore. But, they were able to get Richburg signed, and so, Kilgore was moved.
I do wonder what we’ll see in the 2018 NFL Draft when it comes to players with red flags. Foster and Williams both had some red flags heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. Foster’s injuries were an issue, and then of course the off-field issues were a problem in January and February. Williams ended up on IR this past year, and Kyle Shanahan said he expects the now second year running back to turn up the urgency this year.
Will we see the team play it a little safer in this year’s draft, or do we still see some wild card picks?