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Grading the 49ers extensions from the 2018 offseason

The 49ers did some good work, but have some question marks heading into 2019.

The San Francisco 49ers have had a relatively busy start to the offseason, finalizing decisions to part ways with Earl Mitchell, Pierre Garçon, and Garry Gilliam. All three were under contract for 2019, but will now hit the open market.

While the 49ers have cleared roster space, they’ve been quiet on the free agency front. Over their first two offseasons running the show in Santa Clara, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan did plenty of work prior to the start of free agency. They signed free agents that were available before the start of the new league year, and worked out contract extensions for numerous veterans.

The team has yet to ink any players to contract extensions. There is still plenty of time for them to get any deals done, but until that happens, I thought we’d take a look back at last year’s contract extensions. Between the end of the regular season and the start of free agency, the 49ers signed six players to new contracts, and then signed two more after the new league year began. Here is a look at what happened last season for each player and their statuses heading into 2019.

Jan. 26: Mark Nzeocha, 1-year deal

The linebacker was a restricted free agent last offseason and signed a one-year deal worth $785,000. He played almost exclusively on special teams in 2017, but earned a rotational linebacker role in 2018. He played primarily at SAM linebacker, and saw defensive snaps in 11 games. He was a serviceable linebacker, but stood out on special teams, earning an alternate Pro Bowl nod. He is an unrestricted free agent if he does not sign a new deal before March 13th.

Grade: A — He was a great special teams player and a capable linebacker. For less than a million bucks, you can’t ask for much more.

Feb. 7: Cassius Marsh, 2-year deal

The 49ers acquired Marsh off waivers in 2017, and signed him to a two-year extension last offseason worth $7.7 million, with escalators and incentives providing a chance to earn up to $12.7 million. He had two sacks in limited time with the 49ers in 2017, and then improved to 5.5 sacks over the course of a full 16-game season last year. His sacks came in three games, with one vs. the Cardinals, 2.5 vs. the Raiders, and two vs. the Seahawks.

Marsh split time between the right and left edges, and had a perfectly decent season. Pro Football Focus ranked him 41st out of 92 edge rushers in pass rush productivity, and 29th in quarterback hits. It was not a spectacular season, but it provided some spark off the edge.

Marsh is due a $3.8 million base salary in 2019, a $300,000 roster bonus, and a $100,000 workout bonus. He has no guaranteed money, having received a $2 million roster bonus last season instead of a signing bonus. He could be a solid complementary option if the 49ers invest heavily in the edge rush, but enough to keep around for $3.8 million?

Grade: B — He was a decent pass rush option. Given his 2019 salary, this grade would go down if we don’t see improvement (and assuming he is on the roster this fall).

Feb. 8: Jimmy Garoppolo, 5-year deal

We’ve discussed this plenty. A year ago, Jimmy G signed a five-year deal worth up to $137.5 million. The 49ers had acquired him shortly before the 2017 trade deadline and he helped lead the team to five straight wins to close the season. He started three games in 2018 before tearing his ACL. Earlier today, Mark Saltveit took a look at how Garoppolo was looking prior to the injury.

Garoppolo has been throwing the ball with Jerick McKinnon, and the hope is that he will be able to do some throwing during OTAs and minicamp. For now, he appears on track to be ready for full work when training camp starts.

Grade: Incomplete

Feb. 14: Daniel Kilgore, 3-year deal

The 49ers signed Kilgore to a three-year deal worth $12 million, and then traded him away a month later on March 15th. The move came after they were able to sign Weston Richburg, leaving the 49ers eating $2.3 million in a roster bonus they had paid Kilgore. It’s safe to say they had Richburg in mind, but also wanted to make sure they had a stable center option if that did not work out. Considering the trade resulted in merely swapping seventh round draft picks, it’s clear they were just looking to unload Kilgore.

Grade: A — The move made sense since they did not know if Richburg would sign. And using a roster bonus instead of a signing bonus limited the dead money. For how it all played out, it was a good use of cap space.

Feb. 27: Garry Gilliam, 2-year deal

The 49ers signed Gilliam to a two-year worth up to $8 million. The deal had a $2.45 million cap hit in year one, and then $5.05 million in year two. He spent last season as the team’s swing tackle, seeing offensive snaps in five games, and significant work in Week 1 and Week 4. He was an adequate backup option, but at the price they would have had to pay him in 2019, it is no surprise the team released him last Wednesday.

Grade: C — If the 49ers had not traded Trent Brown, I would have probably graded this a D. It makes sense to have a veteran backup in place considering they added a rookie right tackle. I’d love to see them invest in a young swing tackle this year.

Mar. 8: Marquise Goodwin, 3-year deal

Goodwin had a breakout campaign in 2017, and earned himself a three-year extension worth up to $18.85 million. Coming off a season with 962 yards and third in the league with 17.2 yards per reception, it seemed like a bargain. Unfortunately, Goodwin had a rough 2018. He dealt with various injuries, and a year after losing a newborn in childbirth, he and his wife lost twins once again during the pregnancy.

His status for 2019 is unclear given the 49ers developing talent around him. I don’t think they will release Goodwin, but their moves in free agency and the draft will be something to watch as they look to add more playmakers. Goodwin is due $2.95 million in 2019, with a cap hit of $3,968,750. His cap number goes over $5 million in 2020 and over $7 million in 2021, so one of those two seasons would be more likely when he could end up getting released.

Grade: C — It was a struggle for him on and off the field, but it’s worth noting he did average the same ypc this year as last year. The pressure is on for him.

March 15: Brock Coyle, 3-year deal

Technically Coyle hit free agency before he signed his three-year deal, but it seems like it’s worth including given how quickly the deal was finalized. He signed a three-year deal worth up to $8.4 million after moving into the starting lineup in 2017. When he first joined the team in 2017, he seemed likely to be primarily a special teams player. However, he moved into the starting lineup after the 49ers released NaVorro Bowman. He held that role and looked ready to continue with it in 2018, only to end up on injured reserve after a Week 1 concussion.

Heading into 2019, the 49ers have questions at linebacker after Fred Warner. Coyle will compete for the weak side linebacker role, and that opportunity will depend in part on what the team does with Malcolm Smith.

Grade: Incomplete

Apr. 27: Jaquiski Tartt, 2-year deal

The list of Trent Baalke draft picks to earn a contract extension under Lynch and Shanahan is limited, but Tartt signed a two-year deal last summer worth up to $13 million through the 2020 season. Unfortunately, for the second straight season Tartt’s season was short-circuited by injuries. In 2017, he played nine games and then went on IR with a fractured forearm. In 2018, he played eight games and eventually finished the season on IR with a shoulder injury.

He opened 2018 as the starting strong safety alongside free safety Adrian Colbert. Both finished the season on IR, and it’s tough to tell what the safety situation will look like when the offseason workout program begins. Marcell Harris looked good in place of Tartt to close the season, and could prove to be stiff competition.

Grade: C — Injuries are officially an issue, with two straight seasons finishing on IR. That along with Harris’ emergence creates urgency for Tartt. He is a talented, versatile option, but he faces a significant competition this fall.

Jun. 22: Laken Tomlinson, 3-year deal

The 49ers acquired Tomlinson right before the start of the 2017 season, and after missing Week 1, he started the remaining 15 games at left guard. He signed an extension last offseason worth up to $18 million and started all 16 games at left guard in 2018. He stands a good chance of claiming the job again in 2019, but he could find himself competing with Joshua Garnett and any other interior lineman the 49ers potentially add to the mix.

Grade: A — Tomlinson started all 16 games before suffering a torn MCL midway through the season finale. He was a very solid option, ranking 28th out of 88 guards at Pro Football Focus. He is not a high profile option, but for the price, he was quality value.