The offseason and dead part of the NFL schedule usually lead to wild predictions. For the San Francisco 49ers, it seems like the media is either on one side of the coin or the other. You either think the Niners are going to be one of the better teams in the NFC, or you believe they still have to establish themselves as a consistent threat before you buy in. I’m somewhere in the middle, like Vegas.
Like Luck’s, the Jimmy Garoppolo contract looks better with time, even though Garoppolo has more legitimizing to do on the field. To the 49ers’ benefit, of the top 10 quarterback contracts in the NFL Garoppolo’s deal has the lowest percentage of total guarantees (53.8%). On paper, their defensive line is how a general manager would draw it up in their wildest dreams: All first-round picks, all under the age of 30. John Lynch spent money in his first two seasons, but in free agency worked on the younger end of the market (LB Kwon Alexander, RB Tevin Coleman, OL Weston Richburg) to add to the roster.
Later this morning, we’ll have a completely different opinion about Alexander. So naturally, he’s listed here as a reason the Niners will take the next step.
I like the point about the teams’ defensive line— size, speed, athleticism, and strength. We saw glimpses of what Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas can be. We know how good Dee Ford and Nick Bosa can be. Now it’s about putting pressure on the opposing quarterbacks consistently.
Offensively, Garoppolo needs to play like an upper echelon quarterback. He doesn’t need to perform as Patrick Mahomes did in his first full year as a starter. It doesn’t have to be that extreme. More than anything, Garoppolo needs to be efficient. Spread the ball around, let your playmakers do the work, and take advantage of the big plays when they present themselves. Kyle Shanahan will put players in a position to succeed; the pressure is on Garoppolo to hang in there if he doesn’t have time and deliver.
Health will determine a lot of the 49ers success. The team is indeed entering its Super Bowl window. Soon enough we’ll know if the Niners are genuine contenders.