The San Francisco 49ers return to the practice field Wednesday. On Tuesday, a story broke about an old friend.
Buckner, meanwhile, wasn’t looking to go anywhere.
“I was pissed,” Buckner remembers. “Still in shock almost.”
He wanted another shot.
Four weeks later he learned he wouldn’t get one — not with the 49ers, at least. Buckner’s four-year rookie deal was coming to an end, and he was hoping to cash in. San Francisco had picked up his fifth-year option but wasn’t willing to go further. Too many of his teammates needed to be paid.
It crushed him.
“They told me and my agent to explore other options,” Buckner said. “So we did that.”
“I was hoping the 49ers would at least meet me in the middle,” he admits now. “I definitely didn’t expect them to trade me. I poured my heart and soul into that organization … to go from 2-14 my first year to build a culture and get to a Super Bowl?
“You just don’t expect to be traded.”
Shanahan said on multiple occasions last season that he thought the 49ers were the best team in football. That doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t make a change at quarterback but it suggests he thinks he can win — and win a Super Bowl — with Garoppolo. Also, the team has been building the offense around Garoppolo’s strengths with catch-and-run players like Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
Again, that doesn’t mean another quarterback wouldn’t flourish with the same weaponry, but it’s evidence that the team’s long-term plans thus far have included Garoppolo.
3. Quarterback. OK, I’ll play along. Though the top three passers will be gone by the middle of the first round, Wilson and Florida’s Kyle Trask ought to be available. Both guys seem to have the ability to play out of the pocket while also giving Shanahan some mobility — and some arm — his current quarterbacks corps doesn’t possess.
In a lot of ways, the 49ers are back at the quarterback position where they were when Shanahan and Lynch took over. They have to figure out how they want to proceed with that position.
In their first 49ers offseason of 2017, the thinking for the organization was to build out the rest of the roster and get their quarterback (Kirk Cousins) as a free agent in 2018.
Now, the board is wide open.
Do they continue with Jimmy Garoppolo, a shrinking salary cap and his $25 million salary? Or do they look for an upgrade via a trade, free agency or the draft? That will be the organization-defining decision that awaits this offseason.
“He’s going to get much better,” Rice told ESPN. “I think, as he gets older, he’s going to continue to develop, and I’m expecting big things from him, to be honest with you. Because I think he has everything where he’s got the route running, where he’s got the hands, that awareness on the football field, and he’s one of those guys that he knows he’s a playmaker and that he could put points on the board at any time.”
That’s high praise from perhaps the greatest to ever do it. Thus far, Aiyuk has appeared in seven of nine games, missing one with a lingering hamstring injury and one because of close contact with wideout Kendrick Bourne, who had tested positive for COVID-19.
Barnwell mentions Rodgers as a more likely option for the Niners after the 2021 season as the Packers could opt to move towards Love in 2022. This would mean the 49ers would either stick with Garoppolo for another season or go with a bargain “bridge” quarterback for the 2021 season.
“They didn’t draft Love to sit him for the entirety of his rookie contract,” Barnwell explained. “I don’t think Rodgers is likely to leave until after the 2021 season, but if things end poorly in 2020, could Green Bay send Rodgers to the organization that passed on him in 2005? I could see Rodgers as a possible 49ers quarterback in 2022, but 2021 doesn’t seem likely. If the Packers traded him before June 1, they would eat $31.6 million in dead money on their 2021 cap and only save a little under $5 million in cap space. It would likely take a total collapse from Green Bay or some disastrous turn in the relationship between Rodgers and coach Matt LaFleur for a trade in 2021 to make any sense at all.”
Speaking of Mullens under pressure, the interior offensive line has to help him out in that regard. There hasn’t been one player in particular who’s struggled which is why both guards and the center get included. Starting left guard Laken Tomlinson and starting right guard Daniel Brunskill have allowed a combined 35 pressures and six sacks this season. Backup center Hroniss Grasu has allowed seven pressures and one sack in 116 pass blocking snaps per Pro Football Focus, and was benched in Week 9 with Brunskill moving to center and veteran Tom Compton sliding in at right guard. Whoever starts at those three spots has to be better if Mullens is going to succeed.