The Case For Key Re-signings

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With a cap space figure that we have not recently been accustomed to the 49ers are expected to re-sign following unrestricted free agents: Emmanuel Sanders, Jimmie Ward, Jason Verrett, Arik Armstead, Shon Coleman, Ben Garland, Levine Toilolo, Damontre Moore, Sheldon Day, Ronald Blair, Jordan Matthews, and Dontae Johnson. The three who have gotten the most concern from this list are, of course, Emmanuel Sanders, Jimmie Ward, and Arik Armstead. In this post, I will discuss why the 49ers should bring back only two of these three names.

Points matter

First, I need to establish that a team should give themselves the best chance of success by allocating cap space to players and positions that will contribute to adding "points" to the game. For instance, it has been well established that an above-average corner is going to add more value to their team than any 4-3 linebacker. Next, we need to understand that for a team to succeed at the highest level, they need to find excellent value in their players. The best value does not usually come from high profile free agent signings but from mid-level signings and the draft. An excellent example of a team that has had continued success by finding excellent value is the New England Patriots. The most recent example is them allowing Trey Flowers (a player fairly similar to Arik Armstead) to walk in free agency. They replaced his production with a player they had drafted and developed in Kyle Van Noy. This allowed the Patriots to allocate funds elsewhere and continue to get the best value from their players.

I will divide the list into what can be considered key contributors or potential key contributors and depth. The key contributors are Emmanuel Sanders, Jimmie Ward, Arik Armstead, Ben Garland, and Ronald Blair. The remaining players on the list, while holding value, are not someone that I would consider to be key contributors to the team. Jason Verrett had a brief showing this year, and as we all know, it was not pretty. I am certainly open to seeing him back with the team on a team-friendly contract and seeing what another year of recovery can do for him. Shon Coleman has shown flashes but has not played many snaps for the team. Daniel Brunskill and Justin Skule seem to show more upside than him, but offensive line depth is always extremely important (as we saw this year time and time again). Levine Toilolo was utilized in running packages mostly and showed some skill. Pro Football Focus gave him a run-blocking grade of 63.2, which is slightly above average. Damontre Moore certainly showed that he could be a quality rotational player on the defensive line. I would love to see him back with the team next year. Sheldon Day was decidedly average. He is certainly replaceable, and with the pending return of DJ Jones next year, it will not be worth paying much. Jordan Matthews and Dontae Johnson saw about 150 snaps between both of them over the year. They show little upside and are not worth paying more than a rookie.

Let him walk

Without further ado, I believe that the 49ers should not resign Arik Armstead. I would be fine with franchising him to keep him for one more year, but I do not think the 49ers should give him a contract. While he had an excellent year, his best trait is defending against the run. PFF gave him a pass-rush grade of 75.1, which is not worthy of being paid like a star. Defending against the run is not as important as rushing the passer for a defensive lineman. When weighing the value of the run vs. the pass, we can look at expected points added (EPA). The average running play has a much lower EPA than the average pass play. This tells us that we would not be getting optimum value in giving top dollar to Arik Armstead, even if he continues his high level of play (which is frankly, not extremely likely). I feel that our comparable to the replacement of Trey Flowers (Arik Armstead) with Kyle Van Noy is Ronald Blair. He has shown periods of excellent play, which has been hampered by injuries or a lack of playing time. Bringing back Ronald Blair on a modest contract will allow us to get excellent value from a re-signing that could potentially fill the shoes of Arik Armstead just fine.

Bring them back

I believe that both Emmanuel Sanders and Jimmie Ward should be re-signed. The wide receiver position gives the second most value to a team, behind quarterbacks. It would be extremely difficult to replace his production and value. Safeties give a team excellent value in coverage and are often not paid extremely highly. Jimmie Ward showed excellent play and is projected to sign with a contract in the neighborhood of 9-10M per year. These two players have the potential to give the team value based on their contracts, while Arik Armstead does not.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.