I’ll believe the San Francisco 49ers will suffer from a Super Bowl hangover when I see it. General manager John Lynch has been too aggressive, and there is too much talent coming back in 2020 to this the Niners will take a drastic step back. Not making the Super Bowl is one thing, but San Francisco isn’t going 6-10 unless a lot goes wrong.
That doesn’t mean the 49ers need to “raise the bar.” They can get better at specific positions, as well as improve certain aspects of their game. In some cases, if they don’t get better, there won’t be a 2020 “revenge tour.” This should be a fascinating offseason that features plenty of change, but just as many holdovers. Here are seven predictions for this offseason.
The 49ers won’t pick in the first round
This is as obvious as the team selecting Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel in last year’s draft. The 49ers feel like a lock to trade out of the first round. Lynch and company aren’t going to sit idle while the second, third, and fourth rounds go by without making a move. Trading out of pick No. 31 should net the team at least two Day 2 picks.
It’s easy to bring up trading from our point of view, but the 49ers are sitting in a perfect spot. If a quarterback falls, or a prominent player slips for whatever reason, another team will want to trade back into the first, so that fifth year to control that player’s contract.
One move will catch us off guard
Last year the 49ers traded for Dee Ford the first day I was hired. The trade happened at about 7 p.m. PT. There may not be a blockbuster deal like that, but there is going to be a move that leaves us saying, “What?!” You know Paarage Marathe is crunching numbers on some player as you’re reading this to see if he either fits the Niners or if it makes sense to move on from said player. I’m not going to pretend to have an idea what’s going on. Nobody knows. What we do know is something of the wall is coming, because that’s how the NFL works—especially with an aggressive front office.
No changes on the offensive line
Signing right guard Brandon Scherff sounds great in theory, but that doesn’t feel like a move the 49ers would make. Mike McGlinchey was a first-round pick, but they traded a fifth-round pick for Laken Tomlinson, and Mike Person was a journeymen. I wonder how much of Weston Richburg’s injury history plays a part in “playing it safe.”
There are two reasons I don’t think the 49ers make a move. Financially, they’d have to ignore another more pressing position. Another reason is Daniel Brunskill. It feels like I’m making Brunskill out to be the second coming of peak Mike Iupati. That’s not the case, but when you show as much promise as Brunskill did, you reward those players the next season with a chance to start. If Brunskill can’t beat out Mike Person, then the worst-case scenario is you return five starters on the offensive line.
The prized free agent this year will be a cornerback
The lasting memory of the Niners defense will be the big plays they gave up as the season came to an end. Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby, Byron Jones, James Bradberry, and Jimmy Smith are all names to keep an eye on. All will certainly cost $10 million a season, at worst. That’s what you have to pay for a premium player at a premium position, no matter their age. I’d be thrilled with either of the players mentioned above.
You get an extension, and you get an extension!
George Kittle will receive a massive extension that breaks the tight end record. DeForest Buckner will be right behind him, and don’t be surprised if Paraag and the team are mapping out a way to extend someone else to create cap space. Joe Staley is an interesting name. I don’t think he gets cut, but Staley is due $11.5 million in 2020. I wonder if his deal gets renegotiated to create a little wiggle room for the team.
Ultimately, I think the 49ers end up extending Arik Armstead and reach a long-term deal. I also believe Jimmie Ward is back. The Niners shouldn’t have any issues working out a team-friendly deal with their stud free safety. If both Armstead and Ward are back, that means...
Emmanuel Sanders won’t be on the roster
Sanders was everything the 49ers asked. He transformed an offense that was scheme-dependent and made that side of the ball dangerous on so many levels. Young receivers like Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne evolved into legitimate NFL threats, while Sanders himself single-handedly won a few games.
It’s a tough pill to swallow when you trade your Day 2 picks for a receiver, and he walks in free agency, but this is a business, and the 49ers knew the risk they were taking. Google “Emmanuel Sanders free agency.” I know it’s all conjecture, but you don’t see anyone predicting Sanders will be on the Niners next season. I’ve seen bad teams like the Raiders and Jets linked to Sanders, but he isn’t leaving San Francisco to lose. One site predicted Sanders will sign with the Patriots for $10 million a year and $23 million guaranteed. That’s the kicker, the guaranteed money. Will the 49ers be able to match other deals? We’ll find out soon enough. It’d be tough to watch Sanders play in New England, though.
Solomon Thomas won’t be on the roster come Week 1
San Francisco has given Thomas every opportunity to perform, and it hasn’t happened. This is the boldest prediction yet, as it will cost the team over $8 million in dead money to cut Thomas—but that doesn’t mean they’ll try and move him. A fresh start may be best for Solomon, who could improve as a player by, you know, playing. That’s not going to happen on the 49ers. Even with a depleted defensive line, Thomas wasn’t playing more than half of the snaps.
Thomas is still young enough where another team can find value in him. My guess is he’s moved sometime before the draft, and the 49ers eat $4 million in cap space while saving around the same amount, and picking up a fourth-round pick. Essentially, Lynch is paying for a draft pick. I don’t think it’ll be difficult to find a trade partner as everyone can use depth at arguably the most important position in the sport after quarterback.