Ah yes, the off-season. The time in which everybody has an opinion and their vision of how the team can get better. You know, the discussion about what (outside) free agents to sign, what (in-house) free agents resign or let walk.
Then, of course, talk about what players get the “coach wants to see you and bring your playbook with you,” cut treatment. Well, I figured I’d take another ride in the Silverado with you and talk about it.
So hop on in, buckle up, and we’ll take a ride to discuss all this. It’s important to understand how this particular off-season is unique (challenging), as there isn’t as much money to go around this time. Per over the cap, the San Francisco 49ers have around $19 million in cap space prior to any cuts or restructures.
Considering there are several very important extension decisions to be made (George Kittle, DeForrest Buckner, Arik Armstead) and those who may be resigned (Jimmie Ward), this would be the best time to look within to fortify the roster. There is plenty (some of) what they need already in the building.
To be honest, with the players available to come back from IR and players already on the roster, the team may not need to seek outside help (in certain positions) as there is plenty (some unproven, yet untapped) talent in house.
Think about it; the team has 17 impending free agents.
17 members of the #49ers are set to become free agents in March.— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) February 13, 2020
Take a look at their production during the 2019 season:
14 players are coming back from IR
14 #49ers are set to return after sustaining season-ending injuries.— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) February 18, 2020
An update on their status heading into 2020:
My goal here is to focus on the positions available in-house, not just the individual players. Between the impending free agents, the players returning from IR, and the genius of Paraag Marathe creating team-friendly deals/contract restructures, and the selflessness of the players on the team, there is a good possibility the team can make some magic happen despite the cap situation.
Let’s first take a look at those mentioned above big (obvious) names the team brings back. Of course, Kittle, Buckner, Armstead, and yes, even Ward, I can see the team finding a way to keep. And yes, I know how some of you feel about Armstead and Ward, but the two played solid this past year.
Even though Ward didn’t have any interceptions, this was by far the best show of his talents yet. Just still waiting to see consistent ball (hawking) skills. He flashed it at times but it’s never been consistent.
Can there still be an upgrade made at free safety (produce takeaways)? Of course, but with no clear (more proven and better) option, don’t be surprised if he stays. On the flip side, like my dude Kyle Posey discussed here,
Seven predictions for the 49ers’ 2020 offseason https://t.co/9B0ekf0yGg— KP (@KP_Show) February 20, 2020
keeping all those guys would most likely mean the team would lose Emmanuel Sanders as doing so would have that cap space on about E (empty) and not enough to pay Sanders. It’s truly a give and take situation that has several possible scenarios.
Look, I like Sanders too and thank him for what he brought to the table as his contributions aided in the Super Bowl run. But unfortunately, as you know, they can’t keep everyone. Since we just talked about Sanders and losing him in the wide receiver room, let’s start there, and the names were coming back vs. the names that may be on their way out.
Free-agent wide receivers
Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Matthews, Kendrick Bourne
Wide receivers returning from IR
Trent Taylor, Jalen Hurd, Marquise Goodwin
At the moment, it’s unclear if the 49ers will be able to retain the veteran leadership and savvy of Sanders, but myself and a host of others are hoping they find a way to do so, and rightly so. He was doing his thang when he was doing it. Truly gave this offense a shot of adrenaline.
He also a solid run blocker when he wasn’t catching passes. He also plays the role of a mentor and big bro to this young receiver group. You can’t teach this level of leadership and passion.
Emmanuel Sanders spitting facts to the 49ers WRs pic.twitter.com/whE6LSBd7F— Football Is Life (@FootbaIl_Tweets) February 18, 2020
The importance of Emmanuel Sanders to the #49ers offense can’t be stressed enough. He came in and made an instant impact & formed electric chemistry with Jimmy G.— OurSF49ers (@OurSf49ers) February 16, 2020
I hope he returns to the team as he was an important mentor to the young WRs, and could do the same for Jalen Hurd. pic.twitter.com/l2Vrnsv6Rq
In the event the team can’t find a way to keep Sanders, I’d most definitely hope they can find a way to keep Bourne.
A lot of talk about who should the 49ers should try to keep or let walk. An underrated priority in my eyes is locking up Kendrick Bourne. Truly one of the hardest workers on the team and he’ll only get better with time. pic.twitter.com/QSKuqEib8R— Re Sign EVERYONE (@SadNinersFan) February 11, 2020
Somehow Jimmy G and Kendrick Bourne connected on this pass pic.twitter.com/lpV56R0gcn— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 11, 2020
I know he had some key drops (he had company) this past season, but he was a key weapon/target (and touchdown/first down threat) for Jimmy Garoppolo this season. Not to mention his work ethic and energy is off the charts.
The team also are set to get back Taylor and Hurd. We’ve seen how Taylor can produce when healthy, and he was also the best receiver in camp before he got hurt. Though a small sample size, Hurd is a dawg and be a matchup nightmare and red zone threat.
Need I also remind you most of his catches were first downs or touchdowns? You just don’t let that type of young production and talent walk. Especially since he wants to be here, and there is no other clear (guaranteed) plan to replace his production/presence. #BringBackKB
After an amazing training camp, Trent Taylor had his 2019 season cut short bc of a dreaded injury.— OurSF49ers (@OurSf49ers) February 5, 2020
His return will be another bright spot for this upcoming Legendary Revenge Tour. [ #49ers ] pic.twitter.com/6FgvNFM5N9
Goodwin may end up elsewhere, and I’m okay with that. He’s done some good work here and has world-class speeds, but his menu (skillset) is limited. If I had to guess, I’d say Goodwin will get a fresh start elsewhere, but who knows. Quick shout out to him and his wife on the birth of their baby girl, Marae! So happy for you both, Quise.
In terms of potential receiver groups, I’m a fan of, I actually like the thought of Sanders, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, and Jalen Hurd. And though neither are free agents this off-season, the futures of both Richie James Jr. and Dante Pettis are unclear.
If both Taylor and Hurd are 100%, this group will be that much more dangerous and a joy to draw/scheme up play designs for Kyle Shanahan. Based upon what they’re able to do in free agency (who they’re able to keep) will dictate if they look to add a receiver in the draft.
Free-agent defensive lineman
Arik Armstead, Damontre Moore, Sheldon Day, Anthony Zettel, Jullian Taylor
Defensive lineman returning from IR
Ronald Blair, DJ Jones, Kentavius Street
As previously discussed, I can see the team finding a way to keep Armstead. I mean say what you want (as you do anyway) about him just now coming into his own and having a consistent impact, he did so and flat out balled.
Even when filling in for Dee Ford on the edge, though he wasn’t a sack master, he set the edge with the best of them and led the team in sacks with 10.
Arik Armstead makes it look like a routine bag drill pic.twitter.com/YKk8YIPrhH— Dylan DeSimone (@DylanADeSimone) January 12, 2020
Blair, in my eyes, is a no-brainer to resign. This rotation was one of the best when he was healthy, and he provided quality depth on the edge. They need to find a way to keep him; no questions asked.
Ronald Blair straight up throws down Daryl Williams. Embarrassing pic.twitter.com/ktZCA9sMml— Billy M (@BillyM_91) October 27, 2019
Day has made some plays and did his best to fill in for Jones, but with both Jones playing at the level he is and Taylor coming back who’s also shown flashes, Day may very well end up being the odd man out. Nothing against him at all, it’s just that youth and talent will be what ultimately makes him expendable.
Moore and Zettel were both depth signings, but Moore showed (has) the most upside and potential.
What a special moment for Damontre Moore with his game wining forced fumble after not being on an NFL roster last week pic.twitter.com/QMQ4Q81wRs— TheSFNiners (@TheSFNiners) November 18, 2019
Damontre Moore is out there whoopin tackles with the mega man club on pic.twitter.com/Q7VjAcDcnd— CrockTIME (@eric_crocker) August 25, 2019
From the looks of it, Zettel will land somewhere else. For the right price, I wouldn’t mind having Moore back to add to the depth on the edge behind Bosa, Blair, Dee Ford, and Street. Not to mention, the guy has a motor and can play some football. A team can never have too much depth on the defensive line/edge.
Free-agent offensive lineman
Offensive lineman returning from IR
Weston Richburg, Shon Coleman
Garland played well once suddenly inserted into the lineup when Richburg went down. Of course, there was a slight drop off from a legit starter to a backup, but Garland indeed held his own.
I was worried about Richburg going down for the year in week 14 but Ben Garland has stepped in & done some really nice things as a run-blocker. His ability to hook shades & combo up to the 2nd level & pick off LBs are critical for this ground game to reach its peak. pic.twitter.com/w528eMgEpj— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) December 27, 2019
Offensive line is another area of concern, especially the interior with Richburg recovering from a torn patella tendon. The offensive line is another area in which depth is desperately needed. We saw this to be true this past season. Again, for the right amount of money, I’d like to see both Richburg and Garland back in 49er’s uniforms this upcoming season.
Based upon how things shake out in free agency, I can see the team drafting more young depth at offensive line. Unless, of course, the plan is to kick Daniel Brunskill into guard to reduce the need of a guard in the draft by one that is.
Shon Coleman was a valued addition at swing tackle for the 49ers last off-season but was lost for the entire year this past preseason with a dislocated ankle. Again, quality depth along the offensive line is crucial and a much-needed commodity.
Free-agent running backs
Running backs returning from IR
As much as it pains me to say, I’m not sure if Breida will be back this next season. And please don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Breida and love watching him run away from defenders and make people miss. He was actually having a pretty good third season and averaging 5.1 yards per carry before he again hurt his ankle in week 10.
I have to throw this in there right quick. I know when he bopped first Cleveland it was for six, but that run he had vs Cincinnati was different. He started left, ran into traffic (Richburg had gotten walked into the backfield), jump stopped cutting back right, started to hit the gas into the open area, then cut back right again as Will Jackson III thought he was doing something with his life, and got sent sliding into home plate.
Then he hit that good right trigger and smooth took off. Special play by a special player. That’s what you get when he’s focused healthy. But it seems between battling back from the injury, the reduced snaps as Mostert was playing so well, and his unfortunate mishandling of the football (fumbling), his confidence and snaps both decreased tremendously.
Breida is a restricted free agent, and the 49ers can match another team’s offer if they chose. Again, it’s a money thing, so long as the number he’s offered by another team doesn’t look like any where close to a social security number, I’d definitely try and match it to keep this track team of a backfield intact.
Though he’s had his struggles staying healthy he’s been the 49ers most consistent running back before Mostert started shredding defenses. If there’s a way to keep Breida, I’d do so. It would ultimately lead to the end of the McKinnon project (that never became a project), but that’s fine by me as well.
Bredia over McKinnon. I like to think most agreed, but if not that’s okay, we won’t always share the same thoughts.
Speaking of Mckinnon, this mystery remains unsolved as he’s yet to play a regular-season down in a 49ers uniform to see if he can have an impact and prove to be worth his contract.
Jerick McKinnon breaks free for a 58 yard TD run!pic.twitter.com/eV4g1qFaAU— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 10, 2017
Okay, he’s clearly capable of being explosive as both a runner and a pass-catcher. It’s just been unclear if he’ll have that same impact in San Francisco. He’s aged some and he’s coming off a major surgery. If he can somehow perform as he has in the past, that would definitely add to the potency and speed of this already 4x1 relay team type backfield.
The question is, can he stay healthy enough to do so, and if so, will Shanahan continue to be patient as McKinnon was a big part of his plan at one point? I don’t think we’ll get to find out as the team cut him and save (a much needed) $4.5 million per www.overthecap.com
As I stated earlier in the ride, Marathe is a master at constructing these team-friendly deals, so he’ll need to do so again with McKinnon if they the plan is to keep him that is. I’d prefer to keep Breida, but we’ll have to see. If somehow he stays, he better had agreed to look out for the cookout (sign an extremely team-friendly deal), or he’ll he can take his talents wherever he likes.
Free agent cornerbacks
Cornerback returning from IR
Not much to see here at all. If both are indeed playing this season, it won’t be for the 49ers. I was bought into watching Verrett reestablish himself and play to his potential as when he is, he’s one of the best cover corners there is, and he’s a dawg. He just, unfortunately, couldn’t stay on the field.
With Richard Sherman a set starter and Emmanuel Moseley showing he can start and have an impact, I’d say the team attempts to add some quality depth in free agency (again for the right price) or they may have a guy they’re high on in the draft. Either way, cornerback is most definitely on the menu.
I’m curious to see if they have a guy they want at #31 and grab him there or if it’s a list of names and they trade back to get that corner and add more picks simultaneously. I can see it shaking out either way.
Before you go
Okay, so we’re back. As always, it’s been a pleasure. Oh, you know what? It just hit me I left a few positions out, that being tight end and linebacker. In reference to Levine Toilolo, he was primarily a blocking tight end and saw minimal action.
Though he was a Shanahan guy as they have history, the team will be fine with the peoples’ tight end George Kittle, and Ross Dwelley is solid as well. Unless he’s back for the sake of having three tight ends, he too won’t be on the roster this season. Veteran Garret Celek announced his retirement a short while ago, so there’s that.
The 49ers are set at linebacker with starters Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, and Kwon Alexander, that’s a fact, but depth is always important to have. That said, I’d like to see Lee back as he has shown he can have an impact and won’t cost much.
As you can see, the 49ers have plenty of talent and options in terms of filling positions with players already on the roster; it’s just a matter of working out deals that make sure all parties eat (benefit) and are happy with the deals.
I do think they’d like to keep the bulk of this unit together as the chemistry, brotherhood, selflessness, and desire to win with each other is undeniable. You know having that, finish what they started and have unfinished business per se. Yep, ole Paraag will be a busy man. I’m truly looking forward to see how they work all this out for the revenge tour 2020. GO NINERS!