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49ers mailbag: How bad does Jimmy G need to be this season for any of the nonsensical rumors to become true?

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With questions about the running backs, Buckner, the 2020 season, and more

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

We are under a week away from free agency, so the news circulating the San Francisco 49ers is going to rev up any day now with potential signings and connections. We asked for your questions, and you did not disappoint. This week, we’ll talk about Jimmy G, draft trades, free agency, and much more.

How bad does Jimmy G need to be this season for any of the nonsensical rumors to become true? - Andy

The media has gone out of their way to convince us the 49ers are fed up with Jimmy Garoppolo. The Tom Brady rumors were everywhere for two weeks. The Mike Florio’s of the world asked, “why doesn’t the team come out and shoot these rumors down?” Well, they did. Both Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch said Garoppolo was their guy at the NFL Combine. Also, they don’t owe us an explanation, especially each time a rumor comes out. If Jimmy G isn’t good enough this year, the latest gossip is Shanahan will want Kirk Cousins. It’s never-ending.

As for Andy’s question, Garoppolo’s contract is set up where the 49ers can get out of it if he doesn’t perform up to expectations. The team would save $24 million in cap space while only eating $2.8 in 2021. I don’t think this is a “Super Bowl or bust” scenario for Jimmy’s future. Shanahan likely wants to see progress and growth. Is Jimmy G seeing the field better and making quicker decisions? Does he cut down on the fumbles? Garoppolo can improve as a player, and the Niners not make it as far as they did in 2019. To move on from him, Jimmy G would really have to take a step back. If we’re late in the season and you see scenarios similar to this year where Shanahan doesn’t trust his quarterback, there’s your sign.

You gotta pick one to go, Breida or Coleman, who you got? - Coach Yac

Breida is a restricted free agent that we’ve discussed, while Coleman is a prime candidate to be on the chopping block. If the 49ers cut the former Falcon, they can save $4.6 million. Coleman’s best game of the season came in the playoffs when he was the lone running back getting carries against the Vikings. For whatever reason, we didn’t see Coleman featured as a receiver in the passing game this past season. There’s no reason to think that will change in 2020, especially if the team renegotiates Jerick McKinnon’s contract.

Let’s operate under the assumption McKinnon is back in 2020. You have your bell cow in Raheem Mostert, the receiving back in McKinnon. That leaves your third back to split time with both. I’m taking the better runner, and that’s Breida. Yes, he fell out of favor late in the season with fumbles. There’s no question that Breida has a higher ceiling in this offense than Coleman. I do think Coleman is the better pass protector, but knowing Shanahan loves the big play, it’s Breida. He’s also over $2 million cheaper in 2020.

So who do you think will be a surprise cut/trade candidate? And I mean a SHOCK shock.... -Alex

This is a tough but fun question. Some names we’ve thrown around like Solomon Thomas or Ahkello Witherspoon wouldn’t be surprising. I’ve seen names like Kwon Alexander and Weston Richburg thrown out there, but the 49ers just restructured those two contracts. They’re not going anywhere. I’d say, Dante Pettis. Kyle Shanahan has been hard on the second-year wideout but also has made it clear that he is not giving up on Pettis. After his rookie season, I wouldn’t either. Let’s say a receiver needy team comes calling and offers a third-round pick for Pettis. That’s going to get the attention of John Lynch.

Knowing San Francisco is currently without a Day 2, that might be enough for Lynch to pull the trigger. This issue there is you’re creating yet another hole on the roster, as Pettis is one of the few wide receivers under contract after 2020. This is a move that would shock me.

The Niners have to tag Armstead to trade him, which is difficult with the current cap situation. Any thoughts on them trading Buckner and then signing Armstead? - SportsOnly

I don’t think trading Armstead will be difficult after the season he had. Last week we talked about the potential tag and trade scenario where Armstead ends up with the Browns, given Cleveland has two defensive coaches on staff that were in San Francisco a season ago. You’re not trading DeForest no matter what. Unless his camp comes out and tells you Buckner has zero interest in being a 49er.

Buckner has been a better player throughout his career, and there are reports that the 49ers are “pushing to try to make” a Buckner extension a “reality.” You’d be hard-pressed to find a trade where you move on from Buckner and improve your team. Because of that, the odds of trading Buckner is slim.

Does 2020 look like another year of success, or was 2019 just a red herring? -Luis

In a scenario where the Niners lose Armstead, Ward, and Sanders, I still am confident that the team is built for success long-term. The defense was always going to take a step back after last year’s performance. That’s not a knock. That unit was borderline historical against the pass and pressuring the quarterback. On offense, Jimmy G has another year under his belt, as does Deebo Samuel. There is going to be somebody on the other side of Samuel, and then you have the best tight end in football and an above-average offensive line. With good coaches in place and as much talent that’s on the roster, the 49ers should feel like 2020 is a disappointment if they don’t make the playoffs.

With our loaded RB room, are there any practical reasons for the 49ers to sign Frank Gore? -Lydia

Not really. Gore is still a very good pass protector, so he’d be an upgrade over anyone on the roster in that regard. Knowing Shanahan’s tendencies and what he likes at running back, I don’t think he’d be in on Gore. I do think Gore would be productive in this offense, and there are a few runs off the top of my head that were short-yardage situations where the backs last year failed to convert, but Gore would have. That’s being nitpicky, and that’s not fair to the guys on the team. The next time we see Gore with the 49ers will be when he decides to call it quits and signs a one-day contract with San Francisco.