No need to draw this out, welcome to (or back to) the Silverado. Jump in with me, and we’ll ride and talk San Francisco 49ers off-season football.
So, as we know, there are several mysteries to be solved in terms of the current roster and how different it may look this coming season. Of course, Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward, and Emmanuel Sanders are at the top of these unsolved mysteries.
The Armstead vs. Ward dichotomy
There’s been endless chatter about which of these two the 49ers should keep. While there hasn’t been much news about Jimmie Ward, the most recent news is the 49ers and Armstead are working on getting a deal done.
Latest: #49ers want DL Arik Armstead back and are working on getting a deal done, per source.— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 2, 2020
How this plays out with Armstead will definitely paint a better picture as to how they approach the Ward and Sanders situations. The way I see it, Armstead would be my priority over Ward to keep that pass rush as close to as is as possible.
Don’t get me wrong; Ward has become an asset since getting. I mean he was actually healthy for the first time since......ever maybe? He also had his best season thus far, but an upgrade can still be made at free safety.
And when you consider the team has a young, talented, and growing, sideline to sidelne speed guy like Tarvarius Moore, that may provide the team with enough comfort to let Ward walk and save some money. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see more of this.
We almost got to see Tarvarius Moore run the 100-yard dash. I've heard he is pretty fast.— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) September 9, 2019
But seriously, Saleh has to be thrilled with the anticipation Moore showed on what was, at the time. the biggest play of the game. Moore also tackled well on Sunday (8 stops). Starting FS? pic.twitter.com/3jvFX1xOhd
The only issue here is when Ward turns around, he sees Moore, when Moore turns around, yeah, he’s just turning around as there is no clear answer (depth at free safety) beyond him. That said, they most likely draft a safety for insurance and grooming if they indeed let Ward walk.
Though there is limited cap space (at the moment), you’d think they’d try their best to keep this squad as is, or as close to it as they can. Just look at what they were able to accomplish together just one year removed from only winning four games in 2018.
The 49ers were one of the most dominant defenses in the league, the #1 seed in the NFC, and made it to, and had their chances to win the Super Bowl. This was largely due to the dominant pass rush. If at all possible, you want to keep groups like that together. Easier said than done, of course, but you get my point.
A winning recipe is already in place; the ingredients just need to be maintained and cultivated, so to speak. I know I mentioned Sanders, but we’ll get to him on the back end, right now I want to discuss trying to keep this defense together. In terms of the decision about Armstead and Ward, my dude John Chapman provides some clarity on the situation through his lens. And you know what? I agree with him.
The contract talks with Arik Armstead will determine Jimmie Ward’s status.— John Chapman (@JL_Chapman) March 3, 2020
If AA signs long term look for Ward to be franchised.
If AA doesn’t sign then they will tag AA and let Ward walk.
Armstead is the priority!#49ers pic.twitter.com/0MMpNzJRHC
Armstead is a priority over Ward, but if you can somehow keep both, great. I know there are still concerns about Ward staying healthy, and as I stated before, they can still get better at the position, but you don’t get rid of a player before you have a clear or equal option to replace him.
It may be cheaper to sign Armstead to a long term deal than it would to franchise him, well at least in terms of the right now money that is. Then, of course, you have the tag and trade scenario, but I’d rather we just get a long term deal done to keep him than do that. Say what you want about Armstead (having his first actual big year), but the guy is versatile and productive at both spots.
Be it the 3T (defensive tackle) or 5T (edge), he was unconscious (playing out of his mind) out there, and he’s like having two positions in one. It’s almost like the Ward situation, moving on from them leaves holes and uncertainty, so if you can keep them, do so with Armstead being your first concern.
Then there’s the question: If they lose Armstead, who’ll replace him be it already on the roster or bringing someone else in. I mean, it’s not like the team has a lot of wiggle room in the cap area. But, if they indeed come to terms on a long term deal with Armstead, they can tag Ward if they so chose. This will indeed be interesting. Queue jeopardy music.
What about Sanders
It’s hard enough to win in the NFL, but it’s even harder to keep a winning team together, especially when the cap situation looks the way it does for the 49ers. As I stated, what happens with Armstead and Ward will say a lot about the future of Sanders in San Francisco.
Like my mother used to say, “money is funny, and change is strange” so it’ll be interesting to see how things play out. As I stated in a previous article “The 49ers don’t really need outside free agents with all of the talents in their backyard”, keeping Sanders is actually on my list of things I’d like to see happen, I just don’t know if it’s possible to keep him along with Armstead and Ward.
No doubt, he had a huge impact on offense in terms of production, but in addition, he was instrumental in the development of the young wide receivers, namely Deebo Samuels and Kendrick Bourne. It’s just getting dicey when factoring in the limited cap space.
I tell you what, though, this receiver group with no Sanders or another legit “veteran” threat, leaving Deebo as the only healthy proven option (Kendrick Bourne is proven as well, but he’s a restricted free agent), looks quite underwhelming. I understand both Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd are set to come back from IR, but those IR situations are tricky, and it’s like counting money before you have it thinking both will be 100%. It’s truly a waiting game, which brings me to the next topic.
Does Lynch have another trade up his sleeve?
Now, this is where the title of this piece comes into play. Will John Lynch pull off another surprise (bold) trade to make the team better this off-season? Though it wasn’t during the off-season, when he traded for Jimmy Garoppolo towards the end of the 2017 season, he made a move to make the team better.
I mean, all he’s done is go 21-6 as a starter for the 49ers and take them to a Super Bowl. Though one of those six losses was the big game, it’s safe to say, speculation about how far he can take the team or not, Jimmy indeed made the team better. So, Lynch hit on this trade in that aspect. That’s one.
In 2018, he traded for Dee Ford, another move to instantly make the team better, adding an elite edge rusher. Now granted, Ford was brought in to play a limited role (situational pass rusher), and due to injury, that role was even limited, but he too made the team better when he was on the field. That’s two.
With the 2019 off-season underway and free agency and the draft on the horizon, the question is: Will Lynch be able to execute another trade that will help the 49ers get better for the third time?
Before you go
I know the cap situation is not ideal but between the selflessness of the players on the team, Parag Marathe’s ability to negotiate team-friendly deals, and the “we’ll get better where we can when we can” approach of Lynch, another surprise trade for a position of need (be it wide receiver, cornerback, or offensive line) isn’t out the question.
Just like most of us, I have no clue how things will pan out in terms of our big names returning or moving on, but either way, I can see Lynch making at least one move via trade to get better. At the end of the day, that’s what’s it’s about, getting better. Thanks again for riding. GO NINERS!