It has been a wild couple of months for the San Francisco 49ers. After a crushing Super Bowl loss, the team underwent some significant changes to its roster.
General manager John Lynch made the tough decision to trade away stalwart defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, the team let veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders walk in free agency, and All-Pro left tackle Joe Staley retired.
The 49ers brass made some shrewd moves to fill the voids left by three Pro Bowl players. Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan got South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the 14th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, traded up to select Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk at No. 25, and acquired another All-Pro left tackle, Trent Williams, from the Washington Redskins.
Jim Trotter of the NFL Network says those moves aren’t enough for him to say the Niners are objectively better than last season.
“Objectively, you cannot say that they’re better. Let’s look at the three key moves that they made. Number one, you trade DeForest Buckner, a second-team All-Pro, a team captain, a team MVP, and you bring in a rookie in Kinlaw. Can you say objectively that Kinlaw will be better than Buckner this year? I don’t think you can. Number two — look at the receiver position — you let Emmanuel Sanders walk in free agency. You draft Aiyuk. Can Aiyuk be better than Sanders was a year ago? Right now, objectively, you would say no. That’s not to say, in a year or two, he couldn’t (be), but now, no.”
Trotter adds that Williams is better than Staley right now, which is hard to argue given the four-year age cap between the two, but he still doesn’t believe San Francisco is a better team as a result of all the moves combined.
Losing Buckner is a big blow, and it was a tough decision for Lynch. Buckner wanted to be paid like one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL, which he deserves, but it would have hamstrung the team’s cap situation going forward. I don’t think anyone is expecting Kinlaw to come in and equal DeFo’s contribution right away, but he has the potential to develop into a Pro Bowler one day.
Lynch discussed the team’s plans on the defensive line on NBC writer Peter King’s podcast.
“Even with DeForest [Buckner], one of the things that we had as a stated goal this offseason was to get a little bit bigger. DeForest is a big tall man, but he was 285-290 pounds, and we felt at times, playing Seattle with those huge guards that guys get worn down,” Lynch said. “One thing with Javon [Kinlaw], he’s 325 pounds, and a lean 325 pounds, if you can believe it ... I think he’s a perfect fit for what we do.”
The 49ers will have more options to replace Sanders. If Aiyuk struggles in his rookie season, the team can look at the trade market close to the deadline like it did with Sanders in 2019. Some of the 2021 free agent receivers who could be available include: A.J. Green, Allen Robinson and Marvin Jones, whose teams aren’t expected to be very good in 2020. While the contracts of T.Y Hilton, Keenan Allen and Sammy Watkins are all set to expire after next season, their squads should be contending for the playoffs, so it is difficult to see them being traded.
Trotter is right in saying the team isn’t objectively better after replacing two proven veterans with two rookies, but he is not taking into account how much the current 49ers’ players can improve. Nick Bosa is going into his second season, while quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will have a full offseason without rehabbing his knee.
To see Trotter’s segment, go to 10:22 of the video.
Who do you think will have more of an impact as a rookie? Kinlaw or Aiyuk?
Onto some more links:
49ers make sense for Aaron Rodgers if he leaves Packers, Colin Cowherd says (NBC Bay Area)
Patrick Willis explains why he walked away in his prime (Yahoo! Sports)
Trent Williams squashed Richard Sherman beef long before joining 49ers (NBC Sports)
49ers found Brandon Aiyuk when they were scouting N’Keal Harry (Fox Sports)
Jimmy G reveals who his favorite player was when he was growing up (NBC Bay Area)
Washington won’t pick up fifth-year option for linebacker Reuben Foster (AL.com)