Last week, we went over the first offseason plan for the San Francisco 49ers that involved keeping Jimmy Garoppolo and drafting a quarterback in the first round. In today’s second installment, we’ll change up the quarterback situation, which is the domino that will affect the outcome of the rest of the roster.
Let’s get into another edition of the Niners' offseason plan from free agency to the draft, starting with who stays.
- Trent Williams
- Jason Verrett
- Jaquiski Tartt
- Solomon Thomas
- Jordan Willis
- Dontae Johnson
In this scenario, the 49ers retain Tartt and Verrett while losing Kendrick Bourne and Kyle Juszczyk in free agency after not being able to afford either player's price tag. Losing two players that were a vital part of your offensive identity the past few seasons could be a tough pill to swallow at first, but we’re judging these offseason plans by the overall outcome and not a player or two.
Keeping Verrett and Tartt keeps continuity in the secondary. Heading into a new year, with as much uncertainty as there is on the roster, the last thing you want is three new starters in the secondary. Verrett, Tartt, Jimmie Ward, and San Francisco would have to draft or sign a cornerback.
Who signs from outside of the building?
- WR Cordarrelle Patterson
- C Alex Mack
- EDGE Haason Reddick
- EDGE Everson Griffen
- DT Austin Johnson
- CB P.J. Williams
Again, as was the case last week, the 49ers would have to sign several more free agents to fill out their roster than the ones listed above, but these are the notable names.
San Francisco’s return units were a trainwreck this past season. How do you fix that? By signing the best kick returner in the NFL. Patterson has led the league in kick return yardage the past two seasons. The Bears also used Patterson as a running back and occasional receiver this past season. I’m sure Kyle Shanahan could find ways to get Patterson involved on offense.
Addressing the center position is a must, and the easiest connection for Shanahan would be to bring in the center who helped him get to the Super Bowl in 2016. Since then, Mack has only missed two starts in five seasons. He’s not the same All-Pro player, but Mack is an instant upgrade at center and already knows the offense. At 35, Mack’s price tag shouldn’t be too high.
Reddick is the prize of this free-agent class for San Francisco. He’s not going to be cheap, and you shouldn’t expect him to be. We know Paraage and company are masterminds when it comes to manipulating the salary cap and moving money around. Giving Reddick a heavily-incentivized contract in Year 1 while giving him enough guaranteed money to sign should do the trick.
“Hey, Haason, how would you like to rush the passer opposite of Nick Bosa for the next three seasons while doing so with a lead? Did I add that you’ll be 1-on-1 the entire time? Oh, and you’ll play Arizona twice, the same team that wasted the first three years of your career. Sound good?”
Griffen is a depth signing who would presumably sign for the veteran minimum as he’s chasing a chance to win it all. Johnson replaces D.J. Jones in the middle while Williams replaces K’Waun.
Because we added Reddick, we’re unable to sign someone to start opposite of Verrett. We also downgraded in the slot as P.J. isn’t on the same level as K’waun. You’re not going to sign 11 All-Pro’s in an offseason, and this is the risk you take heading into the draft.
Who gets traded?
Over the weekend, the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford agreed to mutually part ways. In this scenario, the 49ers trade the No. 12 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, plus a ‘21 and ‘22 third-round compensatory pick to acquire Stafford.
The 49ers have the upper-hand as pick No. 12 has more value than anything Washington or Indianapolis could offer. If San Francisco wants to get this done, they will.
After failing to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco is forced to waive Jimmy G, and he is free to sign anywhere. After landing Stafford, which would happen on the first day of the league new year, March 17, the 49ers re-work Stafford’s contract to give them enough wiggle room to land Williams and Verrett.
San Francisco already came out ahead roughly $4 million after acquiring Stafford and releasing Garoppolo, but the contract restructure adds a few more million that the 49ers desperately need.
I’ve heard it all when it comes to Stafford. “He’ll get killed behind this offensive line.” The 49ers' offensive line is significantly better than Detroit’s. I cannot stress that point enough. The Niners finished 2020 ninth in adjusted sack rate while the Lions finished 21st. Stafford had to deal with more unblocked rushers in the three games I watched this past season than either 49er quarterback did all season.
It doesn’t hurt that Stafford knows how to buy time in the pocket:
when people throw out the term mobility, it doesn't always have to be extreme. could be as simple as taking a few steps to buy yourself time. this play is a sack for a lot of QBs. pocket movement here allows him to get this throw off, which isn't the worst throw you're gonna see. pic.twitter.com/nuBZnO4BHc— KP (@KP_Show) January 24, 2021
Stafford has never had anything close to a salvageable run game during his time in Detroit, either. Comparing his situation with the Lions to any other QB is worthless as Detroit has proven to be one of the most inept franchises in the NFL.
Stafford would make the skill players around him better. I feel like that has to be said. He’d give guys opportunities to make plays that the current quarterbacks on the roster wouldn’t.
Who gets drafted?
Stafford is worthy of a first-round pick. He’s turning 33. You’d think he had one year left in him the way some have talked about Stafford. If San Francisco were to get 4-5 years of Stafford, they win the trade, and we’re looking back at how this deal is highway robbery in two years.
In the second round, you better find somebody that could cover. I’m investing in Syracuse’s cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu. He’ll make a name for himself this week at the Senior Bowl, and taking him in the second round will seem like a gift as opposed to a reach after this week.
With my Day 3 picks, I’m continuing to invest in wide receivers, offensive line, and pass rushers. If a QB like Kellen Mond falls to the fourth round that I like, then I’ve found my developmental project.
I prefer this scenario to the first. While a Garoppolo/Lance pairing is nice, you have a sure thing in Stafford. You know what you’re getting. There is no “hope.” Suppose the 49ers enter the draft “hoping” to select a quarterback, that wishful thinking has a better chance to backfire on them than any other outcome.
There’s a risk here, as there is with any other move. Losing Bourne means you’re betting on Jalen Hurd’s health or Richie James or even a Day 3 wideout in the draft to produce. Losing Juice means Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, or UDFA Josh Hokit would need to do the heavy-lifting at fullback. Those are both tall tasks.
We upgraded the defensive line where Arik Armstead is now the third-best pass rusher. Assuming Javon Kinlaw takes the next step, I’d be thrilled with this defensive line and confident that they’d protect my secondary.
It all comes back to the quarterback, though. What we saw in 2019 felt like a mirage. That’s not happening again, and the 49ers know that. Instead of “hoping” for a perfect situation, be the aggressor. Stafford gives San Francisco a chance to win now, later, and do so without mortgaging the future and gutting the roster. You also add talent thanks to restructuring contracts.
The 49ers will be competitive next season no matter who is under center, thanks to the talent that’s already on the roster. Competitive isn’t the goal, though. Stafford is the best of all worlds and takes this team, not the offense, team, to another level.