Where To From Here? ......................................... Just One Old Guy's Opinion

I've had three Niners Nation participants email me asking whether I was planning to do my annual roster projection article this year. I largely stopped writing such articles and commenting on NN after Fooch left and content and comment quality went downhill rapidly. That doesn't mean that I'm not still a huge 49ers fan (but for only 71 years) or that I no longer maintain my perpetual assessment of the roster and projections of where I think things should go. Rather than just responding to the guys who inquired I've decided to just do a core-dump here of my latest thinking. Please keep in mind that this is NOT what I think the Niners will do; rather, it represents what I would try to do if I was running the team.



1. After signing new TV rights contracts the owners will decide not to reduce the 2021 Salary Cap dramatically, throwing most teams into chaos ... they spread the pain and set the 2021 cap at $190 million, only 4% less than the 2020 cap.

2. We all know that draft prospect rankings will change substantially after the regionalized combine activities and pro days ... but, since this is a ridiculously early projection, I'll assume that present prospect rankings will remain largely unchanged for purposes of this piece.

Before dealing with potential additions to the roster, via free agency and the draft, let's consider what to do about the roster as it exists now.



Given my assumption that the salary cap limit will be in the neighborhood of $190 million for 2021, the Niners will probably be able to re-sign more of their own free agents than otherwise thought. That doesn't mean that there won't be losses. Of the approximately 40 free agents, I see it as roughly a 50/50 split ... half the guys get re-signed and half are allowed to walk or are cut. Here are my projections:


Under Contract But Released (3)

Offense -- C Weston Richburg / OT Justin Skule

Defense -- E Dee Ford


Free Agents Re-Signed (18-20)

Offense -- QB Josh Rosen / FB Kyle Juszczyk / RB Jeff Wilson / WR Kendrick Bourne (IF for WR#4 money; else...) / WR Kevin White (IF Bourne demands higher than WR#4 contract money) / TE Jordan Reed (but he competes with Ross Dwelley for TE#2 role) / TE Ross Dwelley (but he competes with Jordan Reed for TE#2 role) / OT Trent Williams / OG Daniel Brunskill / C Ben Garland

Defense -- NT DJ Jones / DL Solomon Thomas (IF for reasonable rotational money; else, let him walk) / DL Kerry Hyder / DL Jordan Willis (but he competes with Ronald Blair for final DE/E role) / DL Ronald Blair (but he competes with Jordan Willis for final DE/E role) / S Jared Mayden / CB Jason Verrett / CB Emmanuel Moseley / CB Ahkello Witherspoon (IF for reasonable rotational money; else, let him walk) / NCB K'Waun Williams / NCB Jamar Taylor (on IR, possibly for the entire season)

Special Teams -- LS Taybor Pepper


Other Free Agent Signings



Free Agents Allowed to Walk (23-25)

Offense -- QB Nick Mullens / QB CJ Beathard / RB Tevin Coleman / RB Jerick McKinnon / RB Austin Walter / WR Kevin White or WR Kendrick Bourne / WR Trent Taylor / WR River Cracraft / WR Shawn Poindexter / TE Justin Reed (unless he beats out Ross Dwelley) / OG Tom Compton / OL Tony Bergstrom / C Hroniss Grasu

Defense -- DE Ezekiel Ansah / DE Dion Jordan / DE Ronald Blair (unless he beats out Jordan Willis) / LB Joe Walker / S Jaquiski Tartt / S Kai Nacua / CB Richard Sherman / CB Dontae Johnson / CB Tim Harris

Special Teams -- LS Colin Holba


Obviously the focus here is on youth and cost, but most importantly on VALUE ... bang for the buck. And, for me, availability is an important component of value.



Ah yes, the quarterback situation. I'll just start by giving you my ranking of all the conceivable alternative candidates:

Veterans: Watson / Prescott / Rodgers (due to age) / Stafford / Garoppolo / Winston / everybody else

Draft Prospects: Lawrence / Wilson / Fields / Lance / Jones / everybody else


Let's do the easy stuff first. IMO the top four QB draft prospects will be gone in the first seven selections of the draft; the ONLY way to get one IMO is to trade up, probably to at least pick #5 or maybe #6; and, if you want your pick of the litter (obviously excluding Lawrence) you would have to trade up to pick #2 ... IF the Jets were willing to make the trade, which I doubt. Given the Niners range of needs and the expected losses through free agency it simply isn't reasonable to even consider that level of trade-up option. If you think that somebody like Jones, Trask or Newman is viable, fine, but I'm very, very skeptical ... they're certainly not better than Garoppolo and probably will develop to be nothing more than reasonable backups in the NFL, if that. So, scratch getting a decent QB draft prospect in this draft IMO. Of course there is always serendipity ... but I'm not betting the farm on that.

So what about the vets? As Shanahan said, Garoppolo is our guy ... unless we can find an upgrade. Cutting to the chase, Rodgers and Prescott aren't leaving their present teams; Watson prefers the east coast and we would have to decimate the roster and several drafts to make that happen ... probably OK IF you're in start-over mode but purgatory otherwise IMO. Winston is not better than Garoppolo, so he's out, even if he'd be willing to leave New Orleans. So, we're down to Stafford and Jimmy.

While older, Stafford is less limiting to Shanahan's full scheme than Jimmy ... better decision-maker, stronger arm, more accurate downfield, and, more importantly perhaps, he has been MUCH more durable. (It's shocking to realize that Jimmy has played in only 50% of the games that he has been handsomely paid for.) AND, Stafford would be 25% less expensive to the Niners than Garoppolo ... not unimportant in a tight cap situation. Bottom line: Stafford is a performance upgrade for a lower price ... better value ... what's not to like about that, IF you can get him for a reasonable cost in trade?

Is Stafford worth pick #12 in the upcoming draft? IF our needs were limited to upgrading the QB position the answer is "absolutely yes"; BUT, that is NOT our situation ... we have or will have too many other needs to consider spending the prime pick to acquire a veteran (NOT draft prospect) QB. IF it takes our first round pick to get Stafford, I'll pass. However, due to unique circumstances, I don't think that it will take pick #12 to get Stafford. I could be wrong but I don't think that I am. Why? Detroit has more roster needs than we do (QB / WR / Edge / NT / 3T / 5T / DBs) AND one of those needs is a QB in the draft ... which could well take MORE than their #7 pick to get the guy they really want. WORSE, they only have FIVE available picks in this draft. They need lots of young, inexpensive talent but don't have even the average number of picks available to draft them. I think that we could put together a package that would be appealing to Detroit without including our #12 pick ... and that's what I propose to do. IF they prefer getting solely a first round pick for Stafford in preference to what I propose, so be it ... we stick with Jimmy.


Now, having dealt with the past, let's move on to the building phase ... trades and the draft.



First, remember, I believe that the top four QB prospects will be gone within the first 5-6 picks of the draft and that the draft-capital cost to move up that far to acquire one, especially your preference, is prohibitive.

I consider our draft needs to be: QB upgrade / C / SWR / OT / IOL ......... E / CB / S / CB / LB

Here's what I propose to do about it:


Pick #1/12 (Own): E Greg Rousseau (Miami FL) 6'6" / 251# ... replacing Ford as pass-rush specialist

(Think back to how Aldon Smith was used when he was drafted ... that's my intent here.)

(As we know from the 2019 season, the best way to improve DB play is to have an overwhelming pass rush; that said, in the very, very unlikely event that either QB prospects Wilson or Lance fall to pick #12, I would select the QB and defer adding the edge player to the 3rd round or consider signing a free agent. In any event, the specific selection here would have NO effect on the following proposed trade to acquire QB Matt Stafford.)


Pick #2/43 (Own): Trade to acquire QB Matt Stafford

To Detroit -- Pick #2/43 (Own) + Pick #3/~100 (Saleh comp) + Pick #5/163 (Sanders comp) + WR Richie James (or grudgingly Hurd) + DL Kevin Givens

From Detroit -- Pick #3/72 + QB Matt Stafford

(Boiled down to a simple question: If you were entering complete rebuild with needs everywhere but only had 5 draft picks to make it happen, are you looking to add one premium player [a 1st-round pick] or the opportunity to add 4-5 above-average or better players ... especially if you will be starting a rookie QB?)


Pick #3/73 (Detroit): C Josh Myers (Ohio State) 6'5" / 310# ... replacing Richburg/Brunskill as starting center


Trade of QB Jimmy Garoppolo:

To New England -- QB Jimmy Garoppolo

From New England -- Pick #3/96 (Brady compensation)

(I'm assuming that Jimmy Garoppolo would allow this trade knowing the environment, system, coaches and the likelihood of getting a contract extension, versus being cut and chancing that contract offers from other unfamiliar teams would not approach the value of his present contract.)


Pick #3/96 (New England): CB Tyson Campbell (Georgia) 6'2" / 185#


Pick #3/~100 (Saleh comp): Traded to acquire QB Matt Stafford


Pick #4/107 (Own): SWR Dazz Newsome (North Carolina) 5'11" / 190# ... replacing T. Taylor / James


Pick #5/138 (Own)L OT Brady Christensen (BYU) 6'6" / 300# ... replacing Skule as swing tackle


Pick #5/154 (New Orleans): S Divine Deablo (Virginia Tech) 6'3" / 226# ... competing at safety


Pick #5/163 (Sanders comp): Traded to acquire QB Matt Stafford


Pick #6/169 (Own): CB Keith Taylor (Washington) 6'2" / 191#


Pick #7/192 (NY Jets): IOL Tristen Hoge (BYU) 6'5" / 305# ... to Practice Squad if he clears waivers


Pick #7/202 (Own): LB Paddy Fisher (Northwestern) 6'3" / 239# ... to Practice Squad if he clears waivers


Running Back Prospects: UDFA Bobby Turner specials




Quarterbacks (3):

Matt Stafford ... from Detroit via trade

Josh Rosen ... re-signed free agent

TBD ... Wilson, Lance, Beathard, who knows?


Running Backs (4):

Raheem Mostert

Jeff Wilson ... re-signed free agent

JaMycal Hasty

ROOKIE ... a Bobby Turner special or Austin Walters or ???


Fullback (1):

Kyle Juszczyk ... re-signed free agent


Wide Receivers (6):

Brandon Aiyuk

Deebo Samuel

Jalen Hurd

Kendrick Bourne or Kevin White (Bourne's asking price is the decider) ... re-signed free agent

Travis Benjamin

DAZZ NEWSOME ... 4th-round draft choice from North Carolina


Tight Ends (3):

George Kittle

Justin Reed or Ross Dwelley ... re-signed free agent

Charlie Woerner


Offensive Tackles (3):

Trent Williams ... re-signed free agent

Mike McGlinchey

BRADY CHRISTENSEN ... 5th-round draft choice from BYU


Offensive Guards (4):

Laken Tomlinson

Daniel Brunskill ... re-signed free agent

Colton McKivitz

Dakota Shepley


Centers (2):

JOSH MYERS ... 3rd-round draft choice from Ohio State

Ben Garland ... re-signed free agent



Defensive Tackles (5):

DJ Jones ... re-signed free agent

Javon Kinlaw

Solomon Thomas ... re-signed free agent, IF for reasonable rotational money; else, let him walk

Kentavius Street

Darrion Daniels


Defensive Ends / Edges (5):

Nick Bosa

Arik Armstead

GREG ROUSSEAU ... 1st-round draft choice from Miami FL

Kerry Hyder ... re-signed free agent

Jordan Willis ... re-signed free agent; competes with Ronald Blair for final rotational role

Ronald Blair ... re-signed free agent; competes with Jordan Willis for final rotational role


Linebackers (4-5):

Fred Warner

Dre Greenlaw

Mark Nzeocha

Marcel Harris

Azeez Al-Shaair


Safeties (4):

Jimmie Ward

Tarvarius Moore

Jared Mayden

DIVINE DEABLO ... 5th-round draft choice from Virginia Tech


Cornerbacks (6):

Jason Verrett ... re-signed free agent

Emmanuel Moseley... re-signed free agent

Ahkello Witherspoon ... re-signed free agent, IF for reasonable rotational money; else, he walks

TYSON CAMPBELL ... 3rd-round draft choice from Georgia

KEITH TAYLOR ... 6th-round draft choice from Washington

K'Waun Williams ... re-signed free agent

Jamar Taylor ... re-signed free agent; begins the season on IR



Special Teams (3):

K Robbie Gould

P Mitch Wishnowsky

LS Taybor Pepper ... re-signed free agent



So there you have it ... my "plan" as of today; surely several things will occur this week that will likely cause changes. Next week? More changes.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.