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49ers mailbag: Figuring out how to help fix the offensive line

Plus quarterback talk, of course.

Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49er Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

It’s been a while since we’ve asked what’s on your mind. The NFL season is officially over, and we’re still over a month away from when free agency negotiations can begin.

Ideally, some of the 49ers' unrestricted free agents, such as Trent Williams and Jason Verrett, don’t reach the open market. Put yourself in their shoes. If you’re them, why wouldn’t you want to test the market?

Let’s get into that and more in this week’s mailbag.

Offensive line how do we improve - Steven

Bringing back Trent Williams would solve the lion’s share of the 49ers' problems upfront. Williams remains priority No. 1 for San Francisco. Daniel Brunskill isn’t a bad player, but Weston Richburg’s absence has proven that Kyle Shanahan needs a veteran center to run his offense.

Too often during the past two seasons, there have been miscommunications inside leading to free rushers. As long as Deshaun Watson isn’t under center, that’s going to be a problem. Even the greats like Watson and, as the Super Bowl proved, Patrick Mahomes can’t function when there is constant pressure up the middle.

A decision must be made about Richburg’s contract. That will give the team more flexibility this offseason. Weston’s been banged up for the better portion of the past three years. He’s still only 29, but injuries have shortened plenty of athletes' careers. If Richburg were to retire, the 49ers would be off the hook for Ricbhrug’s $11.4 and $12.6 million cap numbers for the next two seasons as Richburg’s signing bonus has already been paid out and there’s no more guaranteed money left in his contract.

Alex Mack has said playing with Shanahan again is “very enticing.” Mack makes the most sense. That gives you four veterans. Then you have Brunskill or Colton McKivitz duke it out to see who starts at right guard. You can’t have five All-Pro offensive linemen. This is an ideal scenario for Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo.

How do we keep Jimmy & still have the cap to keep Trent, JV, fill the holes we will have with our own FAs if they walk & still address O Line issues? - Ortiz

It won’t be easy, but this is why Paraag Marathe and the front office get paid the big bucks. There is no doubt that you won’t retain as many of your unrestricted free agents as you had initially hoped. You also run the risk of not being able to offer Williams, Verrett, Juszczyk, or match their offer since you’re spread so thin with the dozens and dozens of unrestricted free agents on the roster.

I mentioned above how Williams and Verrett are set to see their value in the open market. If you were doing business and this may be the last time you do business, you’d sign a contract with a team a month before other teams can make an offer? You would not, and neither would I. The expectation is that both players return, but the front office has their work cut out.

The 49ers could elect to restructure Garoppolo’s contract once the time comes. That would give them more options in free agency and allow the team to sign an edge rusher, center, or cornerback on the free-agent market.

I understand general manager John Lynch said the team hasn’t restructured because they haven’t needed the money yet. Let’s just say I’m not buying that, and if a restructure were going to happen, then it would have happened already. You’d want to avoid a restructure for any player, not just Jimmy.

Another scenario for the 49ers is them deciding to narrow their pool of players to 4-6 who they truly believe impact their team and fill the rest of the roster out through the NFL draft and free agents for the veteran minimum. Several scenarios could work, and the front office has found ways to get creative with the salary cap. This time around will be their most challenging task yet.

Thoughts on Josh Rosen being the future at QB? He’s always been put in a terrible situation, but with Kyle and the 49ers Offense, I think he can thrive. - Scotty

You may disagree with me on this, especially considering they just gave Rosen an extension, but I don’t think he is on the roster come Week 1 of the 2021 regular season. Yes, he was selected early in the first round. That no longer matters.

We don’t have any evidence of Rosen being successful in the NFL. The last thing we know is that Rosen didn’t see the field for the 49ers after the team needed an emergency backup, and Rosen was the fourth-string quarterback on Tampa Bay. When he was on the field in Arizona and Miami, it wasn’t pretty. Situation aside, he never looked comfortable.

It’s a leap to assume Rosen would automatically become a first-round caliber quarterback just because Shanahan is his coach. While it’s fair to give Rosen the Shanahan bump, I’ll believe it when I see it from Rosen. Let’s see how he does during training camp before we talk about him as the future—especially if the team decides to add a draft pick.

What’s the package we’d give up for Watson? And does it include Bosa? -Shriram

Watson hasn’t been made available for a trade for starters yet, and until Houston says something different, this is all noise. Will that stop us from talking about him? Of course not.

There isn’t a package in the world where you’d lead with trading a star such as Nick Bosa or Fred Warner. Most trade opportunities don’t include a franchise game-changer such as Watson, either.

If I’m Houston, a deal isn’t happening unless I receive Bosa. With that in mind, let’s operate under the assumption that Bosa is a part of this hypothetical package.

I think all of the following can be true:

  • You don’t find Warner’s growing on trees. How many defenders can say they’re the top-3 pass rusher, run defender, and cover guy on their team? Not many.
  • Bosa gave Joe Staley fits on from day one. He was always going to be a star.
  • Despite not having an elite pass rush/er, the 49ers remained in the top-five in yards per drive and drive success rate while allowing the eighth fewest points per drive and the ninth fewest explosive passing/running plays
  • A franchise quarterback trumps everything.

This week, we’ve seen the two most prominent 49ers beat writers say there is no player off-limits, and Bosa’s injury is bigger than a simple ACL tear. I’m not saying the two writers are prepping us for what’s to come, but there’s no shame in acknowledging that’s what it might take.

Talking about the trade doesn’t mean you’re rooting for Bosa or Warner to be traded. If you want Watson, he’s not going to be cheap. If you want Watson, a superstar, you’ll likely have to part with one of your own superstars.

I’m not sure if I’m in the minority here, but there isn’t a player on the 49ers roster who I wouldn’t trade to land Watson. He makes your offense exponentially better and takes enormous pressure off your defense. Franchise quarterbacks give you more margin for error on the rest of your roster.

Yes, the Texans had a losing record. Yes, the Texans' defense was atrocious. I’m talking about what would happen in San Francisco, though. It’s silly to bring up Watson’s situation in Houston because that would be nothing like his situation anywhere else.

You have to draw the line somewhere. San Francisco isn’t in a position to “sell the farm” to land Watson. Bosa wouldn’t be selling the farm, as dealing him would almost assuredly mean Bosa takes the place of one of the first-round picks you’d send.

That’s a long-winded answer: two firsts, Bosa, a future second, and any Day 3 pick. That’s a ton to give up on the surface, but methinks San Francisco wouldn’t be too upset at this trade looking back in three years.