The San Francisco 49ers have a few areas of need they will have to address this offseason. The team won’t likely be a significant player in free agency. As things currently stand, Over the Cap projects the Niners to have just less than $10 million in space this offseason.
That could change with cuts and restructuring of contracts. San Francisco could have up to 40 players from the roster hit the open market, so general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan will have some decisions to make.
The number one priority this offseason should be to re-sign veteran All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams to a new deal. The secondary is also close to the top of the list, with nine players up for free agency.
Lynch and Shanahan could address the secondary with the 12th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft with prospects like Patrick Surtain, Jaycee Horn and Caleb Farley projected to be on the board.
Another area the 49ers could look to solidify is the return game. Football Outsiders has the Niners ranked 27th in special teams DVOA.
San Francisco was among the worst teams in the league in kick return yards, ranking fourth-worst at 19.3 yards per attempt. Veteran running back Jerick McKinnon led the team with 12 returns for 239 yards, followed by Austin Walter (five returns from 93 yards) and Richie James (four returns for 73 yards).
The 49ers averaged nine yards per punt return, which tied for the 11th in the NFL. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk led the team at 13 yards per return, followed by Trent Taylor (12.4). Protecting the ball was an issue on punt returns. The Niners fumbled the ball three times, tied for the third-most in the league.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell made a prediction that would help San Francisco address the return game. He looked at where 43 free-agent wide receivers could sign for the 2021 season and says the Niners should try and bring in Cordarrelle Patterson:
“Patterson’s primary role is as the best kick returner in football, but he also offers value as a running back and an occasional wide receiver. I’m not sure he’s ever going to get much more than five touches per game as a hybrid player, but the right coach can unlock something valuable in the former Vikings first-round pick.
I like the idea of Patterson heading to San Francisco, where the 49ers had the league’s second-worst kickoff return unit in 2020 and have an offensive mind who can get the most out of those five touches for Patterson in coach Kyle Shanahan.
Projected: Two years, $5.5 million with the 49ers”
The 30-year-old Patterson averaged 29.1 yards on his 35 kick returns in 2020, second-most of any player with more than 15 attempts. He also had 21 receptions for 132 yards and 232 rushing yards for the Chicago Bears during the season.
Barnwell also predicts that wide receiver Kendrick Bourne will join former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and sign with the New York Jets. If Bourne does depart in free agency, San Francisco could look at adding a wide receiver. It looks like Taylor won’t be back, so the 49ers will have the likes of Aiyuk, James, Deebo Samuel and hopefully Jalen Hurn on the roster in 2021.
Do you think Patterson would be a good target at the price Barnwell suggests?