This isn’t 49ers related, but the Cam Newton fiasco from Sunday that involved a high school kid calling him out made me feel like the “get off my lawn old man” for the first time in a long time. I love how Newton moved on and handled the situation.
6. Keeping FS Jimmie Ward (March 13, 2019)
There was a time when the chances of Jimmie Ward being a long-term part of the 49ers’ future seemed somewhat low. Ward, who was a first-round pick of the 49ers in the 2014 NFL Draft, came to the end of his rookie contract in 2018 with uncertainty after seeing four of his first five NFL seasons shortened due to injury. He was also moved from safety to corner and back again over his first five seasons, and at times there was some question over where exactly he fit in. The 49ers decided to keep him around on a one-year deal in March of 2019, however, and it paid off for both parties after Ward settled in at safety to deliver 61 tackles and eight passes defensed in 13 games over the 2019 season. The 49ers signed Ward for three years in March of 2020, which he responded to with a career-best 73 tackles and four passes defensed to go with a Pro Football Focus rating of 73.5 over 14 games. As unlikely as it may have seemed in 2018, Ward remains an important piece of the puzzle in the secondary as 2021 approaches.
2021 savings: $23.6 million
The 49ers are OK riding with Garoppolo as their starter in 2021, but they’re not overjoyed about it. In the event they actually land an upgrade, whether via trade or the draft, there’s a decent chance they could get a draft pick for the former Super Bowl starter (hello, Patriots), but it’s not out of the question they’d outright cut Jimmy G to clear almost $24 million.
SF 49ers Free-Agent Target No. 5: Cornerback Rasul Douglas
San Francisco is going to potentially lose boundary cornerbacks Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Dontae Johnson and Jason Verrett to NFL free agency this offseason. And while it would be ideal to re-sign at least one of those players, preferably Verrett, the reality is the SF 49ers could be pinched at the position and would need some cheap veteran options anyway.
But one might figure the 27-year-old Douglas could perform better in a zone-heavy defense, which the Niners probably continue under first-year defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.
That’s the route San Francisco needs to take in this year’s draft regardless of their feelings on Garoppolo. At best he’s a starter capable of getting a team to a Super Bowl. At worst he’s unavailable. The latter scenario requires a more solid backup option than either Nick Mullens or CJ Beathard.
Hurts wound up starting four games at the end of the year for the Eagles and showed enough promise that Philadelphia was willing to eat a $33.8 million dead cap hit to move Wentz for a pair of draft picks this offseason. Chances are we’ll see Philadelphia use another high pick on a quarterback this year to compete with Hurts and provide them with more than one starting-caliber player under center.
Given the importance of the quarterback position, it’s worth using Day 1 or 2 picks on signal callers once or twice every few years until an elite talent emerges.
The 49ers aren’t bad, but they play in the most difficult division in their conference. The NFC West is stacked. The Rams just got better, the Cardinals improve as Kyler Murray improves and the Seahawks are the Seahawks — they’re good for at least 10 wins every season.
The 49ers are a year behind the Rams, who were 9-7 the past two seasons. That’s about how good the 49ers are right now. At best, they’d squeak into the playoffs as a Wild Card team and lose.
Which means the 49ers should build for 2022. Get a boat load of young, healthy talent.