In today’s links, you’ll read a couple of articles about the salary cap, why Sam Darnold is a risk for the 49ers, why addressing wide receivers during free agency can wait, and what makes Jason Verrett underrated.
As far as Darnold goes, you have to overlook a lot to get to his good play — at least the consistently good play. If you came up with a list of five ways to improve the 49ers quarterback room in 2021, would a Darnold solution be in the top-5?
A couple of free agency news happened Monday evening. Dak Prescott signed a four-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys where Prescott will earn $75 million in 2021. Washington placed the franchise tag on OG Brandon Scherff, which is worth $18 million in 2021.
For a current example, the 49ers, in negotiating the Jimmy Garoppolo contract, took on a first-year cap number of $37 million, very close to the first-year cash number of $40 million. Now, if the 49ers decide to move on from Garoppolo, it will cost them less than $3 million in dead money, a drop in the bucket compared to the $34 million for Wentz and $22 million for Goff. How a team proves itself as cap-savvy is by putting itself in a position to have ultimate flexibility on its roster, never to have to prorate, to put the team in position for sustained success.
On the other hand, moving a second-round pick for him means the team would likely be aiming to have him start this season since he’s on the final year of his rookie deal. Using a second-round pick on a backup who could leave the following year in free agency isn’t probably a prudent use of a premium pick for a team with as many holes as the 49ers.
We theorized the club could move a mid-round pick for Darnold to get him in the building as the backup and to see what he can do in practice before offering an extension in the offseason. It’d be worth a mid-round selection to find out what Darnold looks like in Shanahan’s offense. A second-round pick comes at a much higher risk.
Here’s the amount of cap space there was league-wide late on Sunday morning.
1. Jaguars: $86.42
2. Jets: $78.96 million
3. Colts: $70.89 million
4. Patriots: $68.74 million
5. Washington: $56.77 million
6. Broncos: $45.48 million
7. Bengals: $42.55 million
8. Panthers: $31.25 million
9. 49ers: $28.02 million
What the 49ers have lacked for most of the past four seasons is a true slot receiver — a player who can get open quickly and give the 49ers’ quarterback an easy pitch-and-catch option to keep the chains moving. Trent Taylor, who is a free agent, was supposed to be that guy. But injuries rendered him a non-factor.
Kendrick Bourne is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. The 49ers can afford to wait and let prices drop before addressing this area.
Underrated: Jason Verrett
2020 team: 49ers | Age entering 2021 season: 30
Verrett has been one of the most injury-plagued players in football for years, but he finally got a healthy season in 2020 for the 49ers, who had kept rolling the dice with him, hoping for a year like this.
Verrett played 803 snaps last season, having played just 67 in total over the previous three seasons and 1,270 in his entire career heading into the year. He had an excellent season, allowing only 8.9 yards per catch and one touchdown all season, earning a 76.1 PFF coverage grade in the process. Verrett posted a coverage grade of 90.9 the last time he was healthy for a full season.
While he didn’t quite get back to those highs last year, he did look impressive given the extent of his injury layoff. That history will likely still scare teams, but he is a high-quality starter if he lasts through the season.