The 49ers return to OTAs Tuesday, and they’ll have another practice on Wednesday, with a one-day break before returning to the field on Thursday. Let’s see if we have any action compared to last week. Or if the action revs up.
• The Falcons are pushing hard to pay nothing of his future compensation, while inquiring teams want some relief on a player entering his 11th year who might be starting to break down. Can the Falcons’ rookie GM, Terry Fontenot, stay firm on that?
• ESPN reported last week the Falcons have been offered a first-round pick for Jones. I’m skeptical of that, but we’ll see. “If Atlanta had that offer,” one GM with interest in Jones told me last week, “they’d have made the deal and just said we’ll announce it next week.” It could be that the Falcons may end up with a first-round pick in a future draft beyond 2022, but I believe they have not been offered that yet.
• I was told a while ago by a source I trust that the Falcons would accept a hard second-round pick in 2022 (no condition on Jones’ playing time) with no responsibility to pay Jones any of the $38 million he has coming. That seems like the most logical outcome, and my guess is a hard second-rounder is already on the table from some team. Pro Football Talk reported Sunday that people around the league feel Tennessee is the most likely candidate to get Jones, and I could see that. The Titans would have to move money around this year, but they’re in good shape to handle Jones’ contract in 2022 and ’23.
Enter Justin Hilliard.
Based principally on his unfortunate injury history, including a torn meniscus, ACL injury and several torn bicep muscles, Ohio State’s Hilliard fell out of the draft in 2021, and the 49ers picked him up as a rookie free agent soon thereafter. The specter of those injuries of course still lingers, but to his credit, Hilliard came out in his final college season and showed that he is an exceptional player capable of disrupting offensive plays.
Though his clocked speed isn’t elite, and his 6’1”/230 lb. size make him more of an “old school” type linebacker, Hillard has shown a snap-to-whistle relentlessness and aggressive pursuit of both the football and ball handlers that make him a noticeable force on the field. His football intelligence is evident in his ability to read offenses and he’s rarely out of position to make plays. Covering runs, his tackling angles are consistently right and for a linebacker his size, he’s assertive and crisp in pass coverage. In all, Hilliard could be a solid three-down linebacker and in the majority of the time he was on the field last year, his smart but aggressive style of play drew considerable attention.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is the first 49ers player to make his way into the BetMGM odds at 125-to-1, so a $1 bet fetches $125 if he wins the award. George Kittle is 150-to-1 and Nick Bosa is 500-to-1.
Typically the award goes to signal callers because of their impact on the game, so naturally quarterbacks are all among the leaders. Patrick Mahomes is the pre-season leader at 5-to-1. The first nine players and 13 of the first 15 in the odds are quarterbacks.
Garoppolo is the 26th quarterback listed, which is an indicator of where he stands among the other top passers in the league, and what oddsmakers think of his ability to play a full season.
Hyder had a nice year with 8.5 sacks after getting thrust into a larger role because of injuries ahead of him on the depth chart. He was the only player with more than 3.5 sacks.
2021 projected leader: Nick Bosa
Even if Bosa has some rust to knock off early, he should build on his total of 9.0 from his rookie year and lead the club this season.
Recently hired by the San Francisco 49ers to lead the NFL team’s diversity and inclusion efforts — a newly created position — Jefferson has a long history with a quite different, yet still bruising, athletic pursuit: roller derby.
In that sport, players in full pads and helmets race around an oval track in roller skates, jostling and jockeying for lanes, blocking and body checking each other along the way. Roller derby traces its roots to the 1930s but was revitalized on television in the 1960s with the help of Jewish Bay Area showman Jerry Seltzer. In a 2017 interview, Seltzer called the game a “symbol of women’s empowerment.”