In today’s nuggets, you’ll read about the free agents in ‘22, Jimmy G potentially being the MVP of the Niners, a mailbag, and the most interesting offseason additions.
The 2022 season, one in which the salary cap has a ceiling of $208.2 million, has the team’s attention. The 49ers already have more than $184 million in liabilities spread over only 34 players for that season. That number currently includes Jimmy Garoppolo’s massive salary for 2022, but not the new deal linebacker Fred Warner is expected to ink later this summer.
Even if Warner has a new deal in place, the 49ers’ big list of 2022 free agents includes six players projected as starters for the upcoming season. Some will be back. Others will have to be replaced.
Here’s a position by position look at which players are entering contract years and where the 49ers might have to bulk up — in free agency or the draft — when the season ends.
Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s going to have to be if the 49ers are to achieve their lofty goals. For all the hoopla about rookie QB Trey Lance, Garoppolo is still in the driver’s seat. It’ll take an unexpected slip or another injury for Lance to grab the keys this season, and such a scenario simply wouldn’t optimize the 49ers’ chances of winning now. Garoppolo looked sharper and physically stronger than his previous self during OTAs, and he’ll be operating behind what should be an improved offensive line. We saw how much the 49ers missed good quarterback play while Garoppolo was hurt last season. If he can stay on the field, Garoppolo can be a winning difference for the 49ers — much like he was at several key junctures of 2019. — David Lombardi
So I think Mostert is the primary back now and into the season, but with Jeff Wilson out, that might switch to Sermon, Wayne Gallman or Elijah Mitchell randomly throughout the season. Then Sermon, given his high draft status, might be the leader in the clubhouse for 2022, but there’s a lot of football to unspool between now and then and Shanahan and Turner might find themselves one or two new candidates by then.
The 49ers desperately need pass rush help, and their hope is that Ebukam can follow a similar career path to Buccaneers DE Shaq Barrett. Ebukam, like Barrett in Denver, was miscast with the Rams as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. That role didn’t allow him to take full advantage of his combination of size and athleticism. A 4-3 DE role in San Francisco could allow him to make a significant leap from his career high of 4.5 sacks. Barrett in his first year in a 4-3 in Tampa Bay led the NFL with 19.5 sacks after posting only 14 in four seasons with the Broncos. The 49ers defense could be dominant if Ebukam makes even a fraction of the leap Barrett did.