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ESPN says the 49ers had the best offseason of any team in the NFC West

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ESPN’s Bill Barnwell went through each team in the NFL to determine who won the offseason. The NFC West is widely regarded as the toughest division in the NFL, but outside of the Niners, Barnwell didn’t have any of the other three teams ranked higher than No. 17.

Seattle added a couple of former 49ers in Ahkello Witherspoon and Aldon Smith while boosting their offensive line with the addition of Gabe Jackson. Still, Seattle’s Russell Wilson situation and drafting a 24-year-old wide receiver instead of a pass rusher is concerning.

The Cardinals came in at No. 21 after adding Rodney Hudson, J.J. Watt, and Rondale Moore. Who knows what you’re getting in A.J. Green. Barnwell said it feels like the Cardinals are building a 2016 superteam.

Adding Malcolm Butler at cornerback isn’t the answer. Arizona’s starting secondary: Butler, Byron Murphy, Robert Alford, Charles Washington, Budda Baker. In this division? Best of luck.

Barnwell ranked the Rams No. 27, which is probably low as they upgraded at the most important position in the sport and did so by going from below to above average. In addition, Barnwell wasn’t a fan of the Rams investing heavily into wide receivers instead of helping a shaky offensive line.

This brings us to San Francisco, who liked what the Niners did and ranked them at No. 9. So here’s what Barnwell said went wrong:

It seemed like Jimmy Garoppolo’s days with the 49ers were numbered after the organization traded up, but the team has decided to keep him around for the time being in the hopes of having an Alex Smith/Patrick Mahomes-style transition. In doing so, the Niners lost out on the opportunity of trading Garoppolo to a team such as the Patriots or Bears, costing themselves draft capital.

The Niners could still trade or cut Garoppolo in August to create the cap space they’ll want to roll over into future seasons, but their leverage will likely be greatly reduced, driving down the compensation they would get in return. Furthermore, if he stays on the roster through Week 1, they will be on the hook for his $25 million in compensation. Given that Jimmy G has made it out of September without getting injured just once in four tries as a starting quarterback, the nightmare scenario in which he stays on the cap and then gets hurt almost immediately seems like the most likely outcome.

Leading up to the draft week, it felt like a matter of when and not if regarding a Jimmy G trade. The rumors were coming in daily. But then, those talks went away.

I have difficulty seeing Lance beating out Garoppolo during training camp, which is why it’s tough to see the team cutting Jimmy in August. I’m curious how close the 49ers were to dealing Jimmy somewhere else and if there were any concrete offers on the table.

Barnwell believes the 49ers didn’t have to limit themselves to Jimmy G as their starter in the section titled “what they could have done differently” and pointed to veterans available at a cheaper cost than Garoppolo like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andy Dalton, who San Francisco was reportedly interested in. It all comes back to money and the $25 million the team could save by rolling that money over into the next season.