The expectations were set high for the San Francisco 49ers following a strong finish at the end of the 2017 regular season. The strong finish was sparked by G.M. John Lynch’s decision to acquire QB Jimmy Garoppolo at the trade deadline. With HC Kyle Shanahan’s proven ability of developing a successful offense, it made the Niners a very enticing preseason “sleeper prediction” for the playoffs.
Everything immediately came to a crashing stop when Garoppolo tore his ACL in week 3, which followed RB Jerick McKinnon did the same right before the season. San Francisco finished with a record of 4-12, earning them the second overall pick in this upcoming draft.
Although, the 4-12 record did not indicate the fight and effort this team played with every single week. It’s easier to just put the season on cruise control when everything seems to falls apart, but this team never gave up and that should be recognize and something to build on for next year.
Shanahan’s expertise was demonstrated when QB Nick Mullens played extremely-well considering he’s an undrafted second-year quarterback thrown into the fire. There were a ton of positives to reflect upon; including the NFL All Pro selection of TE George Kittle. Kittle was an absolute beast, solidifying himself already as one of the premier tight ends in the NFL. Rookie first round pick OT Mike McGlinchey was tremendous and will 100% be a starting offensive tackle for the next 10+ year alike teammate OT Joe Staley. DT DeForest Buckner also was unbelievable, and RB Matt Breida looked great as McKinnon’s replacement.
3 Biggest Question Marks:
- Jimmy Garoppolo & Jerick McKinnon Torn ACL’s recovery timetable?
- Acquire WR Antonio Brown in a trade?
- Address pass rusher need with #2 draft pick?
Teams Offensive Free Agents:
RB Alfred Morris & Raheem Mostert, WR Pierre Garcon, G Mike Person
Defensive & Special Teams Free Agents:
DT Earl Mitchell, OLB Mark Nzeocha, S Jimmie Ward & Antone Exum, K Robbie Gould, P Bradley Pinion
Most Likely to be Re-signed:
K Robbie Gould:
Robbie Gould, 36, is sort of quietly one of the best kickers all-time. He trails only Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker as the second most accurate kicker in NFL history (87.4%). Gould has been unbelievable in his two seasons with San Francisco; missing only 2 of his 75 field goal attempts. If the 49ers decide to franchise tag Gould, he will earn a $5M salary for 2019 which definitely is a fair market value for his tremendous production.
Most Likely FA to let walk:
WR Pierre Garcon:
The Niners have declined the option the option to bring back Garcon for 2019. This move means they have no plans on bringing him back even in the future for less money, as they now are faced with a $7.2 million penalty in dead cap. The issue for Garcon is that he’s faced a lot of trouble staying on the field in his two seasons, played in just 16 total games (50%).
Most Likely to be Potentially Cut:
DE Arik Armstead:
Armstead is a massive 6 foot 8 defensive end who they selected in the first round in the 2015 NFL Draft. Armstead, 25, is due $9 million if the Niners elect to retain him, and it will be a one of the biggest decision G.M. John Lynch will have to decide upon right before free agency begins on March 12th.
5 Possible Unrestricted Free Agents to Pursue:
RB Le’Veon Bell:
The Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes will take place at the start of free agency. Many teams will consider upon entering the bidding war for Bell. With WR Antonio Brown indication of wanting to play for San Francisco, either way there should be no reason why they shouldn’t consider adding arguably one of the best running backs. They will have the salary flexibility to compete in the sweepstakes for Bell, and they have a lot to offer towards possibly enticing him.
S Earl Thomas:
Thomas is considered to be one of the best safeties and defensive backs especially of this generation. Thomas ball-hawking abilities in the defensive backfield is rare, and even though he is coming off a season-ending leg injury, there is no question Thomas has a ton still to offer. Thomas could instantly impact this defense to a whole another level, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if his former teammate in Seattle and “legion-of-boom” member CB Richard Sherman will speak to Thomas in regards to recruiting him to play next season in the Bay Area.
WR Tyrell Williams:
If the 49ers are unable to acquire Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers, then they should at least go try to find a number two receiver in free agency. Tyrell Williams has been tremendous at stretching the field for QB Phillip Rivers, averaging an insane amount of 16.3 yards per catch so far through his four year career with the Chargers to go along with 17 touchdowns. Williams just turned 27-years-old, and the timing is perfect for him to hit the open market, as he will be searching for more opportunities in the offense.
WR Randall Cobb:
Cobb has had a real tough time staying on the field in Green Bay, which has made his previous contract in last free agency not such great value. Cobb was making over $10M a year with the Packers, but on a new deal he definitely has a lot left in the tank, and still can present a lot of value especially in the slot. If the 49ers could lure Cobb into a fair offer they could really make him a very productive receiver in an offense that fits his style of play.
G Ben Garland:
Ben Garland, 30, has spent the past four season playing for the Atlanta Falcons. Last season, Garland played in 14 games in 2018, starting four at right guard. Offensive guard is a big time need for San Francisco, and Garland could be an affordable replacement at right guard over Josh Garnett. Not to mention, Garland has previous ties playing under HC Kyle Shannon when he was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta, so a possible reunion here would make ton of sense.