49ers Go All In

John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan certainly put some pop into the normally ho-hum activities of the second week of Free Agency last week, trading two number one picks and a third to move up from the number 12 pick to the number three, where they will select a QB that will define their careers – for good or bad.

It was a bold move, but in the oft-quoted words of Bruce Arians, “No risk it, no biscuit.”

The move also puts current QB Jimmy Garoppolo firmly on the Alex Smith NFL career path. A guy who wins everywhere he goes, but always gets replaced by a guy with more upside intangibles. It worked once (Mahomes), but failed the other time (Kaepernick). We’ll see how Washington fares this year on Smith’s third push out the door.

Meanwhile we’ve still got another month to go which will be filled with endless speculation about which QB the 49ers will draft. Most observers think it will be Ohio State QB Justin Fields. And if it turns out to be Alabama QB Mac Jones there will be much head scratching and a vociferous amount of booing outside the Niners’ draft room. And if Jones turns out to be the second coming of Joe Montana all the booers will deny they ever raised a discouraging word. Plenty of goo for future blogospherians, one way or the other.

To some extent the guy the Niners pick will depend on whom the Jets pick at draft spot number two. This puts former 49ers’ DC and current Jets HC Robert Saleh in the situation of being a guy who picked the wrong QB if the one the Niners take has more success. Statistically speaking, looking at other drafts where three QBs went in the first three spots, not all of the QBs, or even any of them, will turn out to be excellent pro players.

The only thing for certain at the moment is that we can finally disperse the Kirk Cousins Bandwagon that has lingered at the edges of the kingdom since the day Shanahan arrived. Peace out, Kirk.

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Free Agency Scramble

The first week of Free Agency is in the books and lots of players now have new addresses for the 2021 season. The 49ers essentially spent the week re-signing their own free agents instead of bringing in new guys. The only outsiders signed were center Alex Mack, edge rusher Samson Ebukam, and safety Tavon Wilson. Not real exciting or wowzer fan appeal, but a solid and effective week nonetheless.

Mack is 35, but he should have a couple years left to stabilize a position that was a turnstile of marginal talents last year. The whole team was a bit of a turnstile last year, but surely that won’t happen two years in a row. Right, fellas! (voice in the back, ha ha ha ha).

The one important player the 49ers have not yet re-signed is NB K’Waun Williams. We all assumed he would follow Robert Saleh to the Jets, but the first week went by and nothing happened. In fact, Williams’ name didn’t surface at all anywhere, even on PFT’s Top 100 FA list, which probably says much about PFT’s knowledge of anything happening west of the Appalachians (hint: squattola) and there are those who think their knowledge of what’s east of said mountain range is a bit thin, also.

Williams finally surfaced Monday in a rumor that he was visiting the Chiefs. This probably means he’s looking for too much money, but we’ll no doubt soon find out.

We should see a whole lot more FA signings this coming week, full of players that provoke fan reactions like “Never heard of this guy.” Ebukam and Wilson fall into this category, actually. Some of them will surprise us and some of them won’t make it through training camp.

At any rate, 2021 is here and it has a very good chance of being a whole lot better than 2020. Except maybe for Deshaun Watson, whose reputation went from good guy/hot commodity to WTF/weirdo in one record freefall week.

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“Show Me The Money” Week

It’s been a long two and a half months since the 49ers’ season ended with a desultory loss to the Seahawks on January 3rd. But we’re finally close to turning the page on a new year.

The shrunken salary cap has pushed a whole lot of veteran players out onto the free agent market, which may or may not help the 49ers, but will certainly give the bottom feeders with plenty of cap room a chance to instantly upgrade their teams.

And a lot of big time teams are scrambling to get under the cap, cutting players right and left. Kansas City jettisoned three of their starting O-line, including both tackles. That’s not good news for Patrick Mahomes, who’s fresh off getting his butt pounded in the SB.

There should be a lot of action over this coming week, though I’m not sure how much the Niners will be involved. If they manage to re-sign Jason Verrett, Trent Williams, and Kyle Juszczyk, the offseason will be a success for them. It’s not likely that K’Wuan Williams will return, which is a bit of a blow, but I’m sure our genius coaches will find a way to compensate.

And maybe it’s a good thing they won’t be making any big name FA signings, given their track record in this regard. Personally speaking, it will be a relief not having to remember the difference between “K’Wuan” Williams and “Kwon” Alexander. I can’t do anything about Juszczyk, but he’s worth the spelling head scratching. If he’s got a brother who joins the team, though, all bets are off.

At any rate, after three months of endless speculation, by this time next week we’ll finally have a good idea what the team will look like in 2021. Four words of advice for Lynch/Shanahan: don’t screw it up.

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Ixnay on Atsonway

We’re heading into year 5 of the Lynch/Shanahan era. So far, they’ve managed to give us three last place teams and one SB team. And the weird “achievement” of  going “worse to first” followed by “first to worst.”

There’s a lot of talk about QBs this offseason, but it’s still defense that wins championships. That’s why Tampa won this year. That and team health, which can change at any time up to and including the actual SB game.

Elite QBs can cover up a lot of deficiencies, but it still takes a good TEAM to win it all. Deshaun Watson has everyone salivating, but he hasn’t exactly elevated Houston during his time there. And that was when he had JJ Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, and Jadeveon Clowney. Either the rest of that team was complete horse manure, or he’s just one of those guys who looks terrific while losing. Last year, he elevated his team to four whole wins!

Of course, he has been saddled with Bill O’Brien as his HC so far in his NFL career. So some allowances must be made for that hindrance. Still, a 4-12 record is Nick Mullens territory.

Most of you will probably be giving me the finger through your internet window about now. I’ll just remove my mask here and cough on your digit. There, everybody’s happy.

At any rate, it looks like we’ll have to wait another three weeks until the new league year and the start of free agency before we get any answers to what the team will look like next year. It had better be healthy, or none of it will matter.

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Rumor Mill Times

This will be a bad year to be a free agent. With the shrinking of the salary cap, free agents will be joined in the unemployed section by a lot of veterans cut by teams to fit under the cap. That’s more competition and less money teams will have to shower on the free agents. That means a lot of players will be signing one year deals this season, hoping next year the money will flow more abundantly again.

It also means a guy like Trent Williams might be disappointed that no team out there is interested in a $20 million OT this offseason. Perhaps leading Williams to do another one year deal with the 49ers and take another crack at FA next year. Ditto for CB Jason Verrett.

That’s the good news. The bad news is it’s entirely possible I could be full of shit.

In other news, the Rams continued their habit of mortgaging the future to correct their past mistakes. They began this questionable strategy ii 2016 by acquiring the right to draft Jared Goff and continued it this year by getting rid of him and, most especially, his contract. Whether Matt Stafford is an upgrade remains to be seen. Goff has lost four straight to the Niners, so we’ll see next year if Stafford can at least break that string.

With so many coaches riding out of town on the backs of the 49ers’ recent success, mostly from the defensive side of the ball, it’s tough to gauge how the team will respond next year, especially under the leadership of new DC DeMeco Ryans. How Ryans performs might be the key to the whole season.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue to watch the rumors fly endlessly, mostly involving QB Jimmy Garoppolo being replaced by one guy or another, or by a draft day pick should we get to the end of April and Jimmy’s fate is still dangling in the wind.

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2020 Schedule
9-13: L Cardinals 24, 49ers 20
9-20: W 49ers 31, Jets 13
9-27: W 49ers 36, Giants 9

10-4: L Eagles 25, 49ers 20
10-11: L Dolphins 43, 49ers 17
10-18: W 49ers 24, Rams 16
10-25: W 49ers 33, Patriots 6

11-1: L Seahawks 37, 49ers 27
11-5: L Packers 34, 49ers 17
11-15: L Saints 27, 49ers 13

BYE

11-29: W 49ers 23, Rams 20

12-7: L Bills 34, 49ers 24
12-13: L Washington 23, 49ers 15
12-20: L Cowboys 41, 49ers 33
12-26: W 49ers 20, Cardinals 12

1-3: L Seahawks 26, 49ers 23

2020 Draft Class
1. DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
1. WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
5. OL Colton McKivitz, West Virginia
6. TE Charlie Woerner, Georgia
7. WR Jauan Jennings, Tennessee
 
2020 Prognostications (Mulligan Version)
WINNERS:
Bullit: 6-10
NJ49er: 6-10

LOSERS:
Skeebers: 7-9
Winder: 4-12

ABSTAINERS:
Grumpy: DNP
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