49ers team honors: Staley wins Bill Walsh Award

49ers team honors: Staley wins Bill Walsh Award

SANTA CLARA – Joe Staley became the first offensive lineman to win the Bill Walsh Award as the 49ers’ team MVP.

The honor was established in 2004 in honor the three-time Super Bowl-winning head coach. Staley, a 10-year NFL veteran, has been named to five consecutive Pro Bowls. This year, he was recognized as a second alternate.

The 49ers announced all of their team award on Friday, two days prior to the season finale against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.

Here are the other award winners:

Len Eshmont Award: QB Colin Kaepernick
The Len Eshmont Award is voted on by the players and is awarded to the 49er who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, a member of the 49ers’ inaugural team in 1946. The award was established in 1957.

Bobb McKittrick Award: G Zane Beadles
The Bobb McKittrick Award is awarded to the 49ers offensive lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by the longtime offensive line coach. The award was established by the 49ers in 1999. The team’s offensive linemen vote on the award.

Hazeltine Iron Man Award: S Antoine Bethea
The Hazeltine Iron Man Award is named for former linebacker Matt Hazeltine, a 13-year performer who played more seasons at linebacker than any other 49ers player. Known for his durability and dedication, Hazeltine passed away in 1987 from ALS. The award was established that year and is presented annually to the most courageous and inspirational defensive player as voted upon by the defensive coaches.

Thomas Herrion Memorial Award: DL DeForest Buckner
Thomas Herrion Memorial Award was established in 2005 and is presented to a rookie or first-year player who best represents the dream of Thomas Herrion. The recipient has taken advantage of every opportunity, turned it into a positive situation and made their dream turn into a reality. The award is voted on by the coaches.

Perry/Yonamine Unity Award: S Antoine Bethea
The Perry/Yonamine Award is presented to the 49ers player who exhibits an exceptional commitment to promoting unity within the team and in their community. The Perry/Yonamine Unity Award is named for the former 49ers players and pioneers of unity and diversity, Joe “The Jet” Perry and Wally Yonamine, and is voted on by the players.

Walter Payton Man of the Year Nominee: WR Torrey Smith
The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, named after the late Hall of Fame running back of the Chicago Bears, is given annually to the player who best exemplifies a commitment to philanthropy and community involvement. Each team nominated one player with the 32 Man of the Year nominees pared down to three finalists in January. The winner will be announced in Houston, the site of Super Bowl 51, on Feb. 4.

Ed Block Courage Award: DL Glenn Dorsey
The Ed Block Courage Award is named after Ed Block, the former head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts of 23 years. Block was a pioneer in his profession and a respected humanitarian whose most passionate cause was helping children of abuse. The award is presented in his name each year to the player that exemplified a commitment to sportsmanship and courage. Ed Block Courage Award winners from each of the 32 NFL teams are honored at a banquet in Baltimore. All proceeds from the event benefit the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation’s Courage House National Support Network. Named after the NFL team in a respective NFL city, a Courage House is a facility that provides support and quality care for abused children and their families in that community. The 49ers dedicated their Courage House in October 2003 at the Edgewood House in San Francisco.

Garry Niver Award: S Antoine Bethea
The Garry Niver Award is presented annually by the San Francisco Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America to a 49ers’ player for his cooperation and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their jobs. The award is named after pro football writer, Garry Niver, who was a long-time beat writer who covered the 49ers for the San Mateo Times.

Community Relations Service Awards
Together, players from the San Francisco 49ers provided over 500 hours of community service during the 2016 season. Including the annual Pasta Bowl, 100 percent of the team participated in at least one community service event during the year. Top participants and winners of the Community Relations Service Awards were OL John Theus, who won the rookie player award, DT Quinton Dial, who was presented with this season’s veteran player award along with TE Garrett Celek, who won the 49ers NFL Salute to Service. Additionally, TE Vance McDonald, his wife Kendi and son Coman were the recipients of the family award. Dennis Brown was presented with the alumnus award for the sixth consecutive year.

49ers set aside cap space with an eye to the future


49ers set aside cap space with an eye to the future

The first wave of free agency is over, and the 49ers struck quickly.

The club identified two players coach Kyle Shanahan tabbed as fits for his offense and they paid the money it took to get them.

General manager John Lynch said there were five teams seriously interested in free-agent running back Jerick McKinnon. Even more teams were going after center Weston Richburg, he said.

That drove up the prices on McKinnon and Richburg to the point that they rank behind only quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ($37 million) as taking up the most cap space among the 72 players currently under contract to the 49ers.

McKinnon and Richburg account for $10.5 million and $9.26 million, respectively, on the 49ers' salary cap. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman's deal takes up $6.175 million on the 49ers' cap this season.

The big spending to attract free agents to the team is likely over. The 49ers have $45.1 million in cap space, according to the NFL Players Association. That figure does not include a projected $8.3 million to sign their 2018 rookie class, according to overthecap.com.

The major spending for this offseason is over because the 49ers have apparently looked to the future and set aside cap space with the idea of retaining some of their own players whose contracts are winding down.

The first decisions for the future must occur by May 3, the deadline for picking up the fifth-year options on first-round picks from the 2015 draft. The 49ers have decisions to make on defensive lineman Arik Armstread and left guard Laken Tomlinson, who was acquired from Detroit in a trade just prior to the start of the 2017 regular season.

It is still unclear how or if Armstead’s skills fit into the 49ers’ defense. He opened last season at the team's pass-rush end before moving to the "big end," which also appears to be first-round pick Solomon Thomas' best position.

Tomlinson showed reasons for the 49ers to be optimistic about his future as his play got better as he acclimated to the offense. Among the guards already on the 49ers’ roster, Tomlinson appears to be the most likely to be a starter in 2018.

Presumptive starting safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents next offseason. Ward’s fifth-year option deal of one-year, $8.526 million became fully guaranteed last Wednesday. But in order for the 49ers to make a multi-year commitment, Ward would likely have to prove he can remain healthy and available for a full season.

DeForest Buckner is likely the target for the next blockbuster contract extension. Buckner has emerged as one of the top young defensive linemen in the league. Next offseason will be the first time the 49ers are permitted to negotiate a multi-year extension with him.

With a scarcity of offensive linemen available in the draft and free agency, right tackle Trent Brown could be set to cash in with an enormous deal next offseason – either with the 49ers or some other team.

DL Arik Armstead
FS Jimmie Ward
SS Jaquiski Tartt
RT Trent Brown
LB Eli Harold
LG Laken Tomlinson
K Robbie Gould
P Bradley Pinion

DL DeForest Buckner
LT Joe Staley
OG Joshua Garnett
DL Ronald Blair
TE Garrett Celek
RB Matt Breida (RFA)
WR Kendrick Bourne (RFA)

Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in


Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in

The 49ers concluded the first wave of the free-agent signing period with the signings of players to fill the team’s biggest offseason needs.

--Cornerback. Aqib Talib would have been the answer in a trade with the Denver Broncos, but he wanted to play elsewhere. Instead, the 49ers signed veteran Richard Sherman, whom the Seattle Seahawks cut a day earlier.

--Interior offensive line. Center Weston Richburg was the player the team had rated as their top target in free agency, and they signed him to a lucrative five-year deal.

--Running back. The team decided Jerick McKinnon was a better fit than Carlos Hyde. They wrapped him up with a four-year contract.

--Edge rusher. Lacking many options in free agency, the 49ers signed Jeremiah Attaochu to a one-year contract in hopes he will earn a spot on the team and make a contribution at the “Leo” position.

The 49ers can still use more help at a number of different positions, including cornerback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and edge rusher. While the 49ers might add some role players in the second wave of free agency, most of the major acquisitions at this point are likely to come in the draft.

On the 49ers Insider Podcast, 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters addressed what positions he believes are strong in this year’s draft.

“I think running backs, absolutely. It’s a deep position,” Peters said. “Quarterbacks at the top is deeper than it was last year. Secondary, corners, it’s not deeper than it was last year, but it’s a strong class of corners. Those are the main ones. The offensive line class is a little better than last year, too.”

The 49ers got major contributions from their rookie class last season. Tight end George Kittle, receiver Trent Taylor, quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back Matt Breida, defensive lineman Solomom Thomas, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Adrian Colbert each played more than 300 snaps.

The 49ers feel good about Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, as a starter with Sherman on the other side. Peters said a lot of the team’s rookies played larger roles than expected in 2017, but Witherspoon might have been at the top of the list.

“I don’t think he was active for the first four games,” Peters said of Witherspoon. “And he ended up playing at a high level at the end. Really driven, conscientious player who wants to be great. 

"We were lucky we got a chance to play a lot of rookies because that’ll help us moving forward.”