Perhaps the 49ers are not Baalke vs Lynch, but Old Jed vs New Jed

Perhaps the 49ers are not Baalke vs Lynch, but Old Jed vs New Jed

John Lynch has already established his hyperactivity bonafides, which is what fans want from their general managers. They want action, and Lynch has force-fed them all the action that can be rammed down a human gullet.
Now comes the other shoe – what it all means to the way the San Francisco 49ers view their place in the world.
As outlined by Comrade Maiocco in one of his more anal-retentive moments, Lynch has signed as many free agents in his first 31 hours on the job as Trent Baalke did in the opening week of his last five free agency periods.
In short, it took Lynch three percent of the time to achieve Baalke’s level of quantity – almost six percent if you allow for sleep, which given the current state of the 49ers’ need list is a luxury Lynch clearly cannot afford. 
The conundrum, of course, arises in assessing the motives for this difference. We can dismiss the efficacy of those moves based on the very simple fact that none of those players have even practiced, let alone played a game.
But is Lynch’s aggression a statement of style or opportunity? Does he attack roster issues like an overly sugared kindergarten class, or has Jed York made a complete break from the style he wanted from Baalke? Is Lynch just tackling a far more desperate organization than the one Baalke inherited, or has York changed his view on salary cap or draft choice hoarding?
The answer to all these questions is clearly yes, with a side of no. Kind of.
Lynch has been given a mandate to dynamite a collapsing structure and use the $99 million in dust-encrusted cap room to remake a desiccated football team. More to the point, he has been granted York’s expressed permission to operate with fury and purpose in ways that Baalke either could not or would not.
This isn’t unusual in sport – the next guy is typically radically different than the last guy was, because if the owner liked the way the last guy operated, there wouldn’t be a next guy.
But Lynch, who took the job with no personnel experience bar the fact that he was once personnel, is unhindered by York’s much-presumed reluctance to tap into the cap vault. He still has approximately $70-plus million in cap room (three of the 11 players, Brock Coyle, Don Jones and Aldrick Robinson, had not yet been entered into the cap list at this writing), which makes more signings more rather than less likely.
And he is doing so because (a) the roster desperately needs living things, and (b) because York is tired of being the star of his own citizens’ air force, and would like to be thought of as the owner who didn’t get in the way of progress rather than the owner who undid it.
It is probably too much to assume that Lynch will operate in this way again next year, though, because it is unlikely that he will have as much cap room available. Motive, after all, doesn’t work without opportunity.
But Baalke believed in draft choices on the theory that he was better at selecting new toys than ones that were slightly broken in. Draft choices are notoriously unreliable in a different way than free agents are, so Baalke’s theory worked only if he drafted well year in and year out.
He didn’t.
Lynch, on the other hand, is working with a shockingly threadbare pantry, and the most important thing (as in first of the most important things) he has to create is a roster structure, and structure can’t be created without players. He had only his smile and money to do so, so he used them – more the second than the first.
But it took York rethinking his own priorities for Lynch’s aggression to be permitted, and maybe that’s the real difference we are seeing here. Not Baalke v. Lynch, but Old Jed v. New Jed.
Now we will wait patiently while we see if Lynch is good at this thing, because if he isn’t, the next next guy will be a lot less active in the treacherous free agent market, and far more devoted to the treacherous draft market.
Because that’s just the way it works. Yesterday’s conservatism is today’s boldness, and today’s impetuousness is tomorrow’s prudence. It depends on who gets to pick the words.

Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season


Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season

Frank Gore is returning home to, in all likelihood, finish his professional football career.

Gore, 34, signed a one-year contract to enter his 14th NFL season with his hometown Miami Dolphins, the team announced Friday.

Gore grew up in Coconut Grove, Florida, and attended Coral Gables High School before playing collegiately at the University of Miami.

He played the first 10 NFL seasons with the 49ers and is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. Gore ranks fifth in NFL history with 14,026 rushing yards – just 75 yards behind No. 4 Curtis Martin.

After rushing for 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns with the 49ers, the club declined to offer him a multi-year contract following the 2014 season. Gore played the past three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Gore remains one of the most popular players in 49ers history. When asked recently if he would be willing to “retire” as a member of the 49ers after his final game, Gore reacted enthusiastically about the possibility.

1, Emmitt Smith 18,355
2, Walter Payton 16,726
3, Barry Sanders 15,269
4, Curtis Martin 14,101
5, Frank Gore 14,026

49ers increase competition for starting guard positions


49ers increase competition for starting guard positions

The 49ers are the fifth team to give Jonathan Cooper a chance after he arrived in the NFL as the No. 7 overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2013 draft.

Cooper, 28, caught the attention of the 49ers with his career-high 13 starts last season with the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers signed him to a one-year, $4.95 million contract this week.

“We signed him to compete for one of the guard spots as a starter,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday at Stanford's pro day. “He played very well in our minds for Dallas last year and kind of resurrected his career. He’s battled injuries, but we really like the way he played, and we think he’s a very good fit for what we do. So we were pleased to add him.”

The 49ers plan to take it slowly this offseason with Cooper, who underwent surgery after tearing the medial-collateral ligament in his left knee during the final game of the season. The 49ers report for the offseason program in mid-April.

The 49ers are certain to have at least two new starters on the offensive line. Former New York Giants center Weston Richburg was signed to replace Daniel Kilgore, who was subsequently traded to the Miami Dolphins. Brandon Fusco, who started 16 games at right guard, signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an unrestricted free agent.

Laken Tomlinson has a chance to hold onto a starting job. Acquired shortly before the start of the regular season in a trade from the Detroit Lions, Tomlinson quickly moved into the starting lineup at left guard and started the final 15 games. Tomlinson was a first-round draft pick of the Lions in 2015.

“Laken played very well the longer he was there,” Lynch said. “I think people forget with Laken, he came here in Week 1. He was kind of force-fed. We didn’t have many options. But we saw a guy get better throughout the season. He’ll get his opportunity.”

Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2016, spent last season on injured reserve due to an a knee injury sustained in training camp. The 49ers challenged Garnett to get in better physical condition. He has been cleared for football activity.

“Joshua Garnett has been working extremely hard, so he’ll be in that mix,” Lynch said. “He did a great job embracing the time he has last year to improve as a player. He remade his body and we're looking forward to see him get after it in the offseason.

“I think he’s excited about it. He’s feeling sexy, as he says.”

Erik Magnuson, 24, won a spot on the 49ers’ roster after signing as an undrafted rookie from Michigan. Magnuson could enter into the competition at guard. He displayed unique versatility in his first season, starting two games at right tackle before sustaining a season-ending foot injury. He can also serve as a backup center.

And, perhaps, the 49ers are not finished adding to the competition. The team owns the No. 9 overall selection, and Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson could be on the radar in the unlikely event he is not selected within the top eight picks.

When asked if the 49ers could also add another player to the mix with a draft pick, Lynch answered, “We’ll see. We’re always looking to get better there.”