49ers

Ten candidates for 49ers contract extensions

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Ten candidates for 49ers contract extensions

The 49ers have plenty of salary-cap space – well more than $100 million projected – to sign Jimmy Garoppolo, some free agents and extend the contracts to retain some of their own players with multi-year deals this offseason.

Prior to the 49ers’ season finale against the Los Angeles Rams, we looked at 10 players who are scheduled to be free agents, and how they might fit into the team’s plans for the future.

Here, we turn our attention to 10 players whose contracts are set to expire after the 2018 season. These players are candidates to receive contract extensions this offseason to keep them off the free-agent market in 2019:

S Jimmie Ward
General manager John Lynch does not seem the least-bit concerned about Ward’s scheduled one-year, $8.5 million salary on the fifth-year option. Said Lynch, “We’re excited to have Jimmie back and plan on him being a big-time contributor to this team.”

The 49ers believe Ward can be a good cornerback. But they see him – if he can remain healthy – as a potential Pro Bowl player at free safety. The 49ers could be reluctant to extend his contract beyond this season until they are convinced he can remain injury-free. He missed 22 games in his first four seasons due to a variety of fractures and soft-tissue injuries. He finished 2017 on injured reserve after sustaining a broken forearm.

DE Arik Armstead
A first-round pick in 2015, Armstead can be retained for the 2019 season on the fifth-year option as a defensive end. The hefty one-year deal is guaranteed for injury only, and a decision must be made by May 2 for the 2019 season.

Armstead underwent season-ending surgery on his hand in mid-October. There are still legitimate questions about whether Armstead fits Robert Saleh’s defensive system. He began the season at pass-rush end before moving to the “big end” position. Armstead has six sacks in 30 career games, and he has missed 18 games the past two seasons due to shoulder and hand injuries.

RT Trent Brown
There is no doubt Brown has the size, strength and agility to attract a big contract. But it is highly unlikely the 49ers will make any kind of competitive offer to extend him past the upcoming season.

There are concerns about Brown’s dedication to put in the work necessary to get the most out of his ability. And it is fair to observe that when players change after signing lucrative contracts, it is generally not for the better.

One big test will be to see how Brown comes back from shoulder surgery that cut short his season and will sideline him for approximately six months.

S Jaquiski Tartt
Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Tartt is a prime candidate for a contract extension. The 49ers like Tartt a lot. They like him as a free safety, but they really like him as a strong safety, playing closer to the line of scrimmage as an eighth defender in the box.

When all the safeties were healthy, the 49ers determined their best lineup consisted of Ward at free safety and Tartt at strong safety. Before Tartt sustained a fractured forearm that ended his season, the team decided to move veteran safety Eric Reid to linebacker. Reid was back at safety in Tartt's role to finish the season.

WR Marquise Goodwin
Goodwin was an exceptional veteran pickup for the 49ers, as he signed a two-year, $6 million contract on the first day of free agency. After four pedestrian seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Goodwin became more of a complete receiver in Kyle Shanahan’s system.

Despite experiencing unimaginable tragedy off the field, Goodwin put together an exceptional season with 56 receptions for 962 yards. There are few players faster than Goodwin, who turned 27 in November.

K Robbie Gould
Gould signed a two-year, $4 million contract on the first day of free agency. In his first season with the 49ers, he set the franchise record in field-goal accuracy, making 49 of 51 attempts for 95.1 percent.

However, Gould, a 13-year veteran, is 35 years old. The 49ers might want to see how Gould holds up in 2018 before making a determination whether he fits into the team’s plans for 2019.

LG Laken Tomlinson
The decision for the fifth-year option was transferred to the 49ers when Tomlinson was acquired in the late-August trade from the Detroit Lions. He was the 28th overall pick of the Lions in the 2015 draft.

Tomlinson got better as the season progressed – a sign the 49ers interpret as the potential for him to settle in as a good player once he fully grasps the offensive system and the techniques being coached. The 49ers are likely to pick up the fifth-year option on Tomlinson by the May 2 deadline.

P Bradley Pinion
Pinion is entering the final year of his contract and would appear to be a strong candidate for a contract extension. He has gotten better every season, and he is still young and getting stronger. (He turns 24 in June.)

Pinion was tied for the ninth most-effective punter in the league with a net average of 41.3 yards. He dropped 31 punts inside the 20-yard line with just one touchback.

OLB Eli Harold
Harold, a third-round draft pick in 2015, enters the final year of his rookie contract. He was used primarily on run downs. Harold’s ability to set the edge in the run game is an aspect of his game that Saleh highlighted late in the season.

The 49ers could buy low on Harold this offseason if they believe he is capable of making significant improvements as a pass rusher on base downs.

LS Kyle Nelson
The long-snapper is the most anonymous player on any football team. . . until he sails a ball over the head of the punter or holder. Nelson, 31, has been very good since his arrival in 2014. He is entering the final year of a four-year extension he signed in March of 2015.

Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts

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Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts

The 49ers recently re-signed eight of the 10 players who finished the season on the team’s practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who was not among the first wave of 49ers signings to 2018 contracts, signed Wednesday with the Indianapolis Colts, ending his three-season association with the organization.

Smelter was one of general manager Trent Baalke’s redshirt draft picks. The team selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft despite a torn ACL that ended his final season at Georgia Tech.

Smelter spent his first season on an injured list. He was waived at the beginning of the past two seasons, finishing both years on the 49ers’ practice squad. Smelter appeared in two games in 2016 and caught one pass for 23 yards.

Last season, the 49ers signed wide receivers Louis Murphy and Max McCaffrey to spots on the 53-man roster instead of Smelter, who remained on the practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Carter, who also spent the entire season on the practice squad, was signed recently to the team’s 90-man roster.

Others who finished the season on the 49ers practice squad to remain on the team’s offseason roster are: quarterback Nick Mullens, tight end Cole Wick, offensive linemen Andrew Lauderdale and Pace Murphy, linebacker Boseko Lokombo, and defensive backs Trovon Reed and Channing Stribling.

The 49ers also signed fullback Malcolm Johnson, who spent last season on injured reserve with the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson appeared in 19 games over the 2015 and ’16 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He was a sixth-round draft pick in ’15.

Offensive linemen Cameron Hunt, who finished the season on the 49ers’ practice squad, remains unsigned. Guard JP Flynn is also unsigned. He sustained a torn patellar tendon in November and underwent surgery that was expected to keep him out up to nine months.

An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations

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An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations

If the 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are unable to reach a multi-year contract extension by March 6, the 49ers have no other choice but to designate him as their franchise player.

The estimated one-year salary for the franchise tag would be $23.307 million, according to former NFL agent Joel Corry, whose work now appears at CBS Sports. (That is assuming a 2018 league-wide salary cap of $178.1 million per team.)

There is a lot to consider for both sides as they look to enter into a long-term contract. Corry said if a deal is struck, he would expect it to be in the neighborhood of Derek Carr’s five-year, $125 million deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason.

“And then there’s the other dynamic, which I would not undersell or I think may not be appreciated as much as it should be,” Corry said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “(Garoppolo’s agent) Don Yee has a reputation – no fault of his own – of doing team-friendly deals.”

Yee also represents New England quarterback Tom Brady, whose average of $20.5 million annual pay ranks 15th among NFL quarterbacks. Brady is underpaid by design, Corry said, because one of the great quarterbacks of all-time realizes it helps the Patriots to maintain a strong supporting cast.

“That’s because Tom Brady dictates, ‘I want to do something good for the team, take less money so we can improve the roster to win Super Bowls.’ That’s not Don Yee who wants to do that,” Corry said.

“The agent works for the player, so he’s executing Tom Brady’s wishes. But he gets that held against him in recruiting. So this is his opportunity to erase that perception if Garoppolo allows him to do his job and gives him latitude to strike the deal that he feels is appropriate.”

For more on the potential negotiating strategies of both sides, listen here to the 49ers Insider Podcast.