Joe Staley

Joe Staley welcomes Richard Sherman to 49ers

Joe Staley welcomes Richard Sherman to 49ers

The 49ers player with the longest memory is ready to turn the page on an old rivalry.

Left tackle Joe Staley welcomed former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman to the 49ers on Sunday via social media

“As much as I disliked playing against him for years, I know I will love being teammates with him going forward,” Staley wrote on Twitter. “Pumped to have @RSherman_25 as a teammate!!”

Staley, 33, is a veteran of 11 NFL seasons – all with the 49ers. Staley, a six-time Pro Bowl player, is the longest-tenured 49ers player. Sherman spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Seahawks, during which time he proved to be a main nemesis of the 49ers.

Sherman agreed to terms on Saturday with the 49ers on a three-year contract just one day after the Seahawks released him to avoid paying his scheduled $11 million salary.

After Garoppolo signing, what's next for 49ers?

After Garoppolo signing, what's next for 49ers?

Now, Phase II of the 49ers’ offseason plan begins.

The 49ers have accomplished their No. 1 priority: Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is locked up on a five-year contract, through the 2022 season, on a deal that could pay him up to $137.5 million.

The first problem is solved. Now what?

The 49ers next priorities are to support Garoppolo – protect Garoppolo.

It’s funny how this works, but the offensive line looked a lot better after Garoppolo, with his pocket presence and quick release, took over as the team’s starting quarterback for the final five games of the season.

Still, the line will require a lot of attention in free agency and, six weeks later, when the NFL draft begins.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ situation on the offensive line:

Left tackle
Joe Staley earned his sixth trip to the Pro Bowl. And, yes, he earned it. After a rough start to the season, Staley had a midseason talk with coach Kyle Shanahan. He got refocused, re-energized and ended up playing at a high level in the second half of the season.

Staley turns 34 just before the start of the season. He will be entering his 12th NFL season. He feels good physically and mentally, and he believes he can play at a high level for multiple seasons.

The 49ers have every reason to look at the upcoming season with no concerns about the starter who is entrusted with protecting Garoppolo’s blind side.

Right tackle
Trent Brown is an immensely talented individual. But he underwent shoulder surgery and still faces a lengthy offseason rehabilitation. Moreover, Brown faces an uncertain future with the 49ers beyond this season.

Brown is eligible to sign a contract extension this offseason. However, it is a long shot that will occur. Brown could command a big pay day. His next contract – either from the 49ers or another NFL team – is likely to be a huge deal.

The 49ers have enough questions about Brown’s future that it does not appear likely they will produce an attractive-enough contract offer that locks him up for multiple seasons. And in the expected event Brown is allowed to hit the open market as a free agent a year from now, it can be assumed that some team will throw big bucks at him.

Therefore, it would be wise for the 49ers to head into this season planning for a year from now. Due to Staley’s age and Brown’s contract status, the 49ers have to look to the not-so-distant future when considering their depth at both offensive tackle positions.

Left guard
As the season went on, the 49ers saw a lot of reason for optimism for the future of Laken Tomlinson. Remember, he did not have the benefit of the offseason program or training camp in the 49ers’ system. The 49ers acquired Tomlinson in a trade with the Detroit Lions after the final exhibition game.

Zane Beadles started the first game at left guard, then Tomlinson took over and started the final 15 games. It was rough at the beginning but steadily got better. Tomlinson has talent – as evidenced by the Lions’ decision to select him with the No. 28 overall pick.

Tomlinson, who enters the final year of his rookie contract, is eligible for an extension, but the 49ers might want to see more from him in the offseason program before making that commitment.

It’s not that Tomlinson is guaranteed a starting spot for 2018, but at least the 49ers feel they have a player who has a chance to be a solid performer once he is comfortable, plays naturally and does not overthink what he’s doing.

At the same time, the 49ers have a lot of flexibility. The 49ers can be expected to have salary-cap space of $85 million or so even after the numbers come in on Garoppolo’s contract. If they want to pursue a top guard, such as Carolina free-agent guard Andrew Norwell, they have the resources.

Right guard
Veteran Brandon Fusco gave the 49ers what they wanted last season. And, like the rest of the offensive line, his play got better later in the season. Then, there’s Joshua Garnett, a first-round draft pick in 2016.

This is the spot that figures to have the most competition. Fusco is scheduled to be a free agent. Garnett will not be given anything. If Garnett wants to become the starter, he will have to earn it. The 49ers are not sold on Garnett. He will have to prove himself in order to open the season as the starter. And he will unquestionably face stiff competition.

The 49ers could use an early draft pick on one of the top tackles and break in that player slowly at guard before ultimately transitioning him to one of the tackle positions. On Day 2 or 3 of the draft, the 49ers could target a player such as Humboldt State’s Alex Cappa to compete for a starting spot on the inside.

Daniel Kilgore is scheduled for free agency. The 49ers talked about a contract extension with him during the season, but those discussions never got very far.

Kilgore is a favorite of the coaching staff for his ability to absorb and disseminate the offensive plan and line calls to his teammates. Garoppolo works well with him, and they seemed to form a very strong bond and trust in a short period of time. Kilgore was named the winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award for exemplifying the dedication, excellence and commitment of the long-time offensive line coach.

One line of thinking is that Kilgore is solid, and the 49ers could bring him back without a blockbuster deal and then work to improve the guards. That would take some weight off Kilgore’s shoulders and allow him a better opportunity to thrive.

In any event, the 49ers appear determined to increase the competition along the offensive line. All positions must be earned, as the 49ers look to protect their $137.5 million investment.

49ers Mailbag: Big spenders in free agency?


49ers Mailbag: Big spenders in free agency?

The offseason has finally arrived for all 32 teams.

The top priority for the 49ers continues to be signing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a long-term contract extension. The club will certainly look to improve during free agency with the right kinds of players.

Here is this edition of 49ers Mailbag with questions submitted from Facebook:

Do you think the 49ers will be big players in free agency this offseason? (Jason Moody)
They certainly have the cap space to be as aggressive as they want to be in free agency.

But they also want to make sure they do not take any unnecessary risks to wind up in a bad financial situation in the future. If the team wins and some of their young players emerge into stars, they will want to be able to keep those players around.

As the 49ers plan for the future, they want to draft well and retain their good players on their second contracts.

In order for the 49ers go spend big money on a free agent, they’re going to have to feel good about that player fitting the team in three areas:
1. Financially: The player must fit into the salary structure of the team;
2. On the field: The coaching staff must have a specific role in mind for how that player fits the scheme;
3. Off the field: The 49ers need to continue to collect players who are the kind of people who set the proper tone in the locker room and practice field.

What are the odds the Niners pursue Butler to address the need for a CB? (Ajay Ferrari)
Ah, yes, Malcolm Butler.

He did not have a good season. And, he found himself in Bill Belichick’s doghouse and was benched for the Super Bowl.

I have no idea what to make of that situation, but you can be assured the 49ers will tap their contacts with the New England Patriots before determining whether they want to investigate the possibility of negotiating with Butler as a free agent.

Have you heard any rumors on length and dollar amount of Garoppolo's future contract? (James Clevenger)
There are no rumors for dollar amounts for the Jimmy Garoppolo contract talks. I have not even heard any confirmation if the sides are even as close as what was reported nationally over the weekend.

But it’s safe to assume the deal will be somewhere in the range of $25 million per season and around five years. You can take what Garoppolo would receive if he played the next two seasons on the franchise tag, which amounts to $50 million, and divide by two for the annual average. His deal is likely to land somewhere very close to the five-year, $125 million deal Derek Carr signed with the Raiders last year.

Do you expect the 49ers to begin preparing for a future without Joe Staley soon? (Jake Shmelder)
Staley believes he has some good seasons left in him. But this is definitely an offseason in which the 49ers must look at lining things up for the future at offensive tackle.

After all, Trent Brown is set to enter his contract year. And it’s anything but a certainty that he will be back with the 49ers in 2019.

The 49ers could look to address offensive tackle in this draft. It would make sense if the 49ers drafted a lineman to plug in as a starting guard for one season before transitioning him to tackle.