2019 Senior Bowl: Several safeties could help secondary-needy 49ers


2019 Senior Bowl: Several safeties could help secondary-needy 49ers

One of the 49ers' priorities in the draft needs to be addressing the lack of depth in the secondary, especially at safety. They will have a chance to work with several candidates when they coach the South team at this year's Senior Bowl. 

The team lost three safeties -- Jaquiski Tartt, Jimmie Ward and Adrian Colbert -- to injured reserve in 2018. They rotated several other players in and out of the lineup as a result. 

A few younger players like Marcell Harris got the chance to get some valuable playing time as a result of the injuries, but the team should still add to their mix at safety. 

The good news is that the 2019 class is deep with quality safeties, and a few of the best will be on the South team in Mobile, Ala. There will be 10 total safeties in attendance, and here are four to keep an eye on.


Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State, 6-0, 215
Abram will probably be the most-hyped safety in Mobile upon his arrival. He has good size, and is very athletic. 

He registered 99 tackles in his final season at Mississippi State as a transfer from Georgia. 53 of his tackles were solo, and nine were for a loss. He also managed five pass breakups, two interceptions and three sacks. 

As a very physical player, Abram's strength lies in his run coverage. But, his aggressiveness can get the best of him. His quickness and speed to provide pass coverage is decent, but will need some fine tuning. 
Projection: Rounds 1-2 

[RELATED: Antonio Brown, Jerry Rice reportedly push idea of receiver's trade to 49ers]

Juan Thornhill, Virginia, 6-0, 210
Another sizable safety, Thornhill is a former defensive back and a great tackler. He added 15 pounds to his frame to become a safety, and didn’t lose his speed. The UVA product is also mobile, and has great hands. 

Thornhill is great against the run, and has played in the box as a linebacker. He's a smart player, with a lot versatility. 

In his final season in Charlottesville, Thornhill registered 98 tackles (62 solo). He had 4.5 tackles for a loss, six interceptions and seven pass breakups.
Projection: Rounds 2-3 

[RELATED: No shortage of athletic guards who fit 49ers scheme at 2019 Senior Bowl]

Jaquan Johnson, Miami, 5-11, 195
Johnson is known as a hard hitter, and a head-hunter. He’s not great in coverage, yet packs a punch for his size. He needs to sharpen up on the angles he takes to get to the ball.

He finished his senior season with 92 tackles (44 solo,1.5 for a loss). He also managed two interceptions. 
Projection: Rounds 3-5


Nasir Adderley, Deleware, 6-0 200 
Adderley is the speedster of the group. He is another safety with experience at cornerback, and that helped him develop his coverage skills. Coming from a smaller school, Adderley will have more to prove at the Senior Bowl.

Adderley has more modest stats than the rest of his group, but game stats aren’t everything. He registered 48 total tackles (31 solo), but did have nine pass break ups and snagged three interceptions. He could provide value in a later round.
Projection: Later rounds 

How George Kittle's 49ers contract hurts another NFC contender's future

How George Kittle's 49ers contract hurts another NFC contender's future

Much like 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz's top receiving threat on the Philadelphia Eagles happens to be a tight end. But while the former two got great news Thursday with the announcement of George Kittle's and Travis Kelce's respective contract extensions, the latter's future outlook became even darker than it was before.

At this point, it's very difficult to see how Wentz will have Zach Ertz to throw to beyond this coming season. And even if he does, that likely means the Eagles won't be competitive to begin with.

Kittle and Kelce unquestionably are the two premier tight ends in the league -- in that order -- and they're now paid accordingly with the two highest annual salaries ever at the position. There's a shortlist of players in discussion for the next-best tight end in the NFL, and Ertz is on it.

Like Kittle and Kelce prior to signing their extensions, Ertz is under contract beyond the upcoming season. And like Kittle and Kelce rightfully were, he reportedly is seeking a raise commensurate with his production.

However, that's unlikely to come from Philadelphia. The Eagles already were going to be in salary-cap hell next season, and that was before Kittle and Kelce obliterated the previous tight end market.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The Eagles currently are projected to have over $262 million in cap liabilities for next season. Last month, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed that the 2021 salary cap wouldn't drop any lower than $175 million due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But regardless of whether the 2021 cap decreases or remains flat at $198 million, Philadelphia is going to have to cut costs to a significant degree.

Though Ertz carries a $12.4 million cap hit in 2021 in the final season of his current contract, he already seemed to be one of the most likely candidates to be cut by the Eagles, as doing so would create an additional $4.7 million in cap space. Not to mention, they already have a younger, cheaper and arguably better tight end in Dallas Goedert who makes Ertz somewhat redundant.

Assuming the Eagles actually do sign Ertz to an extension, though, that would in all likelihood increase their 2021 cap liabilities and remove their ability to create immediate cap space by cutting him. They're already going to have to part ways with some of the best players on their roster, and signing Ertz to the kind of deal he is looking for would further deplete their depth.

[RELATED: Kittle's record 49ers contract still a huge steal]

Now, the Eagles definitely could lower their 2021 cap liabilities with some creative maneuvering. Look no further than the Chiefs, who managed to sign Mahomes, Kelce and star defensive tackle Chris Jones to humongous contract extensions this offseason despite having exactly $171 in total cap space on March 30. That said, Kansas City was nowhere close to the kind of 2021 cap trouble that Philadelphia already finds itself in, and no matter how creative the Eagles get, it's not going to change the reality of the situation.

That reality would appear to be quite dark whether or not they keep Ertz around.

Tom Brady told Joe Montana Patriots didn't value input enough to stay

Tom Brady told Joe Montana Patriots didn't value input enough to stay

Perhaps nobody can relate to Tom Brady better than Joe Montana.

That might be as weird for Brady to read as it was seeing Montana play for Kansas City, considering Brady, a San Mateo native, grew up idolizing the Hall of Fame quarterback and rooting for the 49ers. But Brady has supplanted Dan Marino as sports radio callers' alternative to Montana in age-old "Which QB is better?" debates, and arguably has surpassed Montana as the greatest quarterback ever.

Brady, like Montana, will begin the twilight of his career in a uniform other than the one most associated with his journey to greatness. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency after spending two decades with the New England Patriots, and Brady told Montana he didn't think his input was valued enough by the Patriots.

"I think that was one of his beefs up there," Montana recalled to USA Today Sports' Mackenzie Salmon in an interview published Wednesday. "He told me, 'They ask my advice, I tell them and then they don't take it.' So, I think he would like a little bit of input and I think they'll probably let him have that, especially with the success he's had."

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Montana's two-season tenure with Kansas City is a blip on the NFL's historical record, but he wasn't a bust. Before Patrick Mahomes led the team to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances during the 2018 and '19 seasons (as well as a win in Super Bowl LIV), Montana was the only QB to lead Kansas City to an AFC Championship Game appearance since the first moon landing. Were it not for a concussion in the '93 conference championship, Montana might've helped Kansas City end its Super Bowl drought a quarter-century before Mahomes did. 

The Buccaneers would almost certainly take that, considering the franchise's anonymity since winning Super Bowl XXXVII. Montana thinks trading Foxboro's frigid winters for Tampa will do wonders for Brady's psyche.

"I think he's gonna have fun," Montana said. "He'll be in a better place for him mentally, he'll be happier and if you look at what they did offensively last year, they threw up some crazy numbers. So you add Tom into the mix and the big knucklehead tight end (Rob Gronkowski), and they'll be fun to watch."

[RELATED: Why Kittle's record 49ers contract still is a huge steal]

Brady, 45, is signed for as many years with Tampa Bay as Montana played with Kansas City. He already has two more Super Bowl rings (six) than his idol, and Brady will aim to top Montana once again by doing what he couldn't and winning a title with a second franchise.

If that happens, Brady and Montana might not end up with much left to relate to after all.