49ers face decisions on Arik Armstead, Robbie Gould and other veterans


49ers face decisions on Arik Armstead, Robbie Gould and other veterans

The 49ers arrived at one roster decision last week when they informed veteran nose tackle Earl Mitchell the club would not pick up his option for next season.

Now, the club must sift through a few other scenarios before March 13, which signals the start of the new league year.

“All of these scenarios, we’re always looking forward and doing a lot of planning,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said last week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

“Earl’s the one decision we’ve made thus far. We’re going to be working through some of the others in the near future.”

Lynch made it clear the 49ers would like to re-sign scheduled free agent kicker Robbie Gould. The continuation of that union could take both sides agreeing to a new contract, though the 49ers do have the option of tagging him as their franchise player.

“We’re hopeful to work things out with Robbie,” Lynch said. “He’s kicked unbelievably for us. He’s been incredibly clutch for us, and we’d like to reward him for that.”

In the past two seasons after signing a two-year, $4 million contract with the 49ers as a free agent in 2017, Gould has connected on 72 of 75 field-goal attempts (96 percent). The franchise tag for a kicker is expected to be approximately $5 million.

The 49ers also have decisions to make on the scheduled 2019 contracts for wide receiver Pierre Garçon, defensive end Arik Armstead and linebacker Malcolm Smith.

“We’ll be working through them,” Lynch acknowledged.

The 49ers are not expected to pick up the option on Garçon’s contract, which would make him an unrestricted free agent and open to sign with any team on March 13. Garçon is scheduled to make $6 million in 2019 in salary and bonuses. The move would save the 49ers approximately $1 million on the salary cap.

The 49ers last offseason picked up the $9 million fifth-year option for Armstead, a first-round draft pick in 2015. The one-year deal for 2019 becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the new league year. The 49ers can only avoid paying Armstead the lucrative sum if they choose to release him before that date.

“We haven’t been in communication,” Lynch said. “We’re working through that like a lot of other issues. What I can say is Arik played some really good football for us. We were excited about the way he played, particularly at the end of last year.

“I think, much like (Solomon Thomas), he kind of found a place he was comfortable playing and really contributed at a high level for us.”

[RELATED: Armstead played through broken bone in hand to achieve goal]

Smith is scheduled to make a little more than $4 million in salary and bonuses this season. The 49ers would save approximately $1.2 million on the cap if they were to release him. Smith, who turns 30 in July, missed the entire 2017 season with a torn pectoral. He had an injury-plagued 2018, too, appearing in 12 games with just five starts.

Why Richard Sherman comparing self to 'old Luke Skywalker' is so apt

Why Richard Sherman comparing self to 'old Luke Skywalker' is so apt

Richard Sherman is a nerd. He and his former teammates will tell you as much. 

He has dropped Marvel movie-watching advice on Twitter, and the 49ers cornerback pointed to his "Harry Potter," "Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars" collections as bona fides during Monday's Super Bowl Opening Night at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla. 

“See that’s tough," Sherman told reporters in Miami (H/T NBC Sports Bay Area's Josh Schrock). "I’m probably like an Obi-Wan (Kenobi) at this point. I used to be like Luke (Skywalker), but now I’m like Obi-Wan. Maybe I’m like an old Luke. Yeah, I'm old Luke.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi? I wonder if Sherman means "Old Ben" Kenobi. 

But the Force is strong with Sherman's comparison. He had reason to be disillusioned with football after rupturing his Achilles in 2017, his last season with the Seattle Seahawks, just as an older Skywalker was with the Jedi Order's teachings following his nephew Ben Solo's betrayal and turn to the Dark Side. Sherman bet on himself by signing an incentive-laden contract with the 49ers as a free agent in 2018. Plenty doubted whether he could be the legend the 49ers needed in their secondary.  

Every word in that sentence was wrong, and Sherman ultimately led a resurgent 49ers defense in 2019. 

Sherman didn't maroon himself on an island holding sacred Jedi texts after rupturing his Achilles during the 2017 season, his last with the Seattle Seahawks, he had plenty of reason to be disillusioned with the sport. He was second-team All-Pro, graded out as Pro Football Focus' best cornerback during the 2019 season and earned all $4 million in contract incentives. 

He might not have Force-projected himself across the galaxy, but that's impressive nonetheless. 

Sherman's self-confidence never wavered nearly as much as Skywalker's did in "Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi," but he'll face a task nearly as tall in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday as Skywalker stared down in the climax of Rian Johnson's 2017 entry in the long-running space opera. The Kansas City Chiefs offense, quarterbacked by reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, has more firepower than the First Order brought to the salt-covered surface of Crait. 

[RELATED: Chiefs DC identifies biggest challenge defending Shanahan]

The Chiefs scored an average of 43 points per game in the AFC's divisional and championship rounds, compiling 837 yards of offense against the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. Kylo Ren wouldn't have needed TIE Fighters, AT-ATs and a battering ram cannon to snuff out the Resistance had he just been flanked by Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce. Sherman won't be walking out with a laser sword and facing down the Chiefs' offense all on his own, as he'll be aided by the 49ers' elite defensive line. The veteran's role in the 49ers' scheme should preclude any extended 1-on-1 duels, even if Darrelle Revis wants to see Sherman and Hill go all Luke vs. Kylo at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday. 

The goal is a Super Bowl rather than the Resistance's survival, but Sherman will try to live up to the Skywalker legend. The old Jedi Master stared into twin suns with peace, purpose and his mission accomplished at the end of "The Last Jedi," and Sherman can do the same with two Super Bowl rings if the 49ers beat the Chiefs on Sunday. 

Why Kyle Shanahan's relationship with Bill Belichick grew after Super Bowl LI


Why Kyle Shanahan's relationship with Bill Belichick grew after Super Bowl LI

MIAMI – Kyle Shanahan blew a 28-3 lead in his last trip to the Super Bowl. The then Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator got a shade too conservative and shouldered significant blame for why the New England Patriots surged in the second half to win Super Bowl LI.

While Patriots head coach Bill Belichick enjoyed the victory, he surely felt for a young offensive mind who hit a new professional low. Belichick has great respect for Shanahan and vice versa, which was evident after that gut-wrenching loss.

“It was really cool that he reached out to me after the Super Bowl just to talk,” Shanahan. “I was able to spend some time with him at the [2017] NFL combine, which I was very appreciative of. Anytime that guy talks, everyone in the world listens. That was especially true for someone like me who aspired to be a head coach. He has been great. It’s not like we talk a ton or anything, but he’s a humble guy who likes to help people.”

That wasn’t the first time Belichick has reached out to a Shanahan looking to talk shop. He did so during the 2005 AFC playoffs, right after Mike Shanahan beat his Patriots 14-3 in the divisional round.

Kyle Shanahan was in Mike’s office when Belichick stopped by but got booted so the two head coaches could chat.

“I got kicked out of the room and I had to sit and wait,” Shanahan said. “I remember my dad saying how cool that was for him to come over after the game, after the Patriots had lost, just to talk ball with him.”

[RELATED: Oral history of Kyle Shanahan's lost backpack at Super Bowl LI Media Day]

Belichick and Kyle Shanahan talked extensively at the combine and spoke again during the 2017 season when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was made available.

Though he has never addressed it directly, it’s generally understood within the Boston media that Belichick didn’t shop Garoppolo to establish leverage in the trade market, choosing instead to give his young backup quarterback a good home. He found one with the 49ers – the Patriots only received a second-round pick in return -- believing Garoppolo could grow and thrive working with Shanahan.

“Having someone like Bill say something like that, for me and what I do in life, if pretty cool,” Shanahan said. “That’s a big a compliment as I could personally have. It feels great. Hopefully that’s true, because I’m very glad he felt that way and I feel very fortunate that we were able to get Jimmy.”

Shanahan said he isn’t trying to exorcise demons on Sunday with the 49ers play the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, to make up for mistakes when the Falcons fell just short.

“I know it comes off like that from a narrative and media standpoint, and I can drive a stake through that if it works out right,” Shanahan said. “That [criticism] stuff, just as a coach, it was harder for me when I was younger in my career. The four years I was in Washington helped me a little bit more and start to realize you can worry about what everybody says. You have to prepare, do as well as you can and not hesitate. When you get worried about blame, that’s when you hesitate. That’s when you make mistakes.

I’m always hard on myself, but I’m aggressive, I prepare hard and I leave it all out on the line. That’s how I treated every game before that Super Bowl. It’s how I treated that Super Bowl and every game after.”