49ers

49ers face offseason of difficult roster decisions with veteran players

49ers face offseason of difficult roster decisions with veteran players

INDIANAPOLIS -- Coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the 49ers would like a do-over this year with the same players who suited up for the club during the 2019 season.

But for the first time since taking over as the main decision-makers with the organization, general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan will not be able to keep all of the players they would like to bring back.

The 49ers finally have enough talent on their team where they simply will not be able to afford to retain all of their players this offseason.

“This is the first time that I want every single person on our team back because I think we have a team that can win a Super Bowl,” Shanahan said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I think we showed that last year. So, whenever you have that, it is really tough. When have you ever been able to bring back the exact same team no matter where you’ve been?

“So that is a lot harder, especially with our cap situation. So it is cool to know that that’s what we want and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The 49ers have a projected $13.1 million salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com.

The first three offseasons for Lynch and Shanahan consisted of determining the players who did not fit into the future, along with collecting individuals who could provide upgrades. After finding the right formula and experiencing success in 2019, it now becomes impossible to keep everybody around.

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead had a breakout season with a team-leading 10 sacks during the regular season, as well as two more in the postseason. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency and a big payday. If the 49ers are unable to work out a multi-year deal with Armstead, they have the option of placing the franchise tag on him at the cost of approximately $19 million for one season.

“With respect to Arik, that is an option on the table,” Lynch said of the franchise tag. “We haven’t made that decision, yet. But it is an option at our disposal. We’ll see where that goes.”

The 49ers also would like to re-sign wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and safety Jimmie Ward, but it might not be possible with big money deals being set aside in the near future for tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

“There are so many connecting parts on that with people who are up now and people who are up later,” Shanahan said. “Are you just trying to do it for one year -- just sell the farm for one year -- or have your best chances over a two- or three-year span?”

Shanahan said those are the questions that a club has to continually ask itself while constantly re-evaluating the plan based on the level of contracts it requires to retain or acquire players. The 49ers might not be active on the free-agent market, but Lynch said he believes the 49ers have gotten to the point where they are seen as a destination for veteran players.

“We have a lot of real talented players,” Lynch said. “I suspect in free agency, whether we’re big players or not, I think we’ve become a place that people want to be. So that’s a great thing. We’ve worked hard for that.”

[RELATEDGeorge Kittle's secret to Kyle Shanahan's wife gets back to 49ers coach]

While Shanahan and his staff begin the process of poring over film and evaluating the entire season, the management team will attempt to work with agents to ensure there is as little turnover on the roster as possible. The unsettled collective bargaining agreement is also a complication in contract talks.

Running back Jerick McKinnon and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin face uncertain futures with the 49ers due to their sizable contracts. The 49ers also have to make decisions on restricted free agents, such as running back Matt Breida, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and linebacker Elijah Lee. The 49ers have yet to finalize decisions on those playeers, Lynch said.

Old 49ers-Odell Beckham trade idea shows NFL draft was better route

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AP

Old 49ers-Odell Beckham trade idea shows NFL draft was better route

NFL draft season prompts plenty of outlandish trade scenarios to fill airtime and word counts, many of which never come to fruition.

Dallas Morning News reporter Joseph Hoyt dug up one such scenario Thursday, and it's a (hypothetical) trade the 49ers are (hypothetically) glad they didn't (hypothetically) make.

The 49ers would've had to pay a pretty penny for then-New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the proposal put forth in a "Good Morning Football" segment nearly two years ago. Beckham was months away from signing a contract extension, so San Francisco would've traded a lot of draft capital for a star entering the final year of his contract. The picks the 49ers made in those slots formed the backbone of the 2019 NFC Champions.

Beckham's arrival would've changed things, though. The 49ers would've entered the season with arguably the best receiver in football as well as George Kittle, who'd emerge as arguably the best tight end. Kittle might not have set an NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end playing alongside Beckham, but he surely would've benefitted from the extra attention opposing defenses paid the receiver rather than him.

Do they still go 4-12 that year? The 49ers were 3-5 in games decided by six points or fewer in 2018, and Jimmy Garoppolo (torn ACL) missed all but one of those games. Beckham crossed the 1,000-yard threshold in just 12 games catching passes from Eli Manning in 2018, so it's -- at the very least -- conceivable he could've moved the needle in at least one of the 49ers' close losses.

[RELATED: Why 49ers should trade down from both first-round picks]

The 49ers would've picked no higher than No. 4 overall with a 5-11 record in 2018, and any additional wins would've dropped them further down the draft order. Acquiring Beckham under the parameters "Good Morning Football" put forth likely would've prevented the Niners from selecting all of Mike McGlinchey, Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel, but not all three of them would necessarily be Giants, either.

San Francisco would've been a better team in 2018, thus pushing the 49ers out of the slots they used to draft Bosa and Samuel. That's a different opportunity cost to consider than trading all of those players straight-up for one of the game's best receivers, but it's one the 49ers probably are glad they didn't have to pay.

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers should trade down both first-round picks

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers should trade down both first-round picks

The 49ers had only six picks in the 2020 NFL Draft before trading Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. San Francisco owned the No. 31 pick, and no others until the fifth round.

That trade brought in the No. 13 pick, but the 49ers probably aren't done dealing. Trading down to acquire more, much-needed draft capital is the likeliest scenario.

While much of the 49ers Faithful drool over what the top wide receivers in the draft would look like in coach Kyle Shanahan’s system, it's far from a given that the team will use that first pick on a receiver. For one, the 49ers still don't own any picks in the second, third and fourth rounds. For another, receiver is one of the deepest positions in the draft and the 49ers arguably have a bigger need.

Joe Staley is under contract through the 2021 season, but the veteran left tackle was understandably emotional after the 49ers' loss in Super Bowl LIV. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey indirectly indicated that Staley’s decision to return for the 2020 season was not set in stone.

The 49ers would be best served in hedging their bet that Staley returns and using one of their first-round picks on a left tackle. Even if Staley returns, the 49ers will need a replacement for him in the not-so-distant future. 

The draft's top tackles likely will be taken before the 49ers' first pick, but there still should be quality options available in the 20s or later. The 49ers could trade down, while Houston's Josh Jones or USC's Austin Jackson is still available, and then acquire another pick.

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Let's say trading the No. 13 pick nets the 49ers a first- and early second-round pick. Dealing the No. 31 pick would also come into play.

The 49ers drafted Deebo Samuel No. 36 overall in 2019. Samuel proved to be very productive in Shanahan’s system, catching 57 of his 81 targets for 802 yards. He ranked second on the team in receiving yards only behind First Team All-Pro tight end George Kittle. 

Shanahan's staff had an advantage in getting to know Samuel while at the Senior Bowl, but they have shown that a second-round receiver can become a key contributor. 

[RELATED: Buckner's exit could influence 49ers to trade down in draft]

Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson's draft trade value chart lists the No. 31 pick as worth a mid-second-round pick and a high third-round pick or a high second-round pick and a mid-fourth-round pick, among other permutations. Trading both first-round picks could give the 49ers three additional picks in rounds where they currently have none.

The 49ers would end draft weekend with nine selections in this scenario, as opposed to their original six. They'd also have fresh, valuable talent at important positions on their roster.