49ers

49ers mailbag: Antonio Brown? Earl Thomas? Only if the price is right

49ers mailbag: Antonio Brown? Earl Thomas? Only if the price is right

This week marks the unofficial/official start of the draft season with the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

We covered a lot of topics on this week’s edition of the 49ers Insider Podcast, as readers/listeners asked us to address an array of topics.

Here are some of the questions we received for a pre-combine 49ers Mailbag:

Peter King says the 49ers are out on AB any truth to that? (@ninerhive)

That’s not exactly what Peter King wrote in his “Football Morning in America” column on Monday. But he made it clear he does not believe the 49ers are all that interested in wide receiver Antonio Brown.

King wrote,"I don’t see San Francisco, unless Jerry Rice gets hired as GM."

With all the baggage Brown will bring to his new team, there are legitimate reasons why the 49ers would hesitate– despite his productivity over his career. But if teams are not exactly lining up to swing a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the price tag could entice the 49ers to get involved.

With Brown due a $2.5 million bonus in two weeks, the Steelers will want to get things moving quickly. The combine is a great place for those discussions to heat up.

Would it make sense to target pass rusher via free agency or just draft a top pass rush prospect #2 overall if that's the direction the front office wants to go in? (@DionCarolina)

In my opinion, the 49ers must target a pass rusher in free agency.

In my opinion, the 49ers must target a pass rusher in the draft.

So, yes, both. The 49ers can improve their defense dramatically with the addition to two edge rushers who provide upgrades over the players the 49ers had in those spots a year ago.

If not Nick Bosa, then Josh Allen. It really looks to be that simple. Doesn’t it?

What are the 49ers chances of signing Earl Thomas? (@buck342) 

A year ago, the 49ers entered the offseason feeling good about their safeties: Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert. They added Marcell Harris in the draft, and he played well down the final stretch of the season.

Neither Tartt nor Colbert solidified their long-term positions with the organization last season. But the 49ers could still consider them starting-caliber players. Harris inserted himself in the mix to compete for a starting job, too.

Still, if the price is right, the 49ers should be interested in Thomas. After all, he is the prototype for free safety in this defense, much the same way Richard Sherman is the ideal at cornerback.

Are they re-signing Jimmie Ward (@INDlVlDUAL) 

There are plenty of reasons to like Ward, including his versatility and how hard he plays the game.

Of course, there are reasons for the 49ers to want to move on from Ward, too . . . namely, his history of injuries. Four of his five NFL seasons have concluded with him going on injured reserve with bone fractures.

Yes, the coaching staff wants to bring back Ward. But general manager John Lynch has every reason to be cautious. It is doubtful the 49ers would enter into a multi-year contract with Ward. If he gets a good offer elsewhere, the 49ers will probably let him walk.

Who has a higher upside between Mullens or Beathard as a backup QB? (@Nacoz49ers)
What will happen possibly with either Mullens or Beathard? Will one become a trading tool potentially? (@BryanRedmann) 

C.J. Beathard, a third-round draft pick in 2017, has more upside than Nick Mullens, who was undrafted in that same year. Beathard can make all the throws. He does not seem to have any physical limitations.

That said, Mullens was more productive last season after entering the 49ers’ starting lineup.

Mullens completed 64.2 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Only Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have thrown for more than Mullens’ 2,277 yards through eight starts.

Beathard completed 60.4 percent of his attempts with eight TDs and seven interceptions in five starts.

The 49ers have not given up on Beathard as much as Mullens has put himself into a position to legitimately compete for the backup job to Jimmy Garoppolo.

I doubt either player would have much trade value. No team would make a deal with the idea of either player competing for a starting job. It would probably be more realistic for the 49ers to hold onto both players as insurance.

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo could be 'next Mahomes,' AFC executive says

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AP

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo could be 'next Mahomes,' AFC executive says

When John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan traded for Jimmy Garoppolo 18 months ago, he was the darling of the NFL. Much was expected of the quarterback when he came to Santa Clara, and he delivered by leading the 49ers to a 5-0 record to finish the 2017 season.

But a torn ACL in Week 3 of the 2018 season put Jimmy G on the backburner.

That allowed second-year Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to step up and take the league by storm. The former first-round draft pick led Kansas City to the No. 1 seed in the AFC and took them to the AFC Championship game, where they lost to the New England Patriots, and he later was voted 2018 NFL MVP.

So, who could be the next player to have a breakout season like Mahomes?

Apparently, it's Garoppolo.

"He's got the best chance to be the next Mahomes," an unnamed AFC team executive recently told Bleacher Report.

[RELATED: Garoppolo raves over player performance staff]

Garoppolo is nearing the end of his rehab process, and Shanahan expects the 27-year-old quarterback to be ready for training camp in July.

The 49ers had high hopes for the 2018 season, and Garoppolo's ACL injury caused those hopes to come crashing down. Now, with a revamped defense and more help coming through the draft, expectations again are high in Santa Clara. A big season from Garoppolo would go a long way to helping the 49ers achieve their goal of making a deep playoff run.

NFL draft: Who should 49ers target or avoid if they trade back from No. 2?

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USATSI

NFL draft: Who should 49ers target or avoid if they trade back from No. 2?

So what happens if the Arizona Cardinals select Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa with the No. 1 overall pick?

Until the Cardinals actually announce their decision – as most have believed for a while – that Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray is their man, there remains a bit of intrigue. The 49ers must wait patiently at No. 2.

If Bosa goes No. 1, the 49ers would likely listen to offers to trade out of No. 2. That’s where things could get very interesting. And it opens up a lot more possibilities for the 49ers to consider with their first- and second-round draft picks.

Here are a couple of players the 49ers could consider if they trade back from No. 2 – either with their first or second-round selection -- and a couple of highly rated players they should not be tempted to select:

Boom?

In a trade-back scenario, the 49ers could still get their edge rusher.

Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns has size, athleticism and room to get better. Just a shade below the first wave of edge rushers, Burns might end up topping them all. He played three seasons in college and finished with 10 sacks in 12 games last season before declaring for the draft.

At 6-foot-5, 249 pounds and with 4.53 speed, Burns would be used immediately as a nickel pass-rush specialist. That is fine. That is what the 49ers need, and eventually that role can expand.

Bust?

Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary should have been a dominant player in college. He was not. He has measurables off the charts, but not the production that should go along with it.

His skills and athleticism are freakish. But after three seasons of college football, he recorded a total – a total – of just 9.5 sacks. And, now, we’re supposed to believe that he is going to get 9.5 sacks a season while going up against better competition?

Gary has started his own sports agency. It seems like the best plan of attack would be to get established as a really good NFL player before devoting so much attention to marketing.

Boom?

Their new wide receivers coach was not there to work with him at the Senior Bowl, but South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel already showed what he can do in the 49ers’ offense.

Samuel has a trait that coach Kyle Shanahan likes in his wide receivers – the ability to get open. He is a very good route-runner, and he is tough. At 5-foot-11, 214 pounds, he might not have the size of some of the other receivers the 49ers might consider in the second round, but he has the ability to separate quickly.

Samuel would give the 49ers a nice tool in the red zone, where the club has struggled mightily the past two seasons.

[RELATED:  Jimmy G couldn't disappoint 49ers with eyes on him during rehab]

Bust?

The 49ers probably will not have the opportunity to pass on Ole Miss D.K. Metcalf in the second round, and that will be just fine for them.

Metcalf has otherworldly measurables. But Metcalf was far-and-away the second-best receiver on his college team. The 49ers should prefer A.J. Brown to Metcalf, who turned off more than a few people with the 49ers during their contentious meeting at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Metcalf is 6-3, 228 pounds. He ran a 4.33 at the combine. Yet, he put up pedestrian numbers in college – approximately half the production of Brown. Some team will take him in the middle of the first round, and that team will probably end up being disappointed.