49ers

49ers Mailbag: Could Terrell Suggs join injury-riddled San Francisco?

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49ers Mailbag: Could Terrell Suggs join injury-riddled San Francisco?

The 49ers have established good depth this season and managed to keep rolling despite 15 players going on injured reserve since training camp.

The defensive line has been an area of great depth since the additions of Dee Ford in a trade and Nick Bosa in the draft during the offseason, but that unit has taken some recent hits.

The possibility of the 49ers adding some depth leads off this edition of the 49ers Mailbag.

I do not see any possibility -- or reason -- for the 49ers to put in a waiver claim for 31-year-old cornerback Janoris Jenkins. But Terrell Suggs is a different story.

The 49ers have seen their depth at edge rusher diminished with season-ending injuries to Ronald Blair and his replacement, Damontre Moore. Also, Dee Ford is not expected to play in the final three games of the regular season. Ford’s hamstring injury could carry over into the postseason, too.

Therefore, it would make sense for the 49ers to claim Suggs, whom the Arizona Cardinals waived on Friday. The problem is that the 49ers are No. 31 in the priority claim list. So, 30 teams would have to pass on the veteran.

As if a reminder is needed, the list of teams in front of the 49ers in the order of waiver claims includes the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams. It would not shock me if either (or both) put in claims for Suggs to prevent the 49ers from getting him. If that were the case, and no other teams submitted a claim him, Suggs would end up with the Rams.

As for Jenkins, whom the New York Giants waived Friday, whose spot is he going to take? Not Ahkello Witherspoon. Not Emmanuel Moseley. And Richard Sherman is due back soon. The 49ers have a good thing going, and I don’t see them going after Jenkins.

Both Suggs and Jenkins -- and the rest of the football world -- will find out Monday. That’s when the waiver-claiming period ends for both players.

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While in his 30s, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan always stayed with the hot player. He turned 40 Saturday, but my guess is Shanahan will be the same person in his early 40s.

In recent weeks the hot running back was Raheem Mostert. He leads the team in rushing yards (608) and rushing average (6.0 yards per carry). He has never started a game in his NFL career, but when the 49ers were in a do-or-die situation against the New Orleans Saints, Mostert was on the field.

That tells you all you need to know.

The 49ers believe Mostert is one of the best special-teams players in the NFL. I tend to agree with that assessment. He is now producing like one of the top running backs in the league, too.

So, yes, with the more he’s asked to do on offense, the more it seems he is pulled away from special-teams coordinator Richard Hightower. But, he still has a role on special teams.

Last week against the Saints, Mostert played 38 snaps on offense and was on the field for 16 plays of special teams. He is playing a little bit less on special teams than typical, but the 49ers still use him in that phase of the game because he is so darn good.

That’s a difficult one, but I think the price might be too high to retain Arik Armstead on a one-year franchise deal.

Remember, this is a team that hopes to be able to sign DeForest Buckner and George Kittle to long-term extensions.

It’ll cost the 49ers approximately $18 million to place the franchise tag on Armstead. Unused cap money rolls over, so that would be $18 million fewer dollars to pay out elsewhere.

As for cap casualties, I don’t see any way the 49ers can retain running back Jerick McKinnon at his scheduled salary, and there is no way they will keep wide receiver Marquise Goodwin -- whatever the price.

The reason the 49ers have kept both Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard behind Jimmy Garoppolo is because they honestly believe they are among the team’s 53-best players. They view Mullens and Beathard as valuable assets to the organization.

Also, remember, only 46 players suit up for games. So it really does not matter if they keep a player at another position on the 53-man roster because that player would not be suiting up for games, anyway.

Certainly, Robert Saleh will get some attention for head-coaching openings. His work as 49ers defensive coordinator should get him in the door as a candidate, and he will undoubtedly be impressive in the interview process.

Two individuals who could be candidates to become offensive coordinators with play-calling responsibilities are passing-game coordinator Mike LaFleur and run-game coordinator Mike McDaniel.

Shanahan declined to grant permission to Green Bay for LaFleur and Arizona for McDaniel to hire those two assistants because he considered those coaching positions to be lateral moves. The head coaches in both of those places call the offensive plays, just as Shanahan does with the 49ers.

I do not believe the 49ers are going to breeze through this game because of the injuries, as well as the difficulty of bouncing back from such an emotional victory. Also, the Atlanta Falcons are playing better football. It is not going to be easy.

It will be difficult, no doubt.

But I think you also have to look at the players who have been lost for the season due to injuries. Here’s how I rank the importance of the players lost to season-ending injuries:

1, Nose tackle D.J. Jones
2, Center Weston Richburg
3, Linebacker Kwon Alexander
4, Edge rusher Ronald Blair

The remainder of the guys on injured reserve were not going to be big factors down the stretch of the season.

Those four listed above are all very good players, but I believe as long as the rest of the injured guys who are going to miss the game Sunday -- Richard Sherman, Jaquiski Tartt, K’Waun Williams, Jullian Taylor and Ford -- can return in time for the playoffs, the 49ers should be fine.

[RELATED: Saints DB who grabbed Kittle's facemask on late play fined]

Dante Pettis, I would assume, will be in uniform. He has been cleared to play after sitting out two games with a knee injury.

Jordan Matthews was signed this week to be the 49ers’ sixth receiver, so I would not envision him suiting up for the game.

Why Kyle Juszczyk gives George Kittle edge for 49ers' play of the year

Why Kyle Juszczyk gives George Kittle edge for 49ers' play of the year

The 49ers have made it to the Super Bowl, but there were several stops along the way when that outcome didn't appear as likely. Yes, San Francisco was the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC, but only by the slimmest of margins.

Literally inches, you might recall.

Rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw sealed the top seed for the 49ers -- and a first-round bye -- with his clutch fourth-down stop on the goal line in the final seconds of San Francisco's Week 17 win over the Seattle Seahawks. It undoubtedly will go down as one of the most memorable plays in franchise history, but depending on who you ask, it wasn't even the biggest play of the current season.

There are a few additional contenders, but the most obvious would be tight end George Kittle's 39-yard catch-and-run on fourth-and-2 on the 49ers' game-winning drive to beat the Saints in Week 14. 

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was on the sideline for both plays, and recently offered his opinion as to which is the 49ers' play of the year. 

"Two legendary plays ... season-defining plays, there," Juszczyk told 95.7 The Game's "Jo, Lo & Dibs" on Tuesday morning. "I'm an offensive guy, though, and I can't lie, when you started talking about the biggest play of the season, the first play that jumped to my mind was George's play in New Orleans, so I'm gonna give that one to George with Dre as a close second. Just two guys putting the team on their back and just willing the team to a win. So, both absolutely phenomenal plays."

[RELATED: Why 'defense wins championships' adage applies to 49ers]

Super Bowl LIV will mark the seventh straight Super Bowl featuring two top-two seeds, further indicating the benefit of a first-round bye. Both Kittle and Greenlaw's clutch plays were absolutely essential to the 49ers achieving that high seed, so really, it's impossible to say which was the play of the year, because San Francisco's season looks a whole lot different without both of them.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

Teams with defenses like 49ers' have great track record in Super Bowl

Teams with defenses like 49ers' have great track record in Super Bowl

The "Defense wins championships" adage didn't arise out of nowhere. It's a tried and true method tested over multiple decades of different eras of the NFL, and one that bodes well for the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV against the Kanas City Chiefs.

San Francisco finished the regular season with the No. 2-ranked defense in the league behind only the New England Patriots. The Niners have been even better on that side of the ball through two playoff contests, where they've held their opponents to nearly 30 fewer total yards per game. That defense will face arguably its toughest test all year long in Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but based on history, there is reason to believe it will hold up.

As ESPN's Dan Orlovsky discussed on Tuesday morning's episode of "Get Up", teams with a top-two ranked defense have a very good track record in the Super Bowl. In fact, it has usually taken a Hall of Fame quarterback to overcome that defense.

Kansas City ranked fifth in the NFL during the regular season with an average of 28.2 points per game, but it's worth noting that Mahomes missed two games due to injury, and likely wasn't at full strength for several other contests. He appears to be fully healthy now, as the Chiefs have exploded for an average of 43.0 points per game in the playoffs. For comparison, the 49ers rank second among all postseason teams with an average of 32.0 points per game. While those previous top-two ranked defenses have given up an average of 18 points per game in the Super Bowl, it's unlikely San Francisco will be able to limit the Chiefs' high-flying offense to that degree, but even if they can get close, that might be enough to prove victorious.

[RELATED: 49ers, Chiefs show importance of bye weeks in NFL playoffs]

As great as the historical track record is for the 49ers, that Hall of Fame QB exception to the rule likely will keep the team from puffing its chest too much before the Big Game. Mahomes is only in his third professional season and second as a starting quarterback, but it sure looks like he'll eventually wind up in Canton.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).