49ers

49ers Mailbag: Did John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan overestimate roster?

49ers Mailbag: Did John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan overestimate roster?

The 49ers answered many questions during the NFL draft last week. But as general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan provided answers with their selections, there are still plenty of issues left unresolved.

So let’s go to our 49ers Mailbag to answer some questions that were deposited on our Facebook page:

Are you concerned about our depth at cornerback and how many we passed on including Greedy Williams? (Jeff Higbee)
If your question is whether 49ers fans should be concerned with the depth, the answer is “Yes!” That’s because most fans spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about issues that are out of their control. That’s what makes you a fan, and I love that.

But . . . Greedy Williams is a cornerback who was selected in the second round at No. 46. The 49ers took wide receiver Deebo Samuel at No. 36. That should not have been a surprise. The 49ers clearly like Samuel more than Williams. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess the only receiver they liked on the same level of Samuel was N’Keal Harry, whom New England picked at No. 32.

Williams is talented, for sure. But he is not a real physical corner. The knocks on him are similar to what Ahkello Witherspoon heard when he was coming out in the draft. The 49ers chose Witherspoon in the third round two years ago. Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore – third-round picks in back-to-back years – and Jason Verrett will compete for the starting job opposite of Richard Sherman. I don't believe Williams was viewed as a player who would immediately step in as the clear starter ahead of those three other players.

Samuel, however, is a player the 49ers considered as an upgrade over anyone on their roster at their biggest need. It seems the 49ers believe they have four players at cornerback capable of being starters, now they need to find which ones can stay healthy and play at a consistent level.

Do Shanahan and Lynch believe that addressing the pass rusher can fix the secondary problems? (David Hartless)
That seems to be the case. Other than DeForest Buckner, the 49ers’ pass rush was not good last season. The 49ers had an NFL single-season-record worst of just two interceptions last season. The team is expecting Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, along with the inside guys, to put quarterbacks under a lot more duress this season. The secondary should have improved production because the guys up front should be better.

Do you think Lynch over-estimated their current roster? Considering luxury picks of 3rd and 4th round? (Andrew Spencer)
The 49ers’ third-round pick was wide receiver Jalen Hurd at No. 67.

The next offensive lineman selected was Wisconsin guard Michael Deiter, the pick of Miami at No. 78. The 49ers seem very content with their starting offensive line after re-signing Mike Person to a three-year deal in the offseason.

The next cornerback chosen was Michigan’s David Long by the Rams at No 79. The next safety off the board was Boston College safety Will Harris, Detroit’s pick at No. 81.

Shanahan has a vision for Hurd. Would a third-round pick at cornerback immediately be better than Verrett, Witherspoon or Moore? Would a third-round pick at safety be better than Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, Adrian Colbert and Marcell Harris?

The fourth-round pick certainly was not a luxury pick. The selection of punter Mitch Wishnowsky was a necessity. They had to replace Bradley Pinion, whom the 49ers thought all along they would be re-signing. (Until, of course, he signed with Tampa Bay.)

I don’t know if you can say the 49ers over-estimated their roster. But what I think they’re saying is that they did not envision any players they passed over coming in and making as much of a difference over the long haul as the players they selected.

Could we see Hurd as the short-yardage back? (Bubba Lynch)
Do you see Hurd as a WR or TE? (Ryan Ireland)
Hurd will not be a short-yardage back. His height and high center of gravity do not appear conducive to being able to get those tough inside yards at this level after dropping more than 20 pounds to be a wide receiver.

And, yes, that’s what he will play. Hurd is a wide receiver. However, his role could evolve over time to the point that Shanahan can line him up in a lot of different spots. But I'm not sure how much of that you will see in 2019. More than likely, it will take some time for all of that to play out.

[RELATED: 49ers receiver Jalen Hurd believes there's no offensive limit for him]

Where do they plan on playing Samuel? Do they see him as a slot or a little of all 3 positions (Benjamin Duane)
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel will play the flanker position, while Dante Pettis will play split end. Shanahan believes Samuel has the speed to play on the outside. He can run past cornerbacks, so Shanahan said that will force cornerbacks to play off him so he can run all the routes. Both Samuel and Pettis also have the versatility to line up at all the spots in the formation, enabling Shanahan to take advantage of what he considers favorable matchups.

What is Marquise Goodwin’s future with the team? (Anthony Hernandez)
The 49ers want to use Goodwin like the Atlanta Falcons used Taylor Gabriel during Shanahan’s time there as offensive coordinator. Gabriel averaged 16.5 yards per reception that season. The 49ers believe there is an element of diminishing returns with Goodwin’s speed if he is on the field for most of the snaps in a game. Also, it means less wear and tear, and a greater likelihood that he can remain healthy during the course of the season.

Do you think Dre Greenlaw has a chance to start? (Ronald Whitton)
Greenlaw gonna be switched to safety? (Thomas Mooney)
No, Greenlaw will not be switched to safety. Greenlaw is widely considered a stack linebacker, and the 49ers appear set there with Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner as the starters. But GM John Lynch also mentioned Greenlaw can play the strongside position, where there is no clear-cut starter. If Greenlaw shows the 49ers he can step in and be better than Malcolm Smith or Mark Nzeocha, yes, he has a chance to start at the Sam linebacker.

Why would they refuse to trade Gould when we could've gotten an extra pick this year? (Brane Ramos)
The 49ers believe Robbie Gould is the best kicker they can possibly have on their team. Therefore, they are committed to paying him nearly $5 million to kick for them this season. And if people were questioning the decision to draft a punter, could you imagine the outcry if they would have chosen a kicker, too? Levi’s Stadium is a difficult place to kick, and the 49ers like the idea of having a veteran in that role. That’s why they made an attempt to sign Stephen Gostkowski, before New England caught wind of it and quickly locked him up.

Will there be any interest in giving Anthony Davis a shot to make the team? (Travis Danner)
That would surprise me.

NFL free agency: A.J. Green would fit 49ers, but health risks are real

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NFL free agency: A.J. Green would fit 49ers, but health risks are real

A.J. Green last played in an NFL game on Dec. 2, 2018. He injured his toe in that game, and underwent season-ending surgery shortly after.

Green then missed all of last season, as the Cincinnati Bengals' star receiver dealt with an ankle injury. And yet, he's one of the biggest names set to hit free agency next month.

So, should the 49ers take a run at signing the seven-time Pro Bowl pick? Talent-wise, yes. But it's not that simple.

Green, who turns 32 years old on July 31, has played in just nine games in the last two seasons. He has missed 29 games since 2016 and isn't getting any younger. But he's also one of the most talented receivers in the league when healthy.

The former No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft started his career with five straight seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards. He was well on pace to extending that streak in 2016 when he had 964 receiving yards in 10 games and then had 1,078 in 2017.

San Francisco simply doesn't have any receivers with Green's kind of pedigree. Deebo Samuel opened eyes as a rookie, and he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The 49ers have to add talent around the young South Carolina product, though.

Green also is the kind of large target that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan hopes to give quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Samuel is listed at 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds. Green, however, is 6-4 and 210 pounds.

One NFL executive believes Green hopes to move on from the Bengals this offseason, too. 

"I think he wants out of Cincinnati," the exec told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. 

That, however, isn't in Bengals coach Zac Taylor's plans

"He's a guy that we're excited about to have part of this team, first and foremost. That’s what matters right now," Taylor said Thursday in his interview on the '"Bengals Beat Podcast." "As we go through the offseason, we'll figure out how it best fits. But right now, we expect him to be a part of the team. We want him to be a part of the team.

"He's certainly been a valuable member for the last couple years and done some great things. I'm excited to coach him, really for the first time this next season."

Green signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Bengals in 2015. He will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time this offseason, and the veteran still could sign another hefty contract. The same executive told ESPN that "even 'B' receivers are getting $14 million to $15 million."

The 49ers currently have just under $17.9 million available in cap space this offseason, according to Spotrac. San Francisco also has its own contracts to take care of in free agent Arik Armstead, as well as extensions for George Kittle and DeForest Buckner. 

[RELATED: Why 49ers could add Gabriel to receiver mix this offseason]

One way or another, the 49ers should look to give Jimmy G more weapons this offseason. This year's NFL draft class is loaded with receivers, and the front office could make that their priority with their first pick. There's no doubt Green could be a great option in free agency, but it all comes down to health.

"As long as the foot checks out, he's still elite," an NFC personnel evaluator said to ESPN.

That's a big if, though. Green is one talented question mark.

49ers roster analysis: Work needed to keep up defensive line dominance

49ers roster analysis: Work needed to keep up defensive line dominance

This is the sixth installment of a nine-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

We continue with a look at the 49ers’ defensive line.

Under contract (signed through)

-Dee Ford (2023)
-DeForest Buckner (2020)
-Nick Bosa (2022)
-Solomon Thomas (2020)
-D.J. Jones (2020)
-Jullian Taylor (2021)
-Kentavius Street (2021)
-Kevin Givens (2021)
-Willie Henry (2020)
-Ray Smith (2021)
-Alex Barrett (2021)
-Jonathan Kongbo (2022)

Buckner is scheduled to play on the fifth-year option of $14.36 million, but the 49ers would like to work out a multi-year contract extension for him and likely see his cap number come down this year.

Ford’s $13.65 million salary for the 2020 season becomes fully guaranteed on April 1. Ford signed the lucrative deal a year ago after coming from the Kansas City Chiefs in a trade for a second-round draft pick.

Thomas is scheduled to enter the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. The 49ers will not pick up the fifth-year option for 2021, but it is not out of the question he could return beyond this season on a significantly reduced contract.

Expiring contracts

-Arik Armstead (UFA)
-Ronald Blair (UFA)
-Sheldon Day (UFA)
-Damontre Moore (UFA)
-Anthony Zettel (UFA)
-Earl Mitchell (UFA)

The 49ers could use the franchise tag on Armstead, but that would require the team committing more than $19 million to him for the 2020 season. The 49ers prefer to re-sign Armstead to a multi-year extension for a lower annual average.

What needs to happen

The 49ers had tremendous depth along the defensive line, but it never seems to be enough at this position. That is why the 49ers will always be looking for more players at this spot. The 49ers could use another outside pass rusher capable of six sacks on the season.

Armstead will cost the most to retain among all the 49ers’ free agents. How high are they willing to go? Lynch made it sound as if the team is focused on a long-term contract, rather than the fallback of merely placing the franchise tag on him.

It might be even a greater priority to work out a long-term extension with Buckner, who enters the final year of his contract. All you need to know about how Buckner is viewed inside the organization became evident when the coaching staff voted him as the winner of the Bill Walsh Award.

Blair and Day are scheduled for unrestricted free agency. Blair served an important role as a backup nickel pass-rusher. His absence after he sustained a torn ACL in the middle of the season was felt. Blair could have taken some of the pass-rush snaps to enable others on the defensive line to remain fresh.

Day could be a starter somewhere else. But when Jones slated to start again this season at nose tackle, the 49ers are not likely to pay much to retain him as a backup.

[RELATED: Why 49ers' O-Line is in good shape for immediate future]

Expectations

The 49ers defensive line was dominant last season. It was San Francisco's strength, and they need to be even more dominant this season.

Bosa quickly established himself as a star. Buckner is another star. Ford has to take the necessary steps in the offseason to make sure the 49ers do not lose him for long stretches of time next season.

Armstead gives the 49ers exactly what they need. He’s a base defensive end who moves inside to rush the passer in nickel situations. If he returns, the 49ers should have the best collection of defensive linemen in the league. If Armstead is not back, the 49ers must add a lower-cost option who fits the scheme and minimizes the drop-off.

Thomas will be back for his fourth season with the 49ers, and there is no reason why he can't produce significantly more in 2020 as a rotational player.