It’s the second Sunday in a row without football for the 49ers. After experiencing an early bye, the club continues its preparations to face the Cleveland Browns on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium.
This edition of 49ers Mailbag is here to provide you with all the infotainment you need to get you through your day. Thanks to those who provided questions via Facebook. Let’s go . . . .
Q: Do you think we need to go after Diggs or Sanders? (William Winter)
A: Do the 49ers need Stefon Diggs or Emmanuel Sanders? The answer is no. Do the acquisitions of either of those players make sense for the organization at this stage? My answer is. . . no.
Diggs is unhappy and rolling up huge fines for his unexcused absences with the Minnesota Vikings. It would seemingly take a pretty good price to acquire him. Also, he is scheduled to earn $11.5 million to $12 million from 2020 to ’23. The 49ers are in good shape with the salary cap, but would taking on that contract decrease the chances of re-signing George Kittle or DeForest Buckner?
Sanders is signed only through the end of this season. The 49ers would have to sign him to a lucrative multi-year extension in order to make any kind of trade with the Denver Broncos for him. Otherwise, the 49ers would be giving up a draft pick for a half-year rental. That makes no sense, either.
The 49ers already have Kittle, along with Deebo Samuel, Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, Richie James and Kendrick Bourne. Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd figure into the team’s future. I do not envision the 49ers weakening future drafts and their salary cap to add a veteran wide receiver.
Q: Are they looking for any trades at all? (Chris Lynn Overstreet)
A: The 49ers have been very consistent with their thinking. They are open to making a trade, according to coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, if it the deal helps the team in the short term and long term. In other words, if the cost prevents the team from continuing to add potentially impactful, cost-effective, players through the draft, that is a major consideration.
Q: Who do you think will be the inactives for the game? Do you think Jeff Wilson, Jordan Matthews and Dontae Johnson will be active? (Fred Reimers)
A: If Tevin Coleman is active (and I think he will be), then Jeff Wilson is not likely to be active. Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert clearly are ahead of Wilson, and Coleman was the team’s starting running back for Week 1 in Tampa Bay.
The 49ers added Matthews this week when Jalen Hurd went to IR. But Hurd was not active for either of the first three games, so Matthews would not be taking his spot in the active 46. The 49ers determined Kendrick Bourne was better than Matthews at the final cuts, so I don’t see that changing. I don’t envision Matthews being active, especially because he offers nothing on special teams. At this point, he’s an insurance policy.
Johnson, however, does serve an immediate purpose for the 49ers. The 49ers are down two cornerbacks from their Week 3 game against Pittsburgh. Ahkello Witherspoon is out a month or more with a foot sprain. Jason Verrett is on IR with a knee issue. Johnson will be in reserve on Monday night behind starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Emmanuel Moseley.
My guess for the seven inactive players: Wilson, Matthews, Witherspoon, quarterback C.J. Beathard, tackles Joe Staley and Sam Young, and defensive lineman Jullian Taylor.
Q: What is the one position battle that the Niners must win to better their chances of beating the Browns? (Christopher Mulligan)
A: This goes for both sides of the ball . . . first downs. Yes, that is a bit of an unconventional answer, but it’s going to be huge.
Cleveland's defensive ends Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon are outstanding pass-rushers. But they are known to take some plays off on those early run downs. If the 49ers are able to pound the ball at them, get them moving and force them to expend some energy in the run game, it will make Jimmy Garoppolo’s play-action passes even more effective.
Likewise, the 49ers have to focus on containing Browns running back Nick Chubb. If they can force the Browns into third-and-long situations, that will enable the team’s pass rush to get after Baker Mayfield and make him uncomfortable.
Q: It looks like Dee Ford’s knee is going to have him on the injury report all season. Should we just expect him to be questionable all season but expect him to play? (Engelbert Salguero)
A: Yes, I believe that is how it will work out this season, too. I do not envision Ford practicing on Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the season. Then, as long as his knee/quad condition does not worsen, he should be able to get out there and be relatively fresh for games.
Q: Now that Nick Bosa is out of the injury list are we going to see more snaps from him? How is Dee Ford looking? (Misael Guzman)
A: The roles of Bosa and Ford are flipped from Week 1. Now, Bosa is the every-down defensive end, and Ford is the pass-rush specialist. Actually, this probably gives the 49ers a better all-around defense. Bosa is very good at setting the edge in the run game. He is healthy now after the bye week, and could begin his push for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year on Monday night.
Q: With the experience Jimmie Ward has playing nearly every position in the secondary, why isn't he getting the start over Emmanuel Moseley? (Faisal Refai)
A: Ward has been working at free safety for the entire offseason – at least while he was able to get out on the field. Moseley has been very impressive, so this is as much a reflection on how he has performed since signing with the club as an undrafted rookie in 2018.
If Moseley really struggles, perhaps, the 49ers could re-evaluate that decision, but the club believes Ward is more valuate at this point as “the eraser” in the 49ers’ defensive backfield at free safety.
Q: With Moseley expected to go up against Beckham, do you expect the 49ers to permanently have a safety provide help over the top? (Jeremy Wohlfart)
A: The 49ers do not want to become too predictable. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has more tools this season to give the opposition unexpected looks. One example of that is that Pittsburgh was clearly expecting the 49ers to play a lot of three-deep zone. But with Mason Rudolph making his first NFL start, the 49ers sprung more two-deep than they ordinarily play.
The 49ers will want to keep Mayfield guessing, for sure, but it’s safe to say that Moseley will be provided a large share of help from their deep safety.
Q: Who are the two candidates most likely to make it back this year from the IR? (Greg Threlkeld)
A: Wide receiver Trent Taylor is the most-likely 49ers player to return off injured reserve. The other candidates, as of now, are Kentavius Street, Jalen Hurd and Jason Verrett. The 49ers do not need to make that decision until they actually make that decision. There’s also the possibility another player could go on IR in the next week or two, and the 49ers would have that player in their back pocket, as well.
Street, Hurd and Verrett are nowhere close to playing in a game. It depends on their rehabs and if they are able to make it through without any setbacks. The 49ers’ decision will also be based on which player provides the most help. So the injury situations at defensive line, wide receiver and cornerback would also likely factor into the decision.
In other words, beyond Taylor, I do not know. My guess is that each of those other three players will remain on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
Q: What are the chances that Roger Craig is included in the 2020 Hall of Fame 100-year inductees? What can the fans do to help his cause? (Darren Riley)
A: As much as it pains me to write this, I think he faces an extreme uphill climb to be included in next year’s class as one of the 10 senior candidates. The reason is because Craig just entered the senior pool a couple of years ago. It is my understanding that the senior candidates will be comprised primarily of individuals who are deemed to have “fallen through the cracks.”
The NFL began in 1920. The first Pro Football Hall of Fame class was elected in 1963. That first HOF class consisted of just 11 players. So through the first 40 years of professional football, only 11 players were inducted. The Hall of Fame opened with a built-in backlog of players waiting for enshrinement. Instead of eventually catching up – which, of course, was impossible – many worthy players from the early pool of candidates were simply forgotten.
My belief is that the bulk of the seniors selected for enshrinement next year will be from the first 60 years of professional football and not from the past 40 years.
I’m not sure fans can do much to help his cause because the blue-ribbon committee will decide the fates of the senior candidates. If you wish to craft a convincing letter to the members of the committee, you may do so. Click the link to see the members of the committee entrusted with determining who will get honored.