49ers

49ers' offseason should focus on these five moves, says Bill Barnwell

49ers' offseason should focus on these five moves, says Bill Barnwell

The 49ers were mere minutes away from being named champions of Super Bowl LIV. They fell short, and now they have a lengthy list of offseason obligations to tend to.

It would appear San Francisco has its franchise quarterback, a dominant play-caller and a loaded defense. However, some of the 49ers' best players are either free agents or due for significant raises, and consequently, the team will have big decisions to make, both in number and significance. 

According to ESPN's Bill Barnwell, there are five offseason moves San Francisco should prioritize, all of which could severely impact the team's potential to return to the Super Bowl. Within those five moves, Barnwell advocates for two gargantuan extensions at the expense of two prominent names, and leans into one rumor that just won't seem to die.

So you're telling me there's a chance

While Barnwell concedes that Jimmy Garoppolo likely would have been "both a Super Bowl winner and Super Bowl MVP already" had he not overthrown Emmanuel Sanders late in the fourth quarter of the heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, he believes the 49ers should leave the door open for Tom Brady, in case the six-time Super Bowl champion wants to return to his Bay Area roots.

For numerous reasons, swapping the younger -- and currently superior -- Garoppolo for the considerably older, shadow of his former self that Brady is doesn't make much logical sense, and Barnwell even goes so far as to call the idea "silly", predicting there's a .01-percent chance of it happening. And yet ... cue the "Dumb and Dumber" meme.

So, as unlikely as it might be, how would Brady-to-San Francisco work? Barnwell suggested a potential trade between the 49ers and New England Patriots that would send Brady, the No. 23 and No. 85 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft to San Francisco for Garoppolo and the No. 31 overall selection.

While that would be fair from a trade value chart perspective -- and possibly free up considerable cap space for the 49ers -- Barnwell might have summarized it best.

"Brady will probably be a Patriots quarterback in 2020. Garoppolo will almost certainly be starting for the 49ers. Fun to think about, though."

The extensions

Given San Francisco's current cap situation, it's unlikely you'll see any big names being signed in free agency. That's because the 49ers have their own prominent free agents to sign ... before they hit free agency.

Tight end George Kittle is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is due to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of next season. The same goes for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Kittle is the best all-around player at his position in the NFL and Buckner isn't far off, so one would expect it would be an easy decision for San Francisco to sign them both to long-term extensions as soon as possible. Barnwell agrees, and thinks the only question is: How much?

Barnwell suggests Buckner could demand an annual salary in the $18-19 million range, which would slot him in between the Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald and the Atlanta Falcons' Grady Jarrett as the highest-paid players at his position. Buckner's fifth-year option will pay him $14.4 million in 2020, so that extension would provide an additional uptick in annual value.

Compared to Buckner, Kittle is due for a much larger increase. He'll make $735k in 2020 in the final year of his rookie deal, but whenever he signs his extension, it will surely reset the market. Barnwell expects Kittle to get a contract extension from San Francisco somewhere around $75 million over five years, which would be far and away the largest contract given to a tight end in NFL history.

Of course, Kittle isn't your average tight end. He is both a tremendous blocker and receiver, and has the stats to back it up. Due to the 49ers' success running the ball with Kittle on the field as a blocker, Barnwell suggested the possibility that Kittle might seek a contract according to a different position's pay scale, such as right tackle. If that's the direction Kittle chooses to go, the 49ers might have to bite the bullet and pay him much more annually than he would receive if he wasn't such a great all-around player.

[RELATED: 49ers' Shanahan, Lynch start to shift focus to 2020 season]

Saying goodbye

Believe it or not, NFL teams aren't (entirely) made of money. If the 49ers are going to keep both Kittle and Buckner long-term, that likely means they won't be able to do the same with some other players they likely would prefer to hang on to.

San Francisco enters the offseason with $19.6 million in projected cap space. More space could be generated by the release of players like Jerick McKinnon and Marquise Goodwin, but regardless, the 49ers likely will have to find less appetizing ways to shed some salary. With that in mind, Barnwell suggested that San Francisco not only let defensive lineman Arik Armstead walk in free agency, but also argued the team shouldn't pick up Solomon Thomas' fifth-year option.

First, Armstead. There's no question the 49ers would prefer to keep him. The former first-round pick is coming off a career-year in which he totaled 10 sacks and 18 quarterback knockdowns; players like that aren't a dime a dozen. But despite San Francisco's desires, re-signing Armstead won't come easy -- or cheap. "It would hardly be shocking if he came away with a four-year, $70 million contract [in free agency]," Barnwell wrote.

Armstead is the best of the team's free-agent defensive linemen, but the 49ers will have to decide if they want to allocate so much salary to one player, or if they'd be better off spreading it around to retain and build depth.

Thomas hasn't shown nearly as much promise as Armstead, and given that his fifth-year option -- if picked up by San Francisco -- would pay him the average of the top 10 players at his position, that should be an easy call for the Niners. Then again, if they let Armstead walk, perhaps that creates a larger need to keep Thomas around beyond this coming season.

49ers' Kendrick Bourne implores Matt Breida to re-sign for 2020 season

49ers' Kendrick Bourne implores Matt Breida to re-sign for 2020 season

Kendrick Bourne wants Matt Breida to follow in his footsteps.

The 49ers wide receiver signed his one-year tender Monday, ensuring he would return for the 2020 season. San Francisco placed second-round tenders on Bourne and Breida last month, and Bourne encouraged Breida to sign his, too.

Bourne and Breida joined the 49ers as undrafted free agents in 2017. The 24-year-old receiver scored a career-high five touchdowns in the 2019 regular season and caught 30 passes for 358 yards.

[RELATED: Why Jeudy could be just what 49ers want in 2020 NFL Draft]

Breida, meanwhile, largely lost his role in the 49ers offense by the end of the 2019 season. He ran a career-high 153 times for 814 yards in 2018, but Breida ran for nearly 200 fewer yards in 2019 as the running back ended the season behind Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman on the 49ers’ depth chart. Jerick McKinnon’s return could further crowd Breida out.

Bourne has been with Breida every step of their NFL careers, however, and he wants the running back to once again be his teammate this season.

2020 NFL Draft profile: Why Alabama's Jerry Jeudy is what 49ers need

2020 NFL Draft profile: Why Alabama's Jerry Jeudy is what 49ers need

Editor's Note: NBC Sports Bay Area will preview the NFL Draft with a look at the 49ers’ top needs, profiles of prospects that might be good fits, along with some hidden gems in the later rounds. In this installment, we profile Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Top NFL draft prospect Jerry Jeudy could be exactly what 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has been looking for. 

Shanahan has remained steadfast in his belief that you don’t have to be the biggest or fastest wide receiver to be the most effective and productive. There are several other qualities that remain higher on Shanahan’s list, and it appears that Jeudy checks most, if not all, of those boxes. 

Michael Locksley, Jeudy’s coach and offensive coordinator during the receiver's first two seasons with the Alabama Crimson Tide, spoke to NBC Sports Bay Area about the receiver’s unique talents.

[RELATED: Latest Mock: 49ers don't get Jeudy]

“Can’t say enough about his ability as a route-runner,” Locksley said. “I think with Jerry, it’s his ability and suddenness he has to get in and out of a break, whether it’s working back toward the ball which is the toughest breaks that receivers make, when they’re working back toward the quarterback.

“He has the ability to be full speed and drop his weight – or, as we say, sink his hips -- to stop on a dime, and he always gives the illusion of speed always at the top of the route but is able, without taking the little small steps you see people normally have to take to put his foot in the ground and change direction.”

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Leigh Steinberg of Steinberg Sports and Entertainment, who represents Jeudy, was equally impressed by his client’s route running. 

“He might be the best route runner that I’ve ever seen in college in my 40 years,” Steinberg told NBC Sport Bay Area. “He runs the most precise routes. He’s also very smart.” 

With precise route running and the ability to change direction on a dime, Jeudy is able to get separation, which Shanahan has repeatedly said is one of the most important aspects to being a receiver. 

Another trait that Shanahan looks for was exemplified by All-Pro tight end George Kittle and receiver Deebo Samuel throughout 2019: Gaining yards after the catch. 

“Tremendous run-after catch ability,” Locksley said of the Alabama receiver. “He is such a loose-limbed, loose-body guy. You watch him and his ability to make people miss is as good as I’ve ever seen.”

Steinberg noted that Jeudy has impressed him off the field as well, most notably when the Alabama star met Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice while in Miami for Super Bowl LIV. 

“The most impressive thing I’ve seen from him was how he interacted with Hall of Fame receivers while in Miami for the Super Bowl,” Steinberg said. “He asked Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin and Cris Carter what their secrets to longevity were. He’s bright enough to use his time with the best, to enhance his own performance.”

[RELATED: Simms: Jeudy not loved by all teams]

Jeudy was extremely productive in his three seasons at Alabama, catching 159 passes for 2,742 yards, 26 touchdowns and an average of 17.2 yards per catch. It is inevitable that he is a player that will have an impact on a team's offense. What the 49ers will do with the No. 13 overall selection in the draft, however, is much less certain.

NFL draft profile: Jerry Jeudy

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 193 pounds
College: Alabama
Career stats: 159 catches for 2,742 yards and 26 touchdowns

Combine measurables
40-yard dash: 4.45 seconds (11th among wide receiver class)
Vertical jump: 35.0 inches
Broad jump: 120.0 inches
20-yard shuttle: 4.53 seconds

What experts are saying
Mel Kiper, ESPN: “Jerry Jeudy is a precise kid, running routes, first out of his break. Reminds me a lot of Marvin Harrison.”
Todd McShay, ESPN: “I think he’s one of the best five players in the entire draft.”
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Media: "Bama WR Jerry Jeudy = smooth operator. He’s such an easy mover. Reminds me a little of Robert Woods coming out of USC. Same frame, same understanding/instincts."
Josh Norris, NBC Sports: "I know it’s easy to compare players from the same school, but it’s easy to see Calvin Ridley in Jerry Jeudy’s game."

Projected round: First (top 15 overall)