49ers' plans at edge rusher impacted by how teams use franchise tag

49ers' plans at edge rusher impacted by how teams use franchise tag

The 49ers have a glaring need at the edge rusher position, which makes it a good thing for the organization that this year’s class of draft prospects is particularly deep.

As the window to use the franchise tag nears, there has been a flurry of teams locking up their top pass-rushers, as Lynch predicted at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

“As I’ve learned,” Lynch said, “typically those guys get what Robbie Gould got, and they never reach the market. They get franchised, the good ones.” 

Lynch also explained that while the best prospects can be game-changers once they reach the field, you know what you’re getting with free agents. 

“Obviously the one thing about free agency is that you’ve seen them at our level," Lynch said. "So, if you feel confident and you have room, and you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for or you have other needs in the draft, that’s the thing you weigh back and forth. 

“That’s a constant conversation that’s ongoing. Every team has them and we’ve certainly been having those as well.”

As the combine came to an end, notable players were announced as being tagged. Seattle’s Frank Clark, Kansas City’s Dee Ford, Dallas’ Demarcus Lawrence and Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney have all been tagged. Philadelphia’s Brandon Graham signed an extension. 

There are still a few intriguing free-agent pass rushers available. Chiefs veteran pass rusher Justin Houston, 30, is reportedly on the trade market or could be released. The four-time Pro Bowl player recorded a league-high 22 sacks in 2014. After two injury-plagued seasons, Houston recorded at least nine in each of the last two seasons. 

Houston's expected availability gives the 49ers -- and other teams in need of a pass rush -- another option on the veteran market.

Detroit defensive end Ziggy Ansah is another free agent who the 49ers could have interest in. He has connections to new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek from his time with the Lions and he was drafted by vice president of player personnel Martin Mayhew. His injury-riddled past three seasons, however, could be a deterrent.

Ansah earned a trip to the Pro Bowl after recording 14.5 sacks in 2015. Ansah had 12 sacks in 2017, but injuries limited to two and four sacks in 2016 and '18, respectively.

Los Angeles Rams edge rusher Dante Fowler is also slated for free agency. He has connections to the 49ers having played with Jacksonville under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. The third overall pick of the 2015 draft has yet to reach his potential, but is still an interesting option. 

With such a deep draft class, the 49ers do not feel the pressure of getting a deal done with a free agent that could have a high price tag. Lynch detailed the options they are weighing. 

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“I would tell you that it’s a great year to be looking for D-Linemen in general,” Lynch said. “I hear people talking, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, but they’re talking eight years, this is as strong of a class as the last eight years at the defensive line. 

“I concur. It’s not just exclusively at one position. There’s inside guys, there’s outside guys and you’re right, there’s some on the free agent market.” 

George Kittle's agent 'very patient' in 49ers contract negotiations

George Kittle's agent 'very patient' in 49ers contract negotiations

George Kittle still is under contract for one more season. The record-breaking tight end will wear a 49ers jersey in the 2020 season, however, the front office already is thinking of how to keep him in San Francisco for years to come.

Kittle is set to earn a base salary of $2,144,000 this upcoming season. Soon, that will be a tiny slice of his contract. The 49ers must sign Kittle to a multiyear contract, and soon. His agent, though, will take his time when it comes to negotiations. 

Kittle's agent, Jack Bechta, told The Athletic's Matt Barrows at the NFL Scouting Combine that he will be "very patient" in getting Kittle the right kind of contract. 

“He’s the poster child of culture for that team, of the type of player they want on that team,” Bechta said to Barrows in Indianapolis.

Kittle is the best player on the team. That isn't changing any time soon. The former fifth-round draft pick was voted first-team All-Pro last season and isn't slowing down. He's the rare combination of size and speed, who is just as excited to block as he is to catch a touchdown pass. 

As of this publishing, Kittle is scheduled to be the 49ers’ 31st highest-paid player for the 2020 season. That soon won't be true. No matter how patient Bechta is, it seems reasonable to expect Kittle to become the highest paid tight end in football, and should make well over $10 million annually.

[RELATED: Kittle's secret to Shanahan's wife gets back to 49ers coach]

Kittle has gone from the steal of the 2017 draft, to perhaps a top-five player in the NFL. He and his agent should both wait until the 49ers back up the Brinks truck. 

It's certain that Kittle is about to get paid. Big time. It just might not happen right away.

NFL Draft 2020: Baylor's Denzel Mims believes his skills match with 49ers

NFL Draft 2020: Baylor's Denzel Mims believes his skills match with 49ers

INDIANAPOLIS -- General manager John Lynch believes the 49ers have built a culture that is attractive to veteran players who have their choice where to play.

Under coach Kyle Shanahan, they also have built an offense that makes young skill players want to play for the 49ers, too.

There is no shortage of talented wide receivers in the 2020 draft class, and the 49ers figure to take advantage of the abundance of talent at some point. There are receivers to fit every profile. The 49ers could certainly use a player who is big, fast and a threat in the red zone. Oh, yeah, he also has to be a willing blocker.

Baylor receiver Denzel Mims fits the profile of a player whom the 49ers covet for their offense. And Mims believes he would be a perfect match for the 49ers’ offense, too.

"I love it. I feel like I fit in good with that type of offense,” Mims said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “They want to block. I'm going to go block. If they want me to catch the ball. I'm going to go catch some balls. Whatever they want me to do, I'm going to go do it."

Mims has the size at 6-foot-2 7/8 and 207 pounds. He ran a blazing 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Shanahan values fluidity and change of direction, and Mims has that, too. His time of 6.66 seconds in the three-cone drill was nearly 3/10th of a second faster than anyone else at the combine.

He also produced on the field. In his final three seasons at Baylor, Mims averaged 60 receptions for 967 yards and nearly 10 touchdowns.

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Shanahan always has considered the team’s wide receivers a big part of the running game with an importance placed on their willingness and ability to block. Mims checks that box, too.

"I had seen that it would separate my game from a lot of receivers in this league, and, so, I took pride in it,” Mims said. “And I knew that if I were elite at that, then I'd be an elite receiver.

"I take blocking very serious. I feel like you have to run the ball in this game. You can't just pass every single down. And, so, if I open up the blocking game, it will open up the passing game. And, so, if I block for my teammates, then they'll block for me and the quarterback so I can get the ball.”

Mims does not shy away from contact. He said his favorite route is the slant, which he works the middle of the field and has the ability to make a defender miss for a big gain.