49ers

49ers prepare for Super Bowl 54 by practicing to Will Smith's "Miami"

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49ers prepare for Super Bowl 54 by practicing to Will Smith's "Miami"

The 49ers are getting their Super Bowl game plan together. The team compared it to Christmas morning with a fresh packet of new plays to run in Miami against the Kansas City Chiefs.

In addition to the prep, the team needs to practice. For the most part, the players are saying they want to continue executing what they did during the regular season, but practices have a spicy new addition: the music.

The 49ers are taking their talents to South Beach, which naturally makes you think of Will Smith's famous 1997 hit, "Miami." The team embraced the song during one of its recent practices:

It's cute, yes -- and very appropriate for the big game.

No, you didn't ask for any suggestions to add to the Super Bowl playlist, but I will provide them anyway: 

- Enrique Iglesias: "Move to MIAMI" 

- Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine: "Conga"

- Pitbull: "Welcome to MIAMI"

[RELATED: Five moments that defined 49ers' journey to SB LIV]

Yep -- they can't head down to Miami without Estefan on their playlist.

The 49ers face the Chiefs on Feb. 2 in Super Bowl LIV. And it's nice to see that no matter how much work they have ahead of them, they're staying loose and relaxed heading into the big game. 

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).

49ers roster analysis: More receiver depth needed around Deebo Samuel

49ers roster analysis: More receiver depth needed around Deebo Samuel

This is the third installment of a 10-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.

Wednesday, a look at the 49ers’ wide receivers.

Under contract (signed through)

-Deebo Samuel (2022)
-Richie James (2021)
-Dante Pettis (2021)
-Trent Taylor (2020)
-Jalen Hurd (2022)
-Marquise Goodwin (2021)
-Chris Thompson (2021)
-Shawn Poindexter (2021)

As the 49ers look for ways to tighten up their cap situation, they likely will get out from under Goodwin’s contract, which is scheduled to pay him $4.5 million in salary and bonuses this season. Goodwin was placed on season-ending injured reserve in December.

Expiring contract

-Emmanuel Sanders (UFA)
-Kendrick Bourne (RFA)
-Jordan Matthews (UFA)

Sanders’ most recent contract paid him on average $11 million annually. OverTheCap.com has Sanders valued at $10 million for his next contract. That might be a bit steep for the 49ers, who would stand to gain a compensatory draft pick in 2021, if Sanders leaves for a sizable contract.

In 13 games with the 49ers, including the postseason, Sanders caught 41 passes for 573 yards and three TDs.

Bourne is a priority to bring back. He is scheduled to be a restricted free agent. If the 49ers are unable to sign him to a multi-year contract, the club will have a decision to make.

If they place an original-round tender of $2.1 million on Bourne, the 49ers would receive no compensation if another team signs him to an offer sheet and they decline to match. But if they raise the tender to a second-round level of approximately $3.3 million, they would be assured of keeping him or getting a second-round draft pick in return.

What needs to happen

Toward the end of the season, the 49ers clearly did not have a lot of trust in their depth at wide receiver. Samuel, Sanders and Bourne were the team’s top three wideouts. After that, they got zero production.

Pettis went three full months without catching a pass. He was inactive for Super Bowl LIV. Pettis finished his rookie season on a high note and looked good during the offseason program a year ago. His decline upon reporting to training camp was dramatic. He still has a chance to work his way back as a contributor, but it will take a major commitment on his part.

James generally did a good job as a return man, but he did not see much action on offense.

Taylor and Hurd were expected to be key players on offense last season, but neither played a snap during the regular season due to injuries that landed both on injured reserve. Taylor underwent five surgeries after sustaining a Jones fracture in his foot. Hurd never got back after a stress reaction in his back.

The 49ers must make a decision on how to approach contract talks with Sanders, who enjoyed his time with the club after arriving in a midseason trade from Denver. Bourne should be back. So the 49ers will have to decide if they’re comfortable with a depth chart that includes Samuel, Bourne, Pettis, Taylor, Hurd and James.

This is being hailed as a great draft for wide receivers, so the 49ers could look to add another young player. If they hold onto the No. 31 overall pick, the 49ers could look at receiver. Or a better strategy would be to trade back, acquire multiple picks on the second day of the draft, and add a promising young player at that point.

[RELATED: 49ers roster analysis: Running backs combine to make formidable group]

Expectations

The 49ers were not expecting Samuel to play as much as a rookie. They had no other choice but to keep him on the field. It was a learning process, and he made a lot of mistakes. But Samuel got better and better, and now he is being counted upon to take his game to a higher level in Year 2 as the team's top wide receiver.

Bourne is capable of being a starter. He just needs to show more consistency. If Taylor is healthy, he could end up as the 49ers’ leading pass-catcher. The 49ers did not have a true slot receiver who could get open quickly for Jimmy Garoppolo on third downs. Taylor is that player.

Hurd has the kind of versatility that excites coach Kyle Shanahan because of the strain he can put on defenses -- especially in no-huddle situations at the end of halves. Hurd can line up outside, in the slot, at tight end or in the backfield. Shanahan is good at dictating matchups, and Hurd will be valuable in helping the 49ers expose the weak link of defenses.

Pettis’ best attribute is his ability to run choice routes, in which he can set up a defender and break off his pattern to create maximum separation from the defender. Pettis has to better his durability and be willing to take those routes into traffic over the middle.

Whether it’s in the draft or free agency, the 49ers also would like to add a bigger wide receiver who can stretch the field and provide a target for Garoppolo in the red zone, too.

49ers expected to win 10 or fewer games in 2020 by Pro Football Focus

49ers expected to win 10 or fewer games in 2020 by Pro Football Focus

The 49ers went 13-3 in the regular season last year, barely edging out the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints for the top seed in the NFC playoffs. San Francisco should be good again in 2020, and certainly capable of contending for a playoff spot -- if not more. That said, there's reason to believe the Niners will have a worse record in the season ahead, even if they're not necessarily a worse team.

A few days after San Francisco's heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, early NFL season win totals were posted, and the 49ers were given an over/under of 10.5 victories. Pro Football Focus' Eric Eager recently examined some of his favorite values based on those early win total projections, and San Francisco's 'under' was among the select few.

"The 49ers are in a very similar place to where the Los Angeles Rams were a season ago," Eager wrote. "They have a great, young offensive mind, a quarterback who is good but needs infrastructure to succeed and a defense that was among the league's best, especially up front."

In explaining his reasoning for the under, Eager focused on some of San Francisco's pending free agents.

"With Emmanuel Sanders, Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward set to be free agents, and with only $13 million in cap space and a situation where the team likely needs to get better fundamentally just to stay the same, look for the 49ers to remain a good team in 2020 but, like the Rams, fall short of double-digit-win expectations against a schedule that includes non-NFC West opponents New England, Dallas, Buffalo, New Orleans and Green Bay."

That last bit is important, too. As part of the league's effort to create parity, the 49ers had a third-place schedule last season, after finishing in third place in the NFC West in 2018. That obviously won't be the case in 2020, as San Francisco will play a first-place schedule as the reigning NFC West champions. 

So, Eager brings up several good points. The 49ers will not only have a tougher schedule in the coming season, but also might be without one or more marquee players that helped them reach the Super Bowl. Add in the fact that San Francisco won't be sneaking up on any teams in the year ahead, and it's easy to understand why the Niners are expected to win fewer games in 2020 than they did in 2019.

However, I'd caution against comparing the 2020 49ers to the 2019 Rams.

Whereas San Francisco reached the Super Bowl with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo carrying a $20 million cap hit, Los Angeles did so while Jared Goff still was on his rookie contract, which carried a cap hit of just under $3 million. That's an extra $17 million the Rams could comparatively spread around their roster to build a Super Bowl contender that the 49ers didn't have.

This is why good quarterbacks on rookie contracts are so valuable.

Los Angeles ran into trouble once Goff's rookie contract concluded -- prior to the start of last season. He carried a $26 million cap hit this past season, and without that additional financial flexibility, the Rams had to cut costs elsewhere, which significantly deteriorated their overall depth. The end result? Going from Super Bowl runner-up to a 9-7 non-playoff team.

While the 49ers will have to make some tough decisions due to their salary-cap constraints as Eager noted, the space they have already has been accounted for their QB's large salary. Yes, they still need to re-sign some big-money players, but they should be far better able to retain the depth that made them so formidable than the Rams proved capable of.

[RELATED: Why 49ers seem to be in good shape at QB this offseason]

The odds are against San Francisco reaching at least 13 regular-season wins in 2020. That doesn't necessarily mean they'll be a worse team, though, and expecting a three-victory dropoff (or more) seems a bit extreme for a team that was minutes away from winning the Lombardi Trophy, and should return most of what made them so dominant.