49ers rookie Mitch Wishnowsky withstands Levi's Stadium winds in debut

49ers rookie Mitch Wishnowsky withstands Levi's Stadium winds in debut

SANTA CLARA — Saturday wasn't the first time rookie punter Mitch Wishnowsky kicked in Levi's Stadium, but prior to the preseason opener he hadn't yet seen what the winds were capable of in person.

Wishnowsky reported having been on the field in Levi’s to practice punts and kickoffs during the offseason but noted that there was no wind at the time. During pregame warmups prior to facing off with the Cowboys, all of the flags around the stadium were moving significantly. 

There was quite a bit of skepticism from 49ers fans when the organization drafted Wishnowsky in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. As information has spread about his hang time and accuracy during training camp, fans have started to change their opinion of the choice. In his preseason debut, the rookie might have won over a few more fans. 

Wishnowsky fielded six punts for 297 yards with an average of 49.5 yards per punt. After returns, his net distance average was 42 yards. Wishnowsky’s longest kickoff of the game went 64 yards and nearly stopped before the end zone but rolled in for a touchback. 

After the game, coach Kyle Shanahan expressed approval of his rookie punter but noted that his performance wasn’t perfect. 

“From what I saw out there, I thought we punted very well,” Shanahan said. “I know that one kick, he hooked it left a little bit too far and got out of bounds. You don’t want to see that.” 

The kickoff that Shanahan was referring to, even though it went out of bounds, did so at the one-yard line. Wishnowsky booted the ball 64 yards before it rolled out of play. His remaining two kickoffs went 60 and 65 yards and stayed in bounds. 

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While his first outing in Levi’s was predominantly successful, Shanahan couldn’t help himself from giving Wishnowsky a little bit of a hard time about the sleeve length of his jersey. 

“Hopefully we can get him to hem up his sleeves a little bit. He looked awkward in a jersey. I’ll talk to [equipment manager] Jay Bird [Brunetti] about that. But, obviously, room to improve, but I like having him out there.” 

NFL rumors: 49ers' DeForest Buckner rejected contract extension last offseason

NFL rumors: 49ers' DeForest Buckner rejected contract extension last offseason

Atop the list of 49ers' offseason priorities sit the prospective contract extensions for tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Both players are entering the final year of their current contracts and rank among the best talents at their respective positions throughout the entire NFL.

San Francisco selected Buckner with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and he has served as the keystone of the defensive line ever since. He was a critical part of the 49ers' run to Super Bowl LIV, and the team reportedly tried to lock Buckner down for the foreseeable future before the journey to Miami it even got started.

The Athletic's John Middlekauff reported Monday that San Francisco offered Buckner a lucrative extension last offseason, which he ultimately turned down.

"I was told that last year they made a very aggressive offer to him," Middlekauff said on "The Haberman and Middlekauff Podcast." "We're talking in the $60 million range ... Fletcher Cox, years ago, got $63 [million]. They offered less than that, and he said no."

However, Buckner recently took to Instagram to argue against Middlekauff's report.

"When did we start believing everything on the internet," Buckner commented.

Entering his age-25 season in 2016, Cox signed a six-year contract extension with the Philadelphia Eagles for $63.3 million guaranteed. Buckner will turn 26 in March, and one could argue he was more productive over his first four NFL seasons than Cox was. Yes, Cox forced two more fumbles than Buckner, but the 49ers' standout started six more games, deflected nearly twice as many passes, recovered one more fumble and totaled 6.5 more sacks.

For that reason, combined with inflation and the fact that the salary cap has risen since Cox signed his extension, it wouldn't be surprising if Buckner sought a higher guaranteed total from San Francisco -- and received it. 

[RELATED: 49ers want to bring everyone back, but know it'll be tough]

Whether or not he already has turned down such an offer is anyone's guess. But it shouldn't be long before we find out exactly how much is guaranteed on Buckner's next deal.

One thing is certain: It's going to be a lot.

49ers face offseason of difficult roster decisions with veteran players

49ers face offseason of difficult roster decisions with veteran players

INDIANAPOLIS -- Coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the 49ers would like a do-over this year with the same players who suited up for the club during the 2019 season.

But for the first time since taking over as the main decision-makers with the organization, general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan will not be able to keep all of the players they would like to bring back.

The 49ers finally have enough talent on their team where they simply will not be able to afford to retain all of their players this offseason.

“This is the first time that I want every single person on our team back because I think we have a team that can win a Super Bowl,” Shanahan said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I think we showed that last year. So, whenever you have that, it is really tough. When have you ever been able to bring back the exact same team no matter where you’ve been?

“So that is a lot harder, especially with our cap situation. So it is cool to know that that’s what we want and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The 49ers have a projected $13.1 million salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com.

The first three offseasons for Lynch and Shanahan consisted of determining the players who did not fit into the future, along with collecting individuals who could provide upgrades. After finding the right formula and experiencing success in 2019, it now becomes impossible to keep everybody around.

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead had a breakout season with a team-leading 10 sacks during the regular season, as well as two more in the postseason. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency and a big payday. If the 49ers are unable to work out a multi-year deal with Armstead, they have the option of placing the franchise tag on him at the cost of approximately $19 million for one season.

“With respect to Arik, that is an option on the table,” Lynch said of the franchise tag. “We haven’t made that decision, yet. But it is an option at our disposal. We’ll see where that goes.”

The 49ers also would like to re-sign wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and safety Jimmie Ward, but it might not be possible with big money deals being set aside in the near future for tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

“There are so many connecting parts on that with people who are up now and people who are up later,” Shanahan said. “Are you just trying to do it for one year -- just sell the farm for one year -- or have your best chances over a two- or three-year span?”

Shanahan said those are the questions that a club has to continually ask itself while constantly re-evaluating the plan based on the level of contracts it requires to retain or acquire players. The 49ers might not be active on the free-agent market, but Lynch said he believes the 49ers have gotten to the point where they are seen as a destination for veteran players.

“We have a lot of real talented players,” Lynch said. “I suspect in free agency, whether we’re big players or not, I think we’ve become a place that people want to be. So that’s a great thing. We’ve worked hard for that.”

[RELATEDGeorge Kittle's secret to Kyle Shanahan's wife gets back to 49ers coach]

While Shanahan and his staff begin the process of poring over film and evaluating the entire season, the management team will attempt to work with agents to ensure there is as little turnover on the roster as possible. The unsettled collective bargaining agreement is also a complication in contract talks.

Running back Jerick McKinnon and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin face uncertain futures with the 49ers due to their sizable contracts. The 49ers also have to make decisions on restricted free agents, such as running back Matt Breida, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and linebacker Elijah Lee. The 49ers have yet to finalize decisions on those playeers, Lynch said.