The 49ers are not really in it, but they’re not out of it, either.
You know when playoff-contending teams are shown on TV this time of year and inevitably the network flashes on your screen a look at the conference playoff picture? Such was the case Monday night when the L.A. Rams played the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Well, the 49ers (4-6) were not even listed among the group of those just outside the playoff picture. Right now, they are considered an afterthought.
If the 49ers run the table, they will be in the playoffs. It is wholly possible the 49ers could go 5-1 the rest of the way and be in the playoffs, too.
Obviously, the Vegas odds of that happening are not in their favor. But we will deal with that a little later during this edition of 49ers Overreactions.
Before we look ahead just a little, let’s look ahead about four months:
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is on the books to make $25.5 million in 2021 in salary and bonuses. The salary cap is expected to drop approximately $20 million next year due to revenues lost this season during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The 49ers could save $24.1 million on the cap if they move on from Garoppolo.
That move would enable them to make a dent in re-signing some their scheduled free agents, as well as adding pieces from outside the organization.
But, obviously, if the 49ers decide to cut costs with the difficult decision to replace Garoppolo, they would still have to replace Garoppolo. And that will require some dollars, too.
The 49ers will save costs with the departures of some players already under contract, such as Dee Ford ($6.4 million savings) and center Weston Richburg ($4.9 million).
But they will still face challenges to keep a large portion of the roster together.
After all, here is a list of the players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents:
Trent Williams, Richard Sherman, Solomon Thomas, Jaquiski Tartt, Kyle Jusczyk, Tevin Coleman, Kendrick Bourne, K’Waun Williams, Jason Verrett, D.J. Jones, Ronald Blair, Kerry Hyder, Jerick McKinnon, Jordan Reed, Ben Garland, C.J. Beathard, Trent Taylor, Dontae Johnson and Ahkello Witherspoon.
Some of those players, the 49ers will not make any attempt to re-sign. Others, they will desperately want to re-sign.
And here is a list of restricted free agents:
Jeff Wilson, Ross Dwelley, Nick Mullens, Emmanuel Moseley and Marcell Harris.
Bringing back any of those players will not cost a lot, but it each would receive a nice bump in salary.
Plus, linebacker Fred Warner is basically in the same contractual position as George Kittle was a year ago.
Warner is now eligible to negotiate a long-term contract extension. It is reasonable to think he will not take the risk of stepping on the field again after this season without a new contract that will pay him in the neighborhood of Kittle-type money ($15 million a year).
Ultimately, you’re correct, the 49ers must make the decision of whether they are getting the best value for their dollar with Garoppolo or whether those dollars can be put to better use elsewhere.
We agree the 49ers’ offense will be getting some key individuals back as early as Week 12 against the Rams. Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Deebo Samuel top the list.
But the 49ers are still going to take the field for the foreseeable future with a backup quarterback. As much as Garoppolo’s future beyond this season might be in question, there is little doubt he is clearly the team’s best quarterback.
So there’s that.
Also, as we see it, the biggest issue surrounding the 49ers now and for the remainder of the season is their pass rush. It is difficult to win games without a pass rush, and the 49ers have no pass rush.
Also, there’s also uncertainty with defensive linemen Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Jones and Jordan Willis being on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Overreaction? Yes, but . . .
Obviously, the free-agent signing of running back Jerick McKinnon did not work out. But the circumstances were beyond anyone’s control. I place it in the category of “bad luck,” rather than a bad signing.
If anything, McKinnon is showing this season exactly why coach Kyle Shanahan wanted him. We can only assume that McKinnon’s torn ACL and the complications from surgery that sidelined him for two full seasons left him this year as a diminished player.
Still, he is putting together a solid season with nearly 300 yards rushing, 25 receptions and a team-leading six touchdowns.
McKinnon missed only one game in his three seasons prior to signing with the 49ers. So it is not as if they were getting a player known to be injury prone. Shanahan had designed a large portion of the offense in 2018 to feature McKinnon’s skills to force defenses into the dilemma of how to defend the middle of the field in passing situations.
But those plans were pushed aside when McKinnon went down with the injury. (He missed all of 2019 when the graft in his bone did not fill in as expected after surgery.)
There is no denying the recent free-agent signings of McKinnon, Weston Richburg, Malcolm Smith and Kwon Alexander did not work out due to injuries.
But you’re also familiar with Antonio Langham, Gabe Wilkins, Nate Clements, Jonas Jennings, Brandon Jacobs and Lawrence Phillips, right?