49ers

49ers were not interested in class of free-agent receivers

watkins-sammy-yellow-49ers.jpg
AP

49ers were not interested in class of free-agent receivers

ORLANDO, Fla. – As a youngster, Kyle Shanahan kept a close eye on the Denver Broncos’ activity at the start of free agency.

Just like his wife quizzes him now about the 49ers’ interest in big-name free agents, Shanahan would yearn for his dad, former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, to lure well-known veterans to his team.

“I came home every night and we didn’t sign the top guys every single day, my wife’s disappointed and all the fans are,” Shanahan said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I know it’s exciting. I was the same way when my dad came home from work and they didn’t sign every free agent. I’d be disappointed.

“But it’s not always the best move. You have to make sure it’s the right fit and you have a role for him and they’re right type of people you’re going to build your organization around.”

The 49ers pinpointed two veterans they wanted to aggressively pursue and sign on the first day of the free-agent signing period, Shanahan said. They hit on both of their targets: center Weston Richburg and running back Jerick McKinnon.

The club did not pursue any wide receivers on the open market with such players as Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson and Kendrick Bourne already under contract. The 49ers are likely to invest a draft pick on a wide receiver to develop.

Shanahan’s offense with the Atlanta Falcons averaged nearly 34 points per game and quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 4,944 yards. The offense featured one of the top wide receivers in the game. But Shanahan said having a Julio Jones is a luxury, not a necessity.

“You definitely don’t need that,” Shanahan said. “If you ever have it, then keep it. It’s very fun to have and it’ll help you a ton. But that’s not something you need.

“You need guys who can beat man-to-man coverage. You need guys who are explosive enough to scare the secondary so it can open up your play-action game. And you need guys who can separate on third down. That doesn’t have to be a receiver. You’d like it to be all five of your eligibles -- three receivers, your tight end and your running back.”

Garçon was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before he sustained season-ending neck injury in the eighth game. Goodwin had a breakout season with 56 receptions for 962 yards, then signed a three-year contract worth nearly $19 million shortly after the season.

The 49ers were not interested in top free agents Sammy Watkins or Allen Robinson, who signed three-year contracts for $48 million and $42 million, respectively. Eleven other wide receivers signed deals that average at least $5 million per season.

“What you don’t want to do is have a bunch of guys who are OK but are paid like the best,” Shanahan said. “That’s where you get in trouble and have to stay away from in free agency. It’s usually why the draft is the best way to go.”

Shanahan said he shares the same vision as the 49ers’ front office, led by general manager John Lynch. He wants the 49ers built to last. The 49ers have 73 players under contract with more than $47 million in cap space.

The 49ers this offseason resisted the temptation to make splashy signings with an eye toward the future when they plan to re-sign some of their own younger players while also remaining flexible to acquire free agents who fill particular needs.

“I would love to win now and you do everything you can to win now, but you never do it at the expense of the future,” Shanahan said. “I’ve been in this league a long time and I think we’ve all waited a long time to have an opportunity like this. This isn’t something you go in recklessly and just try to make yourself look good right away. You try to make good decisions.”

How Dwight Clark's idea for 'Letters to 87' caught on with 49ers fans

How Dwight Clark's idea for 'Letters to 87' caught on with 49ers fans

Dwight Clark considered it a shared experience.

He came down with the most improbable, important and well-timed pass reception in 49ers history, but the impact of the play was more than he could have ever imagined.

The story of the NFL would be incomplete without a large section devoted to “The Catch.” But Clark always seemed to feel he was not alone as he leaped and fully extended his 6-foot-4 frame to make a finger-tips grab of Joe Montana’s pass on Jan. 10, 1982.

And, sure enough, the story of many lives would be incomplete without mention of Dwight Clark, too.

“The way he connected with the fans, personally, really brought them together,” Montana said. “Once you met Dwight, it was hard not to like him. His personality was fun, upbeat and jovial -- always.”

Through the years, Clark enjoyed hearing the perspectives and stories of fans -- many of whom had not yet been born when the 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game and went on to the organization’s first Super Bowl.

As Clark battled ALS, he made a request during the final interview of his life.

“I’ve often thought if I could get the word out somehow to get the stories, I should put a book together of the stories that these 49ers fans lived through at that moment,” Clark said on The 49ers Insider Podcast on Feb. 27. “Hopefully, long after I’m gone, 49ers fans will still enjoy that play and that year, that team that started it all off.”

The word got out that Clark wished to receive letters from the public, and his fans did not disappoint. The letters poured in. Some were hilarious. Some were emotionally moving. Some recounted the personal experiences of that day. Others described the wide-ranging impact that Clark’s play had on a life, a family.

Each of the letters conveyed a sense of love and appreciation for Clark as a player but, mostly, as an individual.

Clark died on June 4, 2018. Two weeks before that, a group of friends visited him at his ranch in Whitefish, Montana. The group sat around Clark’s bed and read letters to him for nearly two hours.

“Letters to 87,” a documentary that explores Clark’s unique bond with his fans, will premier on NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at approximately 8 p.m. (following Giants Postgame Live).

“He really seemed to understand from a fan’s perspective how it felt, what it was,” former 49ers teammate Keena Turner said. “And he seemed to really want the fans to walk away feeling good about the interaction in the moment.

“He felt a genuine love that came, and he wanted to reciprocate. He wanted the fan to understand that it was a shared feeling.”

The impact of listening to the letters was something Clark carried with him. Former 49ers owner and close friend Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. was not in the room that day, but he heard plenty about it from Clark himself.

“He was thrilled,” DeBartolo said. “Getting the letters made him very, very happy. He was sick, but he was just thrilled to know he wasn’t forgotten.”

Ronnie Lott was among the people in Clark’s bedroom on Sunday, May 20, when the letters were read to Clark.

“When he wanted fans to express their feelings, he was trying to capture the same feeling that he had when he did it and how did they feel?” Lott said. “Were they as excited as he was?

“When fans write their letters, there’s a spirit there. There’s a connection. That connection was something we can take for granted.”

49ers notes: Sherman works with Hopkins; McGlinchey's learning experience

49ers notes: Sherman works with Hopkins; McGlinchey's learning experience

HOUSTON -- Texans coach Bill O’Brien and 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not overlap while they were with the New England Patriots. But O’Brien saw plenty of Garoppolo last season in Week 14.

Garoppolo threw for 334 yards in his 49ers second start -- a 26-16 victory over the Texans. This week, the 49ers and Texans participated in two joint practices ahead of the teams' Saturday night preseason game.

“Good player,” O’Brien said in his assessment of Garoppolo. “Really quick release, good leader . . . accurate guy, really good guy, good person. It’s what you’re looking for at that position, just guys that are easy to coach, that want to be coached, that are obviously good players. It makes it a lot of fun to coach that position.”

O’Brien served as a Patriots offensive assistant for five seasons under coach Bill Belichick. O'Brien left after the 2011 season to become Penn State’s head coach. Garoppolo spent 3½ seasons with the Patriots, beginning in 2014, before being traded to the 49ers last year.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he expects Garoppolo to play “maybe a little more” in the 49ers’ second preseason game. Garoppolo started and played one series, nine snaps, and converted two third downs on pass plays last week against the Dallas Cowboys.

“I see it pretty similar to the first game,” Shanahan said. “We’ll feel it out. But he’ll probably go a little more. I wouldn’t expect much more.”

Sherman, Hopkins Work Together

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman did not take part in any competitive drills during the two 49ers-Texans practices as he continues to rehab from a hamstring strain. But he and Texans All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins spent time together after practice Thursday talking shop while Sherman mirrored Hopkins on some half-speed pass routes.

“I got a little work with Sherman at the end, just kind of go over some stuff that I need to work on,” Hopkins said. “It’s always good to up against a veteran guy because he can tell your weaknesses. He’s going to tell you after what you need to work on. So going up against guys like that, it helps me stay on top of my game.”

Hopkins’ work on Day 1 ended after one play when he and 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward got into a fight and were kicked out of practice. Hopkins and Ward almost immediately shook hands and seemed to put the incident behind them.

“It was basically a little game of tic-tac-toe,” Hopkins said. “It’s football. That’s my friend. That’s football. It’s nothing more than us just out here playing football.”

McGlinchey’s Learning Experience

The first time 49ers rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey lined up against Texans All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt, he was rudely tossed to the ground. As it turns out, McGlinchey had no idea what he was supposed to accomplish during that particular sequence. It was a one-on-one run drill -- something the 49ers never do.

“I don’t think guys were expecting that,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. “I know Mike had no idea. He was like, ‘One-on-one run? What do you do there?' I was like, ‘Just come off the ball as hard as you can, like the Oklahoma drill, old school.’

“It didn’t go well for him the first rep. You could see that. But he was awesome. He told me after that, ‘I was just like trying to focus and don’t get embarrassed because he’s pretty strong.’ I was like, ‘J.J.’s one of the best in the NFL, so, yeah, he’s going to be pretty strong.’ ”

All in all, McGlinchey appeared to fare well against Watt for the remainder of the snaps in which they were matched against each other.

“I thought it was good work for him,” Shanahan said. “I think he battled. He definitely lost some and definitely won some, so it was a good start for him.”

This ‘N’ That

Slot receiver Trent Taylor had two good days of practices, and he appears to be all the way back from offseason surgery to remove bone spurs from his lower back. “His cuts are becoming more decisive and efficient, and it’s nice having him out there,” Garoppolo said. . . Shanahan said he was not sure whether veteran running back Alfred Morris would play Saturday. Morris joined the team in Houston and took part in the two practices. Jeremy McNichols, Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson are likely to split the playing time with the team’s top two running backs, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, sidelined with injuries. . . . Joshua Garnett and Jonathan Cooper are expected to see their first playing time of the preseason, as they join Mike Person and Erik Magnuson in the competition for the starting right guard job. Shanahan said the practices are equally as important as the games in evaluating the competition. “Every day that we put on pads and go against someone, it’s all equal,” he said.