49ers

After Garoppolo signing, what's next for 49ers?

After Garoppolo signing, what's next for 49ers?

Now, Phase II of the 49ers’ offseason plan begins.

The 49ers have accomplished their No. 1 priority: Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is locked up on a five-year contract, through the 2022 season, on a deal that could pay him up to $137.5 million.

The first problem is solved. Now what?

The 49ers next priorities are to support Garoppolo – protect Garoppolo.

It’s funny how this works, but the offensive line looked a lot better after Garoppolo, with his pocket presence and quick release, took over as the team’s starting quarterback for the final five games of the season.

Still, the line will require a lot of attention in free agency and, six weeks later, when the NFL draft begins.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ situation on the offensive line:

Left tackle
Joe Staley earned his sixth trip to the Pro Bowl. And, yes, he earned it. After a rough start to the season, Staley had a midseason talk with coach Kyle Shanahan. He got refocused, re-energized and ended up playing at a high level in the second half of the season.

Staley turns 34 just before the start of the season. He will be entering his 12th NFL season. He feels good physically and mentally, and he believes he can play at a high level for multiple seasons.

The 49ers have every reason to look at the upcoming season with no concerns about the starter who is entrusted with protecting Garoppolo’s blind side.

Right tackle
Trent Brown is an immensely talented individual. But he underwent shoulder surgery and still faces a lengthy offseason rehabilitation. Moreover, Brown faces an uncertain future with the 49ers beyond this season.

Brown is eligible to sign a contract extension this offseason. However, it is a long shot that will occur. Brown could command a big pay day. His next contract – either from the 49ers or another NFL team – is likely to be a huge deal.

The 49ers have enough questions about Brown’s future that it does not appear likely they will produce an attractive-enough contract offer that locks him up for multiple seasons. And in the expected event Brown is allowed to hit the open market as a free agent a year from now, it can be assumed that some team will throw big bucks at him.

Therefore, it would be wise for the 49ers to head into this season planning for a year from now. Due to Staley’s age and Brown’s contract status, the 49ers have to look to the not-so-distant future when considering their depth at both offensive tackle positions.

Left guard
As the season went on, the 49ers saw a lot of reason for optimism for the future of Laken Tomlinson. Remember, he did not have the benefit of the offseason program or training camp in the 49ers’ system. The 49ers acquired Tomlinson in a trade with the Detroit Lions after the final exhibition game.

Zane Beadles started the first game at left guard, then Tomlinson took over and started the final 15 games. It was rough at the beginning but steadily got better. Tomlinson has talent – as evidenced by the Lions’ decision to select him with the No. 28 overall pick.

Tomlinson, who enters the final year of his rookie contract, is eligible for an extension, but the 49ers might want to see more from him in the offseason program before making that commitment.

It’s not that Tomlinson is guaranteed a starting spot for 2018, but at least the 49ers feel they have a player who has a chance to be a solid performer once he is comfortable, plays naturally and does not overthink what he’s doing.

At the same time, the 49ers have a lot of flexibility. The 49ers can be expected to have salary-cap space of $85 million or so even after the numbers come in on Garoppolo’s contract. If they want to pursue a top guard, such as Carolina free-agent guard Andrew Norwell, they have the resources.

Right guard
Veteran Brandon Fusco gave the 49ers what they wanted last season. And, like the rest of the offensive line, his play got better later in the season. Then, there’s Joshua Garnett, a first-round draft pick in 2016.

This is the spot that figures to have the most competition. Fusco is scheduled to be a free agent. Garnett will not be given anything. If Garnett wants to become the starter, he will have to earn it. The 49ers are not sold on Garnett. He will have to prove himself in order to open the season as the starter. And he will unquestionably face stiff competition.

The 49ers could use an early draft pick on one of the top tackles and break in that player slowly at guard before ultimately transitioning him to one of the tackle positions. On Day 2 or 3 of the draft, the 49ers could target a player such as Humboldt State’s Alex Cappa to compete for a starting spot on the inside.

Center
Daniel Kilgore is scheduled for free agency. The 49ers talked about a contract extension with him during the season, but those discussions never got very far.

Kilgore is a favorite of the coaching staff for his ability to absorb and disseminate the offensive plan and line calls to his teammates. Garoppolo works well with him, and they seemed to form a very strong bond and trust in a short period of time. Kilgore was named the winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award for exemplifying the dedication, excellence and commitment of the long-time offensive line coach.

One line of thinking is that Kilgore is solid, and the 49ers could bring him back without a blockbuster deal and then work to improve the guards. That would take some weight off Kilgore’s shoulders and allow him a better opportunity to thrive.

In any event, the 49ers appear determined to increase the competition along the offensive line. All positions must be earned, as the 49ers look to protect their $137.5 million investment.

T.O. 'not actively seeking' NFL return, expounds on Hall of Fame decision

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AP

T.O. 'not actively seeking' NFL return, expounds on Hall of Fame decision

Terrell Owens still is showing off the kind of spectacular shape he is in, even at 44 years old. Just look at his social media pages, and you'll see T.O. working out with today's NFL stars and running a blazing 40-yard dash. 

Even though he's about to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is Owens looking to make a comeback? 

On Tuesday, Canada-based agent Jason Staroszik told TSN and ESPN that T.O. "100 percent" wants to play football again. On Wednesday at the ESPYS, the former 49ers wide receiver clarified his comments. 

Owens says he isn't "actively seeking to get into the NFL," but he did say he would entertain other opportunities with football, including the CFL. 

"I know that I do have the ability to play," Owens said, via ESPN.com. "I know everybody sees the shape that I'm in. There's a lot of athletes that play their prospective sports, but there are few guys that defy the odds. I think I'm one of those guys.

"It's unfortunate that I haven't been able to continue my career, but again, I'm not actively seeking to get into the NFL; but again, if there's an opportunity for me to play, then yeah, I will entertain that, as well as the CFL."

The hot topic with Owens lately has been his decision to not attend the Hall of Fame ceremony. Instead of being in Canton, Ohio next month, Owens will make his own speech at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"It's always unfortunate, and people have a lot to say when someone does something different, but what I'm doing is not wrong," he said.

Owens said he has been working every day on his acceptance speech. As far as what went into his decision to not attend the ceremony, Owens looked to legendary basketball coach John Wooden. 

"For me, I think, overall, everybody's obviously wondering what went into my decision," Owens said. "I think John Wooden said it best: 'Be more concerned about your character than your reputation.' I think what the noise is right now is more about my reputation than my actual character.

"They're making the narrative more so about me offending the Hall of Famers, and that has nothing to do with it. I respect all of those Hall of Famers that have gone in before me and going in with me and after me. It has nothing to do with those Hall of Famers."

Greg Cosell believes this 49ers player is poised for a breakout season

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AP

Greg Cosell believes this 49ers player is poised for a breakout season

With the 146th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected ...

George Kittle.

The tight end from Iowa had a solid rookie season, racking up 43 catches for 515 yards and two touchdowns.

On the latest episode of the 49ers Insider Podcast with Matt Maiocco, NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell was talking about Kyle Shanahan and Rams head coach Sean McVay. And then, unsolicited, Cosell pivoted the conversation to Kittle.

"You know, I think one player we should mention who I really liked coming out of college -- and I know he fought some injuries last year, but I think that he has a chance to be a really meaningul part of this offense -- and that's George Kittle," Cosell said. "I think George Kittle is a really good tight end who can do a lot of things.

"He can line up and be a really good blocking tight end -- and obviously we know that Kyle's offense does start with the run game. I think he's more athletic than people probably give him credit for.

"I remember studying him coming out of Iowa and looking at some of his combine measureables -- some were superior to those of OJ Howard from Alabama, and I think people would be surprised by that.

"In this offense, he might not catch 80 balls, but he might average 14, 15 yards a catch, and for a tight end, that's pretty darn good."

Kittle had his best game in the season finale, making four catches for 100 yards at the Rams.