49ers

Deebo Samuel offers to help 49ers rookie Brandon Aiyuk's NFL transition

Deebo Samuel offers to help 49ers rookie Brandon Aiyuk's NFL transition

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and some of his offensive teammates were on a Zoom call Wednesday when the subject came up about getting together later in the offseason for some player-organized workouts.

NFL players have been unable to meet at team practice headquarters this offseason due to restrictions put in place with the COVID-19 pandemic. But as some states begin to loosen restrictions, there could be a time when such gatherings are allowed away NFL facilities.

“Jimmy told us where he was at, and a couple guys going back a little early,” Samuel said on a video call with reporters. “I’m out here in Houston training with ‘Jet’ McKinnon and a couple more guys.”

The transition to the NFL was difficult enough for Samuel a year ago when he reported to Santa Clara for a rookie camp. He was able to spend most of the offseason with the coaching staff. That is why when the 49ers selected Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk with the No. 25 overall pick, Samuel immediately reached out to 49ers receivers coach Wes Welker to get Aiyuk’s contact information.

“I knew how hard it is to be as good as you want to be in this offense, without thinking,” Samuel said. “I gave him a call and was like, ‘Hey, man, I just want you to know, it’s going to take time.’

“He’s got it harder than I do now. Because I was around the coaches and able to use the coaches as much as possible. With him, it’s just a Zoom call. It’s hard to listen to a guy telling you what to do and not being able to go out there on the field. I told him, 'You just have to lock in, pay attention.'"

Samuel said he told Aiyuk to feel free to call him, Kendrick Bourne or Welker any time he had a question about the team's sophisticated offense.

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Samuel got better and better as he got more and more comfortable in the 49ers’ offense during his rookie season. He caught 57 passes for 802 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season. He also rushed for 159 yards.

Veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders proved to beneficial to Samuel, on and off the field, after he came to the 49ers in a midseason trade. Sanders signed a free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints, leaving a leadership void. Samuel appears more willing to accept a greater role this season.

[RELATED: The one area 49ers WR Bourne is working on most right now]

Samuel also credited Garoppolo for the role he played in his fast development as a rookie.

“You see the things Jimmy does on the field, but more likely at practice,” Samuel said. “He coaches very hard, and it’s very technique-sound. Going into this year, I’m just trying to double what I did last year and keep getting better and better every day.”

Why Colin Cowherd would hire 49ers' Kyle Shanahan to coach his NFL team

Why Colin Cowherd would hire 49ers' Kyle Shanahan to coach his NFL team

There currently are 32 NFL franchises, and for the vast majority of us, at no point during our lives will we have any chance of owning one of them.

But, forget reality. What if you were able to purchase a team? Who would you hire as head coach?

Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd gave his answer to that question Wednesday, but first established the five criteria by which he would form his list of the top 10 coaches he'd want to lead his franchise. They were:

1. Age does not matter 
2. Easy to work with 
3. The less controversy, the better 
4. Innovative thinker 
5. Relates to players

Based on those criteria, Cowherd landed on 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan as his top choice (h/t 49ers Web Zone).

"I know he has had a couple of Super Bowl moments you don't love," Cowherd explained Wednesday on "The Herd," "but I think San Francisco was right. I think he's intense. I think he has got the lineage from his dad (Mike Shanahan). I think he has a system, but he is nimble enough to manipulate the system and listen to (general manager) John Lynch and others. I think he's obsessively driven, which is probably most of these guys.

"But if I start my franchise today, I get the (experience from his) dad, I get him, I get playoff experience, and I also think he has got a chip on his shoulder because he thinks he should have won that Super Bowl last year. And he thinks he should have won that Atlanta Super Bowl against New England when he was the [offensive coordinator]."

Though the 49ers don't have new owners, they clearly share similar feelings about Shanahan, having just recently signed him to a six-year contract extension. He led San Francisco to a nine-win improvement this past season, and already has made it clear the expectation is to get back to the Super Bowl for a second straight year.

[RELATED: Bryant Young knows 49ers in good hands with Shanahan, Lynch]

Should the 49ers accomplish that goal -- and prove victorious in Super Bowl LV -- what few criticisms there are of Shanahan no longer would be valid.

For reference, here is Cowherd's full list:

1. Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
2. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills 
3. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles 
4. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams 
5. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens 
6. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears 
7. Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins 
8. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma Sooners 
9. Urban Meyer, formerly Ohio State Buckeyes 
10. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

The elephant in the room at this point of the 49ers' offseason is the absence of a contract extension for standout tight end George Kittle. He is entering the final year of his rookie deal which will pay him $2.1 million, and is due to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.

After cementing himself as the best tight end in all of football over the last two seasons, Kittle's inevitable extension has long been expected to reset the market at the position. Austin Hooper currently averages the highest annual salary of any tight end after signing a four-year, $42 million contract with the Cleveland Browns in free agency earlier this offseason.

Estimates for what Kittle could average on his next contract have ranged as high as $20 million per season, but the real number likely is somewhere between there and Hooper's annual rate due to the expected drop in league revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Athletic's Matt Barrows reported Wednesday that someone "in the know" told him that Kittle ultimately would get a contract extension averaging $13 million per season.

That's a far cry from $20 million, but as Barrows noted, it still would make Kittle the highest-paid tight end by a fairly wide margin. Though Kittle probably is worth more than that, the salary-cap uncertainty caused by COVID-19 likely will rule out the possibility of a market-shattering contract. The unprecedented situation could result in a creative deal.

[RELATED: Report: NFL preseason halved; 49ers-Raiders game remains]

The Athletic's David Lombardi recently suggested that it might make sense for Kittle and the 49ers to come to an agreement on a contract that is partially tied to the size of the salary cap moving forward. 

"The 49ers can offer Kittle a guaranteed base annual salary or signing bonus before using a percentage-of-the-cap scale on top of that to pay him commensurate to cap increases in future years, when the NFL’s revenue outlook should be rosier," Lombardi wrote. "That's just an idea. But since this is uncharted territory, creative contract structures cannot be ruled out -- especially if they help break a potentially problematic impasse."

Creativity aside, if an agreement can't be reached on a contract extension, the 49ers would still have the ability to apply the franchise tag to Kittle -- which would pay him the average of the top five tight-end salaries -- for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. That option obviously wouldn't provide Kittle with the long-term security he likely desires, but there's ample motivation on both sides to get a deal done for San Francisco's most indispensable offensive player.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]