49ers

Former 49ers lineman Keith Fahnhorst, 66, passes away

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AP

Former 49ers lineman Keith Fahnhorst, 66, passes away

Keith Fahnhorst, who played 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and started on two Super Bowl-winning teams, died on Tuesday. He was 66.

Fahnhorst was among a large group of players from the 49ers’ first Super Bowl championship team that gathered at Levi’s Stadium in October in a celebration of Dwight Clark. Fahnhorst and Clark were teammates for the 49ers’ Super Bowl-titlle teams of 1981 and 1984. Clark passed away on June 6 from ALS.

Fahnhorst, who was in a wheelchair during his trip to the Bay Area last season, battled many physical ailments since his career ended in 1987. He was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and underwent a kidney transplant in 2002. Fahnhorst was also later diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

A second-round draft pick of the 49ers in 1974 from the University of Minnesota, Fahnhorst was a mainstay at right tackle as the organization struggled in the mid-to-late 1970s, then found success in the 1980s under coach Bill Walsh.

“Everybody knew they could count on Keith,” Walsh said in the 2005 book, “San Francisco 49ers: Where Have Gone?”

Fahnhorst appeared in 193 regular-season games, ranking behind only Len Rohde among offensive linemen in 49ers history. He started 170 games, including all 10 postseason games in which he appeared. He was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team and was selected as a first-team All-Pro after the 1984 season. He was a two-time winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award for best representing the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by the longtime 49ers offensive line coach.

Keith Fahnhorst and his younger brother, Jim, were 49ers teammates for the final four years of Keith’s career. Jim Fahnhorst, a linebacker, played for the 49ers from 1984 to 1990. Neither Keith nor Jim Fahnhorst played for any NFL team other than the 49ers.

Jimmie Ward playing for his NFL future even if it's not with 49ers

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USATSI

Jimmie Ward playing for his NFL future even if it's not with 49ers

SANTA CLARA — Before the bye week, coach Kyle Shanahan told the 49ers to think about what they wanted from the last six games of the season.

He implored them to think about their future, and if they really wanted to be a part of the team going forward. One player whose future is uncertain is defensive back Jimmie Ward. 

The 49ers picked up the fifth year option on his rookie contract, but he is one of the few remaining players from the Baalke era. While Ward is happy in Santa Clara, he knows he could be headed to another city after the season comes to a close. 

He understands that the NFL is a business, and that his future in football could be anywhere. He’s ok with that. 

“Doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m playing football,” Ward said. “I love the 49ers, I got drafted here. But at the same time, as I’ve been for five years, I’ve seen a lot change. And it’s going to change each year.” 

Ward’s indifference about his location is not nonchalance. He knows these final games are an audition for his future in the league.

He is playing for a roster spot. Maybe with the 49ers, or maybe with another team.

“It’s like preseason all over again,” Ward said. “That’s how I look at each game.”

[MAIOCCO: As season winds down, 49ers compile offseason shopping list]

Ward faced many challenges during his Niners tenure. For one, he was asked to play a variety of positions.

He played safety, then nickel and corner before finally playing safety again this season. Ward embraced the challenge, but safety is really the position he enjoys the most. 

“There’s a lot to lose, there’s a lot to gain,” Ward said. “Back at safety ... oh my God, it feels good to be back home. The spot where I played at college and I get to move around a lot too.” 

[CHAN: Kyle Shanahan sees Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida as lethal 49ers tandem in 2019]

Ward will also have to overcome his long injury history. He hopes the “freak accidents” are over, and that both he and fellow safety Jaquiski Tartt can finish out the season strong. They both finished the 2017 season on injured reserve, each with with broken forearm. 

Ward and Tartt both attended Davidson High School in Mobile, Ala. They support and motivate each other, but also want to "one up" each other as well. Ward said it's not just about who makes the big plays, but also who makes the least mistakes. 

The defensive back said he took Shanahan's message to heart. As the season winds down, though, Ward is motivated by his love of the game above all else. 

“Sooner or later I won’t be in the league anymore but football is still going to go on,” Ward said. “That’s just part of football. That’s the business side. So, I hear him, but regardless, if I’m on his team or not, I’m going to play hard. It’s just what I love to do. It’s football." 

49ers compiling offseason shopping list ahead of NFL free agency

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AP

49ers compiling offseason shopping list ahead of NFL free agency

Editor’s note: The 49ers break for the bye week with a 2-8 record. This is part of a series that recaps the first 10 games with an eye to the future. In this installment, we look at the 49ers’ early shopping list for 2019.

There have been few surprises, according to 49ers general manager John Lynch.

The obvious issues through 10 games of the season have not exactly prompted the team to rip up its plan for the future and re-organize its list of needs. Instead, the 49ers appear to have confirmed what it already suspected.

“I think it’s just been crystalized,” Lynch told NBC Sports Bay Area on the 49ers Insider Podcast, which you can download Tuesday.

“One thing these struggles have shown us very clearly, and what leaves me very encouraged where we’re going because we have a great understanding where we’re a little bit short, where we need to improve the talent of this team.”

The team’s most glaring weakness is with the pass rush, where the 49ers have DeForest Buckner as one of the NFL’s top interior players. The 49ers have generated no consistent pressure from their edge rushers.

The team’s personnel department is currently working on evaluations of the potential free-agent class at all positions, Lynch said.

“We’ve been focused on what’s going to be the free-agent class in 2019,” Lynch said. “We’ll be aggressive in that. And then we got to continue to make our draft choices matter and have an impact.”

[MORE 49ERS: Mike McGlinchey, Fred Warner lead way for 49ers' 2018 rookie class]

The 49ers are currently $36.5 million under the salary cap. That unspent cap money will roll over into next year, where the 49ers are expected to have nearly $70 million in cap space, according to overthecap.com.

The Kansas City Chiefs' Dee Ford could be the top edge rusher on the unrestricted market, if he is not locked up before the start of the March signing period. Ford, 27, has nine sacks, one of which came in Week 3 against the 49ers.

Ziggy Ansah (Detroit Lions), Jadeveon Clowney (Houston Texans), Demarcus Lawrence (Dallas Cowboys) and Dante Fowler (Los Angeles Rams) are among a list of other pass rushers who are scheduled for free agency. The 49ers made a recent bid to sign Bruce Irvin, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area, before he signed a deal for the remainder of the season with the Atlanta Falcons.

Nearly two months after the start of NFL free agency, the 49ers will have the opportunity to add some young talent in the draft.

If the 49ers’ slide continues, they will have the No. 1 overall pick. The top selection could be former Ohio State pass rusher Nick Bosa, who opted not to play this season in order to allow an injury to his core to fully heal before entering the 2019 NFL draft.

Edge rushers Clelin Ferrell (Clemson) and Josh Allen (Kentucky) could also be options within the top five or 10 of the NFL draft.

The 49ers could also seek big-money help at other areas of need, including the defensive backfield and wide receiver, where the options do not appear as plentiful.

Cornerbacks Bradley Roby (Denver) and Ronald Darby (Philadelphia) could be attractive on the free-agent market.

One big name who could be available for a trade is cornerback Jalen Ramsey, whom the Jacksonville Jaguars are likely to shop on the trade market, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. But Ramsey would come at considerable risk, along with the price tag of draft picks and a possible new contract.