Free agent market justifies Brooks' value to 49ers


Free agent market justifies Brooks' value to 49ers

Before the unexpected retirements of Justin Smith and Patrick Willis last offseason – and months away from the abrupt end to Aldon Smith’s tenure with the 49ers – it appeared as if Ahmad Brooks’ career with the organization was winding down.

Brooks earned Pro Bowl recognition after the 2012 and ’13 seasons. But his status was in question after his production slipped to six sacks in 2014. Plus, at the time, his scheduled salary seemed exorbitant.

Brooks turned 33 on Monday. And while his sack total only rose from six in 2014 to 6.5 last season, it’s now difficult to view him as overpaid.

All indications are that Brooks’ spot on the 49ers is safe for at least another season, in part, because the 49ers simply do not have proven, young pass-rushers ready to usurp him on the depth chart. After the 2014 season, the 49ers lost so many of the team's core defensive players through unexpected attrition that they could not afford to part ways with Brooks.

Now, an argument is even there to be made that Brooks is underpaid.

The salary cap has risen more then $32 million since the eve of the 2014 league year. A salary de-escalator tied to Brooks' 2015 sack numbers reduces his scheduled salary this season to approximately $4 million.

As it turns out, based on the first couple days of NFL free agency, that is a bargain for a pass-rusher who can generate about a half-dozen sacks in a season.

After all, the New York Giants signed Olivier Vernon to a five-year contract that averages $17 million annually with $40 million fully guaranteed. The Raiders secured Bruce Irvin to a four-year deal at $9.25 million a year with $14.5 million fully guaranteed.

Vernon, 25, who had the luxury of playing on the same Miami Dolphins defensive front as Ndamukong Suh (not to mention seven games with Cameron Wake), recorded 7.5 sacks last season. Irvin, 28, broke into the NFL with eight sacks as a rookie. Since then, his numbers have fallen to two sacks in 2013, 6.5 in '14 and 5.5 last season.

Even if the 49ers were tempted to get younger and less-expensive at outside linebacker, they do not appear to have the luxury of casting aside Brooks right now.

Brooks and Aaron Lynch were far-and-away the 49ers' best pass-rushers last season. The team’s young linebackers, Corey Lemonier and Eli Harold, combined for zero sacks.

The 49ers could have made a splash in free agency and replaced Brooks. And, certainly, Vernon and Irvin are younger than Brooks and should have more seasons ahead of them. But they were far more expensive and not nearly productive enough to justify it.

Watch Kyle Shanahan's postgame speech after 49ers' win vs. Washington

Watch Kyle Shanahan's postgame speech after 49ers' win vs. Washington

Kyle Shanahan was quite pleased with his team's effort in San Francisco's 9-0 win over Washington on Sunday.

"We talked about making it our house, man," the 49ers coach said during his postgame speech in the locker room. "That was our house!"

It wasn't pretty, and how could it have been, given the unrelenting downpour and the mud that covered FedEx Field. But a win is a win, and Shanahan was happy to see his players get one last dip in the dirt after achieving victory.

"There was no cooler thing to me than watching 53 guys go sliding, doing angels across the field," he said of San Francisco's Slip-N-Slide procession.

The hard-fought win stood in contrast to previous successes, such as the 49ers' 24-point victory in Cincinnati in Week 2. Shanahan wanted his team to derive confidence from that knowledge, while also not losing sight of the ultimate goal.

"Guys we're just getting started, alright," Shanahan said in closing. "We can win a game in any way. We had seven starters out today. We bonded together, we'll get some back, but it doesn't matter. 

"This room, we've got something special. Let's keep this s--t going."

[RELATED: Panthers to start Allen at QB, not Cam, vs. 49ers in Week 8]

Next up for San Francisco is a home game against Carolina in Week 8. Safe to say, there won't be as much mud in that one.

Why Kyle Shanahan thinks 49ers' answers at wide receiver are on team

Why Kyle Shanahan thinks 49ers' answers at wide receiver are on team

Eight days before the NFL trade deadline, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that he does not feel as much urgency to add a veteran receiver in the middle of the season than in his previous two. 

“I think less (urgency) than we’ve had in the last couple of years because I do see that there are guys in our building that I do think the answers are here,” Shanahan told reporters Monday in Santa Clara, amid reports that the 49ers are in the market to add a wide receiver.

The 49ers played Sunday without rookie receiver Deebo Samuel, who injured his groin a week earlier against the Los Angeles Rams. Marquise Goodwin played just seven snaps before leaving with an injury Sunday. He was evaluated for a concussion but was cleared. Goodwin is not in the NFL’s concussion protocol, Shanahan said.

San Francisco also hopes to get Trent Taylor and rookie Jalen Hurd back later in the season. Both players are on injured reserve. They are eligible to return after sitting out eight games from the time they went on IR.

“It was tough not having Deebo last week and Marquise being a little bit banged up, we’ll get both of those two back,” Shanahan said. “The guys we have I still think can continue to get better. We’re still holding out hopes, too, for Jalen and Trent Taylor that they can heal up and hopefully return later this year.

“We’re always looking to improve, but I do like the guys we have here.”

[RELATED: 49ers, Raiders stand pat in power rankings following Week 7]

Tight end George Kittle is the 49ers' top pass-catcher with 34 receptions for 376 yards and one touchdown. Samuel leads the wideouts in receptions with 15 catches for 168 yards, while Goodwin has 11 catches for 181 yards. Samuel and Goodwin have one TD apiece. Kendrick Bourne had his best game of the season on Sunday with three catches for 69 yards in the 49ers' 9-0 victory over Washington.

Dante Pettis, a second-round pick in 2018, has not produced up to expectations. He has nine catches for 83 yards and one touchdown.