49ers

How 49ers can compete with Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs after huge contract

How 49ers can compete with Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs after huge contract

Patrick Mahomes always will be "the one that got away." Not just for the 49ers, not just for the Chicago Bears, but for a handful of teams.

Mahomes somehow fell to the Kansas City Chiefs with the No. 10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and now he isn't going anywhere for a long, long time. Mahomes and the Chiefs agreed to a 10-year contract extension Monday, worth $503 million.

The 49ers, who owned the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft and selected Solomon Thomas after trading back one spot with the Chicago Bears, saw Mahomes' greatness firsthand on the brightest stage just five months ago. San Francisco forced Mahomes into two interceptions and sacked the 2018 NFL MVP four times. Still, that wasn't enough. 

Mahomes and the Chiefs trailed the 49ers by 10 points with just over six minutes remaining in Super Bowl LIV. They then scored 21 unanswered points, beating the 49ers 31-20. In the blink of an eye, Mahomes stole the Lombardi Trophy from Jimmy Garoppolo and the rest of the 49ers. 

While they don't play in the same conference, Mahomes staying in Kansas City for at least the next dozen years is a significant obstacle in the 49ers winning their first championship since the 1994 season. How can they compete with the Chiefs long-term for their own Super Bowl rings? Here are three keys to a tough task. 

Jimmy G's development 

This is where I put on my Captain Obvious hat. Yes, it all starts with Garoppolo, who was playing as good or better than Mahomes for much of the 49ers' Super Bowl loss. But Garoppolo fell short, there's no denying that. 

We also have to remember this was Garoppolo's first full season in Kyle Shanahan's system, one year after tearing his ACL. Yet he still led the 49ers to 13 regular-season wins while passing for nearly 4,000 yards, and completed 69.1 percent of his pass attempts. Garoppolo wasn't on Mahomes' level last season, but he was very good. 

The simple fact is Garoppolo ranked in the top five in the NFL in touchdowns (27), completion percentage and yards per attempt (8.4). He deserves more respect, and his coach feels the same way. 

“Jimmy was one of the better quarterbacks in the league (last) year, and there’s still a ton of room to grow, though,” coach Kyle Shanahan said during the 49ers’ State of the Franchise virtual event. “And he knows that. I know that. To have only one year in this league for him to do what he did is very exciting.

“I can’t wait to get started with him this year. And I expect him to get better and better each week.”

The 49ers have defended Garoppolo all offseason. He has his faults, sure. He also is one of the better QBs in the league. If the 49ers are to make multiple championship runs, Garoppolo has to continue developing his game. 

It all starts with Jimmy G. 

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

Re-sign George Kittle

The offense starts with Garoppolo, but Kittle might be the biggest cog in the machine. There's a reason why he was Pro Football Focus' highest rated player in the game last season. 

Kittle is football's biggest unicorn. He's part bruising offensive lineman and part bulldozing receiver. The tight end truly is the best of both worlds. He also is due for a huge payday. 

San Francisco's All-Pro is set to be a free agent after this season. The goal, however, is to never let him get there. His agent believes Kittle will be a 49er long-term, but it will take a hefty new contract.

“George is a very special player. He needs a special contract,” Bechta said to NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “And those things take time for both sides. It’s a nice problem for everybody to have.

“At the end of the day, I trust the Niners will do the right thing and take good care of George, as they should. But I trust the process. I won’t comment where we’re at, or numbers or anything like that. But hopefully it gets done.”

It has to get done. The 49ers are a Porsche with Kittle on the field, and a beat-up Honda Civic -- à la my own car that has become The City drivers' favorite target practice -- without him.

[RELATED: Lott believes Shanahan is 49ers' modern version of Walsh]

Keep Fred Warner long-term

For how important Kittle is to the 49ers' offense, Warner nearly has as big of an impact on the defense. He is the perfect hybrid linebacker in today's modern NFL, one who can actually slow down elite QBs like Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. 

In the Super Bowl alone, Warner put on a show. He had seven tackles, one pass defensed and intercepted Mahomes.

Warner has averaged 121 tackles through his first two seasons in the league. Even more importantly, he's dominant in defending the passing game. He already is among the best linebackers when it comes to breaking up passes, and had a 74.5 coverage grade across 1,166 total snaps last season. That was the fifth-best grade of any linebacker who played at least 1,000 snaps.

Through two seasons with the 49ers, Warner has three interceptions and 15 passes defensed. He also added three sacks and three forced fumbles last season. 

Warner, a 2018 third-round pick, is signed through the next two seasons. The 49ers have to keep him in the Bay Area for much longer.

Everything starts with Garoppolo and Kittle is the engine that makes the offense run. Warner, however, is at the forefront of a breed of linebackers who can change the game on defense, even giving stars like Mahomes headaches for years to come.

49ers mascot gets in on Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle T-shirt fun

49ers mascot gets in on Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle T-shirt fun

The bond between Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle is one to be admired. It's also one you want to be a part of.

The 49ers quarterback and star tight end have a close friendship, one that involves trolling via Zoom backgrounds and, of course, custom shirts with pictures of the other on them.

Garoppolo wore a shirt with a picture of Kittle on it when he arrived at training camp, and the 49ers' mascot Sourdough Sam apparently wanted to get in on the shirt action as he sported one with a picture of Garoppolo on it Sunday.

49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor, who also is close with Garoppolo and Kittle, felt a little left out when QB1 arrived wearing a shirt with Kittle on it. Kittle, naturally, had the appropriate response to Taylor's gripe.

Garoppolo and Kittle have become close friends during their time together in the Bay, but not good enough for Kittle to pick up Garoppolo's phone call after the tight end was named as the No. 7 player in the NFL by his peers. A missed call that Kittle rightfully was ribbed for.

[RELATED: Taylor shades 49ers' front office over George Kittle negotiations]

With Sourdough Sam in on the fun, now we just have to wait and see what Kittle is sporting when he arrives at the 49ers' facility.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
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NFL opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

NFL opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

As the sports world now is underway despite the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL is next up. There will be questions and concerns aplenty, too. 

Before training camp even begins, several players already have decided to opt out of the 2020 NFL season due to health concerns. That list is bound to grow as well.

Here is who will not be suiting up this season as the virus continues to run rampant. 

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, OG, Kansas City Chiefs

Duvernay-Tardif, who has a medical degree from and has been working as an orderly at a long-term care facility in his hometown of Montreal, Quebec during the pandemic, became the first player to opt out of the 2020 season. The Chiefs' starting offensive guard tweeted his reasoning on July 24. 


De'Anthony Thomas, WR/KR, Baltimore Ravens 

Return specialist De'Anthony Thomas voluntarily opted out of the season, the Ravens announced Monday. 


Chance Warmack, OG, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Media's Mike Garafolo reported Monday that Warmack has opted out of the season. Warmack, who signed with the Seahawks this spring, also sat out last season 


Maurice Canady, CB, Dallas Cowboys

Garafolo also reported Monday that Canady is opting out of the season as well. 


Marcus Cannon, OL, New England Patriots

Cannon, who battled non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2011, will not play in 2020.


Danny Vitale, FB, New England Patriots

Vitale and his wife recently had a baby, so the fullback will not be participating in the 2020 season.


Dont'a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots

Hightower, who has a two-week-old son, is choosing to protect his family's safety.


Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that Bolden is one of five Patriots to opt-out of the season.


Patrick Chung, S, New England Patriots

Add another Patriot to the list.


Najee Toran, OL, New England Patriots

Make that six Patriots. 


Marquise Goodwin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

The former 49ers receiver announced he will not play this season after the birth of his daughter in February.


Andre Smith, OL, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens announced Smith joined his teammate, De'Anthony Thomas, in opting out this year. 


Star Lotulelei, DT, Buffalo Bills

The Bills announced former first-round draft pick Star Lotulelei has opted out. 


Stephen Guidry, WR, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys annoinced undrafted rookie Stephen Guidry has opted out.


Devin Funchess, WR, Green Bay Packers

Funchess announced on Instagram that he has opted out of the season. 

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Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, Houston Texans

The former Raiders defensive lineman will not play in 2020.


Cole Wick, TE, New Orleans Saints

The veteran tight end will not play this season, according to NFL Media's Tom Pelissero.


Michael Pierce, DT, Minnesota Vikings

Pierce, who signed a three-year, $27 million contract this offseson, is high-risk and has opted out.


Nate Solder, LT, New York Giants

Solder opted out of the season, citing family's health concerns.

Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

The star of Super Bowl LIV has opted out of the season, the Chiefs announced.


Chandler Brewer, C, Los Angeles Rams

Brewer played seven games with the Rams after signing as an undrafted free agent last summer.

“With my history with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I am at high risk and will opt out of playing in the NFL this season,” Brewer said in a statement posted to the team’s website. “I would like to thank the Rams for their support and I look forward to getting back on the field in 2021 and beyond."

Marquise Lee, WR, New England Patriots

The USC product became a father for the first time in February, and cited his newborn daughter as a major factor in his decision.

"This is a big sit-down process I had, with me and my significant other, as far as family goes. The risk factor in which we believe that's going out there, it just wasn't worth it in a sense. Just too many unknowns," Lee told ESPN.com.

C.J. Mosley, LB, New York Jets

The four-time Pro Bowl linebacker is citing family health concerns as his reason for opting out, ESPN's Rich Cimini reported Saturday.


E.J. Gaines, CB, Buffalo Bills

Bills general manager Brandon Beane says the cornerback will sit out the 2020 season. 


Matt LaCosse, TE, New England Patriots

Matt LaCosse is the eighth Patriot to opt out of the season.


Da'Mari Scott, WR, New York Giants

The Giants were informed Sunday that wide receiver Da'Mari Scott has decided to opt of the 2020 season.

Geronimo Allison, WR, Detroit Lions

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday, citing a source, that Lions wideout Geronimo Allison has opted out of the 2020 season.

Christian Miller, OLB, Carolina Panthers 

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Miller has informed the Panthers he is opting out of the 2020 season.

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