49ers

How 49ers' offense shapes up after free agency, before draft

49ers

The 49ers successfully locked in their top free agents on the offensive side of the ball. 

Re-signing left tackle Trent Williams and fullback Kyle Juszczyk to multi-year contracts were the most important goals. The club also brought back reliable and productive performers in tight end Ross Dwelley and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. 

The 49ers additionally looked outside of their own team to fill voids on the roster. With Weston Richburg’s return very unlikely, the 49ers signed veteran center Alex Mack, who is familiar with Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme from their time together with the Atlanta Falcons. 

Now that the 49ers have moved up to the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the likelihood that they add a free-agent quarterback is slim. General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have been adamant that they have no plans to trade Jimmy Garoppolo while being transparent about drafting a quarterback

Offensive players who were signed by other teams include receiver Kendrick Bourne, who received a three-year deal with the New England Patriot, and running back Tevin Coleman, who will reunite with Robert Saleh in New York with the Jets. 

Here is where the 49ers stand on offense after their moves during free agency. 

Offensive line

Under contract: Trent Wiliams, Alex Mack, Mike McGlinchey, Daniel Brunskill, Laken Tomlinson, Colton McKivitz, Justin Skule, Shon Coleman, Corbin Kaufusi, Isaiah Williams, Dakota Shepley

 

Unsigned free agents: Tom Compton, Ben Garland, Tony Bergstrom, Hroniss Grasu

The situation: The 49ers secured their quarterback’s blindside for the foreseeable future, agreeing to a six-year megadeal with Williams. The eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle is now signed with the team through the 2026 season, which was the team's top priority of free agency.

After it became public knowledge that Weston Richburg had hip surgery during the offseason, it was imperative for the 49ers to find his replacement. Mack will help the offensive line transition seamlessly into 2021 having had experience with Shanahan in Atlanta. 

The former Falcons center might not still play at the elite level he was a when he received four consecutive Pro Bowl nods (2015-2018) but he is smart enough to effectively direct traffic for the offense. Mack also is athletic enough to get to the second level, opening up the 49ers' outside-zone running attack. 

The starting offensive line is virtually in place with Wiliams at left tackle, Tomlinson next to him at left guard, Mack at center, Brunskill at right guard and McGlinchey at right tackle. 

What’s next: The club could bring in a few more pieces for competition through free agency or the draft, but after spending a sizable amount of money in free agency, do not expect the team to use its Day 1 and/or 2 picks on the offensive line. 

Fullback

Under contract: Kyle Juszczyk, Josh Hokit 

The situation: One of the most important goals for the 49ers during free agency was to re-sign Juszczyk to a long-term deal. The veteran fullback is a vital part of Shanahan’s offensive scheme while also providing leadership in the locker room. 

The five-time Pro Bowl fullback agreed to a five-year $27 million deal to remain in Santa Clara for the foreseeable future and was the first domino to fall in the team’s goal to keep much of their roster intact. 

What’s next: The 49ers may add depth in free agency or the draft in order to have another camp body to run offense plays in practice, but ultimately the team has their man in Juszczyk

Running back

Under contract: Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., JaMychal Hasty, Austin Walter 

Unsigned free agents: Jerick McKinnon

The situation: Both Mostert and Wilson have proven themselves to be effective running backs that can toe the line in Shanahan’s offense. Wilson led the team in rushing in 2020 with 600 yards and seven rushing touchdowns, while Mostert's 772 yards and eight touchdowns gave him top billing the season prior. 

Both backs have been capable pass catchers and blockers but like many of their teammates, they were unable to play a full season in 2020. Mostert started in eight games while Wilson appeared in 12. 

 

Both Austin Walters and JaMychal Hasty have shown their shiftiness coming out of the backfield, but they have do not enough experience nor have they shown the necessary blocking ability to be the lead backs in Shanahan’s system. 

What’s next: The 49ers need to add to this group, whether it is with an experienced back on a one-year deal in free agency or in the draft. Because of how running backs are used by Shanahan, injuries have consistently hit the group. Preparing for the inevitable is a must for the team looking ahead to 2021.

Tight end

Under contract: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, Daniel Helm, Chase Harrell 

Unsigned free agents: Jordan Reed 

The situation: The 49ers have one of the best tight ends in football signed through the 2025 season in Kittle, but his physical style of play makes injuries a real possibility. It is necessary for the team to have backups that can carry the load if the All-Pro tight end misses time on the field. 

Kittle missed half of the 49ers 2020 season, only starting in eight contests. Dwelley, who has the nickname “Baby Kittle” in the locker room, hasn’t missed a game in two consecutive seasons and re-signed with the club on a one-year contract extension. 

The 49ers would like to see more development from Woerner, who played predominantly on special teams in his debut season. Expect to see the sophomore tight end more on offense as he acclimates to the NFL. 

What’s next: With how often Shanahan uses two-tight end sets on his scheme, expect the 49ers to add more depth with a familiar face like Reed or another veteran who could instantly contribute. 

RELATED: Lynch unamused by Kittle's April Fools' Day tweet

 

Wide Receiver

Under contract: Deebo Samuel, Brando Aiyuk, Jalen Hurd, Richie James Jr., Kevin White, Trent Sherfield, River Cracraft, Austin Proehl, Jauan Jennings, Mohamed Sanu 

Unsigned free agents: Trent Taylor

The situation: Samuel and Aiyuk have the WR1/WR2 roles locked up, but in 2020, James also proved his ability to be involved in more than just special teams. While the list of wideouts on the roster is long, many of the names are less known. 

The team had high hopes for Hurd and Jennings in 2020, who both missed the entire season due to injuries. Each will have a chance to carve out a role this season while getting back to full strength. 

What’s next: While the list of receivers under contact seems long, the 49ers still need to add depth and a receiver with experience would be a wise move for the club. The young group’s productivity increased immensely when the team signed Emmanuel Sanders halfway through the 2019 season. 

This year’s draft is also deep in wide receiver talent that the 49ers could tap to bolster the depth at the position. They still don’t have a wide receiver who has the speed to spread out defenses on deep routes, and could look to add to that in the draft. 

 

Quarterback

Under contract: Jimmy Garoppolo, Josh Johnson, Josh Rosen

Unsigned free agents: Nick Mullens 

The situation: Lynch and Shanahan have been adamant that they have no plans to trade Garoppolo even though they have been transparent that their move up nine spots to the No. 3 overall pick in the draft is to select the quarterback of their future. 

Keeping Garoppolo on the roster does seem like the most logical thing to do with only Rosen and Johnson being the other quarterbacks in the building. Mullens has yet to be re-signed and is also recovering from elbow surgery. 

The 49ers' brain trust spoke about needing to upgrade their backup quarterback position after Garoppolo only appeared in six contests in 2020 -- but Rosen and Johnson are likely not the answer. 

What’s next: The 49ers did not trade their first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to do anything less than select a quarterback. While the figureheads of the team have spoken about not trading Garoppolo, it is not out of the question, if they are given an offer they can’t refuse. 

Allowing a rookie quarterback time to adjust to the NFL while sitting behind a veteran has proven to be more successful than trial by fire. The 49ers’ offense, however, has the pieces to facilitate a transition more easily than most. 

With a solid offensive line in place and several reliable offensive weapons, a rookie would be set up for success if necessary. Still, if the 49ers do end up trading Garoppolo, they will need to look for a veteran free-agent quarterback to add depth and leadership to what would be a position group with very little experience. 

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