John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan's first 49ers free-agent class proves hit and miss


John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan's first 49ers free-agent class proves hit and miss

John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are entering their third season with the 49ers. That means it's time to look back at their first moves in control of the franchise, some of which worked out well and others that did not.

The first free-agent class that the general manager and the coach signed looked full of promise. In the introductory press conference, the new regime emphasized the need to bring in players of great character and a desire to win.

Of the seven players introduced on March 10, 2017, arguably the most productive, Robbie Gould, now enters free agency. He started all 32 games of his two-year contract, made 72 of 75 of his field-goal tries and missed just four extra-point attempts. The team hopes to work out another deal with the kicker.

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin are the only other two players whose 49ers futures remain solidly in place. Juszczyk has missed just two games since signing with the 49ers. Goodwin had a very productive first season and signed a three-year contract extension through 2021.

Of the four other players, two are on other teams -- quarterback Brian Hoyer (Patriots) and tight end Logan Paulsen (Falcons) -- and wide receiver Pierre Garcon and linebacker Malcolm Smith remain with the 49ers, although they could end up being released this offseason over their lingering health issues.

Garcon has played just 50 percent of regular-season games since joining the 49ers. After spending his first season on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle, Smith played in 12 of 16 regular-season games in 2018. At times, he was used only sparingly as a result of issues with his Achilles.

Lynch and Shanahan have stayed true to their philosophy of bringing in players with great character. Through two losing seasons, the locker room has remained close without any noticeable in-fighting.

Lynch also has followed his original statement of needing to be smart about using their available salary-cap space. The 49ers rolled over a little more than $35 million into the 2019 season, giving them the third-most cap space in the NFL.

“I think that while there’s a lot of numbers,” Lynch said in 2017, “we didn’t reach for anything. We found guys that fit it. If not, we’ll wait. And so while I think the numbers are big and we’re really happy about that, we felt like we found guys that we were excited about being here. Not just guys because we needed guys.”

Lynch added that the staff looked for specific types of players to physically fit in as well, particularly for Shanahan’s offensive system.

“We were very strategic with where we felt we needed to improve our team," the GM said. "But then let’s not do it with just any player. Let’s find if there’s people out there that fit what we’re looking for. I think that’s one thing we’ve done extremely well, is have a great definition. Have a clearly defined idea what we’re looking for at each position and the type of of person.”

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Several of the players in that first free-agent class had a history with Shanahan, which was something that influenced the decision to add them to the roster.

“The advantage to having been with someone,” Shanahan said, “is you know the type of guy they are. There’s always a risk when you see the tape and you bring someone in that you don’t know. You don’t really know exactly what you’re getting that you can’t see on tape.

The pressure is on both Shanahan and Lynch in their third season. After their top two signings of 2018, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon, both spent all or most of the season on injured reserve, the need for their 49ers to perform is an understood necessity.

NFL rumors: League seeks to add seventh playoff team in each conference

NFL rumors: League seeks to add seventh playoff team in each conference

The NFL’s playoff structure is expected to change to reportedly include seven teams in both conferences to advance to the postseason.

The current proposal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, would add one playoff team in each conference and only the top seed in the AFC and NFC would be rewarded with byes in the first round of the playoffs.

The changes to the playoff format would take effect this season when the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified. ESPN reports there is “mounting optimism” the new CBA will be agreed upon within the week.

Through last season, the top six teams in both conferences made the playoffs. If the playoff proposal had been in effect last season, the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers would have advanced to the playoffs as the Nos. 7 seeds.

As the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the 49ers would have still earned a first-round bye in the playoffs. But the Green Bay Packers, the No. 2 seed, would have played in the extra game against the Rams. If the Rams were to have upset the Packers in the wild-card round, the 49ers would have played Los Angeles in the NFC Divisional Playoff instead of the Minnesota Vikings.

But the new proposal would have had an even more major impact in the AFC, where the Kansas City Chiefs would have been forced to win three games in the playoffs just to advance to the Super Bowl.

"That's been agreed to for a long time," one source familiar with the CBA talks told ESPN about the NFL's new playoff structure. "There wasn't a lot of disagreement to that issue."

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Players on the top team in each conference will receive postseason pay for the bye weekend, unlike years past, according to the report.

Also, ESPN reported that the sides are also trying to work through a proposal for a 17-game regular season, while the exhibition season is shortened to three games. The earliest that change could occur would be the 2021 season, according to the report.

Deebo Samuel pleas for 49ers to re-sign Emmanuel Sanders in free agency

Deebo Samuel pleas for 49ers to re-sign Emmanuel Sanders in free agency

Before the 49ers officially had lost Super Bowl LIV to the Kansas City Chiefs, tight end George Kittle was already preaching they would be back next year.

But it didn't stop with him.

49ers players throughout the roster already are thinking of everything they can do to make another run at it, and that includes bringing back free-agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

Fellow wideout Deebo Samuel made it clear Wednesday on Twitter that he wants to see the 49ers bring back the 32-year-old veteran.

Sanders showed his appreciation later Wednesday morning.

After coming over from the Denver Broncos via trade in October, Sanders excelled with the 49ers. He caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season, and added five receptions for 71 yards in the postseason.

But Sanders could have been an even more critical part of 49ers lore, had it not been for Jimmy Garoppolo's overthrown pass with less than two minutes remaining in Super Bowl LIV. But it was not meant to be.

Sanders has been open about his love for the team that had just barely missed the championship and has spoken out about those second-guessing him due to his age. 

The receiver laughed at the fact that he has been "flying past 23-year-olds," and exhorted that he still has plenty of good years left in him.

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He also embraced the youth the other wide receivers brought to the team, such as Samuel and Kendrick Bourne. Sanders loved the loose vibes of the 49ers' locker room and assisted the younger players in prepping for the big moments of the Super Bowl. 

Deebo surely noticed that and knows he wants his teammate back for the team's quest to make another Super Bowl run next season.