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.