49ers

John Lynch responds to criticism over Juszczyk's record contract

John Lynch responds to criticism over Juszczyk's record contract

The 49ers made Kyle Juczczyk the highest paid fullback in the NFL at $5 million per year.

The 49ers also gave Malcolm Smith $12 million in guaranteed money over the next two seasons combined.

According to NFL.com: "It looks like agents smelled blood in the water with new general manager John Lynch and knocked him around at the negotiating table."

On Friday, the 49ers GM responded.

"We're proud of those signings," Lynch told KNBR 680 on Friday. "We really are ... if you're sitting there reading everything that people are saying about you and taking it personally, you aren't gonna be very successful ... I think the reason they both got nice contracts is because they were wanted. And we weren't the only ones that wanted them. In a lot of our situations, we weren't the highest bidder."

Juszczyk was a fourth round pick in 2013 out of Harvard and reached the Pro Bowl with the Ravens last year.

Malcolm Smith, who was named Super Bowl XLVIII MVP, started 30 games for the Raiders over the past two seasons.

"Guys came because there's an exciting vibe here; guys want to be here," Lynch added. "None of this means anything until they go play and we go play. But those are two guys we're very excited to have as part of the 49ers."

Lynch then shared the story behind the negotiations with Juszczyk.

"In that period where the negotiating period started, we were doing some traveling and we got a call and they said, 'Here's where it's at now,' and we said, 'Wow,' because we set in with 'Hey, to get this guy, we're gonna have to likely make him the highest paid fullback ever.' And we were willing to do that...

"But then it kind of got to even another step and we had to all stop and kind of look at each other and go, 'OK. This is getting real.' And that's when we kind of came up the philosophy he's not just a fullback; he's an offensive weapon ... I'm gonna trust my instincts on what the guy brings, not necessarily what the rest of the market sees him as.

"You can't go crazy with that, but like I said, we weren't the only ones interested in this guy ... he's still worth it to us."

NFL preview 2019: How 49ers' defense stacks up against NFC West rivals

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AP

NFL preview 2019: How 49ers' defense stacks up against NFC West rivals

Does defense still win championships?

Based on the way the NFL has evolved over the last several years, with new rules emphasizing the protection of quarterbacks, one has to wonder. It's a different game now. Scoring is at an all-time high. Last season, NFL teams combined for 1,371 touchdowns, the most in a single season in the 99-year history of the league.

What realistic chance does a defense have against modern offenses, under modern rules? That depends on the contents of each respective defense, but one thing is clear: it's not a fair fight.

The NFC West likely will exemplify that fact this coming season. One could make the case that the strength of each team in the division is its offense, and if the critical players remain healthy, they're bound to put up huge numbers.

Still, though, it's not like the NFC West lacks for defensive talent. There are numerous Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers on the defensive side of the ball, and several promising young players making the ascent to that level.

Based on the offseason developments, here's how the NFC West defenses rank with training camp only weeks away:

1. Los Angeles Rams

When it comes to the Rams' defense, everything starts and ends with Aaron Donald.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is a one-man wrecking crew. He led the league with 20.5 sacks last season, and his 113 total pressures led all interior linemen by a wide margin. With all the double and triple teams he faces, it allows the other members of the defense to thrive.

Ndamukong Suh and Lamarcus Joyner are gone, but Los Angeles acquired veterans Clay Matthews and Eric Weddle in free agency. Weddle will join a defensive backfield that includes former standouts Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, rising safety John Johnson and second-round draft pick Taylor Rapp.

Matthews and Dante Fowler -- who was brought back on a one-year deal -- both have double-digit sack potential, roaming in Donald's wake.

2. San Francisco 49ers

Since 2015, the 49ers have used four first-round draft picks on defensive linemen. Additionally, they traded a second-round pick to Kansas City for Dee Ford. It's time to put up or shut up.

Based on talent alone, one could make the case San Francisco has the best defensive line in the NFL. Even if it's not the best, it certainly has the potential to be up there. Ford is coming off a season in which he recorded 13.0 sacks and seven forced fumbles and led all edge rushers in quarterback pressures. Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner made the leap last season, leading the 49ers with 12.0 sacks. Add in former first-round picks Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas, as well as 2019 No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa, and it's easy to see why opposing quarterbacks should be very, very afraid.

San Francisco will need that defensive line to live up to its potential, though, because the rest of the defense has quite a few question marks.

The 49ers' biggest defensive free-agent acquisition came in the form of linebacker Kwon Alexander, who offers lots of promise at the position, but is coming off a torn ACL. If he can stay healthy, Alexander and Fred Warner could form a near-ideal linebacking duo for the modern NFL.

[RELATED: These three players are most important to 49ers' success]

Richard Sherman has one cornerback spot locked down, but the rest of the defensive backfield seems to be in constant flux. At safety, neither Jaquiski Tartt nor Jimmie Ward has proven the ability to stay healthy, and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon took a step back in his sophomore campaign.

If the 49ers' defensive line fulfills its promise, it'll make life a lot easier on everyone else.

3. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals' defense wasn't as bad last season as their record indicated. When you're the worst team in the league, your defense faces a lot of short fields. That's something new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph hope to change this coming season.

They've got some talent to work with. Linebacker Chandler Jones has recorded more sacks (41) than any other player since 2016. The Cardinals added former Arizona State legend Terrell Suggs in free agency, and he can still get after the quarterback after totaling 7.0 sacks last year.

The defensive backfield might be the strength of the team, with future Hall of Famer Patrick Peterson holding down one cornerback spot, and 2019 second-round draft pick Byron Murphy manning the other. D.J. Swearinger and Budda Baker form a quality safety duo.

4. Seattle Seahawks

My, how times have changed.

After years after possessing arguably the top defense in the league, the Seahawks took a step backward last season, and they might take another this year.

Bobby Wagner is still one of the best linebackers in the league, but there's a significant talent dropoff after him. Seattle traded away defensive end Frank Clark, who notched 32 sacks over the last three seasons combined. L.J. Collier was drafted in the first round as an eventual replacement, but it would be wildly unfair to expect him to make the same kind of impact in his rookie season. Free-agent signee Ziggy Ansah has a bunch of talent, but health is a constant concern.

With Earl Thomas departing for Baltimore and Kam Chancellor retiring, the "Legion of Boom" era is officially dead. And, looking at their current defensive backfield, it's going to be a while before it is revived.

49ers legend Joe Montana relisting 500-acre Calistoga ranch for $28.9M

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AP

49ers legend Joe Montana relisting 500-acre Calistoga ranch for $28.9M

Earlier this month, 49ers Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana put his 87-acre Northern California ranch on the market for $3.1 million.

This property is located next to his 500-acre ranch with a 9,700-square foot main residence, which he also owns. The estate is relisted and is for sale at $28.9 million. The property originally floated for $49 million a decade ago.

The France and Italy-inspired home began to take shape in the late '90s and finished in 2003.

You can access the property by a bridge over a moat, naturally. It also holds three bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, large tapestries, antique marble floors and a collection of European imports, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Photos are courtesy of Compass.

PROPERTY GALLERY HERE