Kyle Shanahan discusses 49ers' pursuit of Tom Brady in free agency

Kyle Shanahan discusses 49ers' pursuit of Tom Brady in free agency

When the GOAT is interested you have to consider it, even if you were just six minutes away from winning a Super Bowl.

The 49ers did just that with Tom Brady. The 42-year-old quarterback had a desire to leave the New England Patriots this offseason and come home to the Bay to play for the team he grew up cheering for.

While the 49ers never went super far down the Brady rabbit hole, coach Kyle Shanahan admitted he and general manager John Lynch had to look into the possibility. He is, after all, Tom freakin' Brady.

"We had to seriously discuss it to decide whether to go forward to where it could come close or not," Shanahan told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on "The TK Show." "So it didn't come close, but that's why John and I had to put the time into it. If you would have asked us that right after the Super Bowl -- I mean, Tom Brady, everyone knows what Tom Brady is, and how unbelievable he's been.  But if you had asked us that right after the Super Bowl, that's kind of unheard of. It's a pipe dream. Like, you don't really think about that.

"We were just so happy with our team and happy with Jimmy [Garoppolo]. It didn't end the way we wanted. We can all do better -- myself, Jimmy."

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Brady ultimately signed a two-year, $50 million deal to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and brought tight end Rob Gronkowski -- who decided to come out of retirement -- along with him.

Looking into Brady was not a sign that Jimmy Garoppolo isn't the franchise quarterback. He led the Niners to the brink of a Super Bowl victory and should only improve in another full season in Shanahan's offense.

But when a six-time Super Bowl champion is interested in your team, you have to see whether or not the fit would be right. Brady's credentials are well-known, and for a team whose Super Bowl window is now, Shanahan and Lynch had to explore what the 49ers would like with TB12 running the show.

"All of a sudden, you hear arguably the greatest quarterback of all time is all of a sudden available, and there is a possibility that he could want to come to your team, and things like that," Shanahan said.  "And when you hear that stuff, and it actually is realistic, for you not to look into it, to me, would be completely irresponsible. Once we realized and heard this could be realistic -- this isn't just talk -- we looked into it all, especially with the respect we have for Tom and everything, and how great of a player he is. We looked into it to try to see if it would be better for our team this year and in the future. When we weighed it all together, we didn't think it would.

"We felt great with where we were at, and kind of confirmed how we are with Jimmy."

Coming off an ACL injury that cost him almost all of the 2018 season, Garoppolo had to knock off the rust to begin the season. Once the season hit the halfway point, Garoppolo was in full command of Shanahan's offense. He led the 49ers to a shootout win in New Orleans over the Saints, and engineered a last-second victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

Garoppolo was shaky in Super Bowl LIV. He threw an atrocious interception in the first quarter that led to three points for the Kansas City Chiefs. He rebounded and was efficient in the middle of the game as the 49ers roared out to an 10-point lead. But with the game hanging in the balance, Garoppolo overthrew a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders on the could-be game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Shanahan loved the progress Garoppolo showed last season and full confidence he'll be even better in 2020.

"Jimmy had a real good year last year," Shanahan said. "I expect him to continue to get better. I don't think he's achieved his ceiling yet. Last year was his first year ever going through a full season as a quarterback. He hadn't played longer than five games, I think, in a year prior to that. He had some ups and downs, but I think he finished the second half of the year playing so much better than the first half of the year. Didn't have to do a lot in the playoffs, but I can't wait to get back, where he's not worrying about an ACL all offseason either.

"He's just grinding film, getting ready for the season, and hopefully he learned a lot from last year."

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With Brady's interest known, the 49ers turned down an aging GOAT to stick with Garoppolo, believing he gives them the best chance to win a Super Bowl. Garoppolo won't take that as an offense. He knows Brady's greatness having backed him up during his time with the Patriots.

Now Garoppolo must go out and reward the 49ers' faith in him by leading the team back to the Super Bowl and finishing the job, with Brady and the Bucs now serving as a new NFC roadblock.

How Jerick McKinnon impacts 49ers' negotiations with Raheem Mostert

How Jerick McKinnon impacts 49ers' negotiations with Raheem Mostert

49ers running back Raheem Mostert wants a raise or to be traded. The problem for him is, he doesn't really have any leverage. Regardless of what he deserves, that's just the reality of the situation.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan favors a running back-by-committee approach. He will be able to employ that, regardless of whether or not Mostert wants to be a part of it. The 49ers have ample depth at the position, even after trading Matt Breida earlier in the offseason.

Tevin Coleman isn't going anywhere. Cutting him would result in a $2 million dead cap hit, and San Francisco can't afford to waste cap space at the moment.

Jeff Wilson scored five touchdowns on 30 total touches last season. He seemed to make a play whenever given an opportunity, and the coaching staff has plenty of faith in him.

The 49ers also signed undrafted free agents JaMycal Hasty and Salvon Ahmed, who originally might have been ticketed for the practice squad, but there's a reason why San Francisco pursued them. Shanahan has a long track record of creating productive rushers out of thin air, and Mostert's performance last season only backs that up.

But there's one major wild card in San Francisco's backfield: Jerick McKinnon.

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Having signed a four-year, $30 million contract with the 49ers on the opening day of free agency in 2018, McKinnon was hand-picked by Shanahan to transform San Francisco's offense. Though never a bell cow, he offered the speed and matchup versatility that Shanahan covets. McKinnon rushed for 570 yards and hauled in 51 receptions for another 421 yards in his final season before joining the 49ers, and in Shanahan's system, the possibilities were endless.

And then, all dreams were dashed.

McKinnon tore his ACL one week before the start of the 2018 season, and then sat out the entirety of the 2019 campaign after requiring additional surgery. After not stepping foot on the field in a single game over his first two seasons with the franchise, McKinnon agreed to a pay reduction for the 2020 season that will see him make $910,000 in base salary, a sign of his commitment to the team. He was scheduled to make $6.8 million in 2020 prior to the restructuring.

Given his injury history, the 49ers would be wise to be cautious with their dependence on him. That said, he has had nearly a full year to recover from the most recent surgery, and last month his trainer said McKinnon is "in the best shape of his life."

He had been working with Rischad "Footwork King" Whitfield, and on Wednesday, McKinnon posted more workout videos to his Instagram Story.

The 49ers are optimistic they'll finally be able to unleash McKinnon this coming season, with Mostert recently going so far as to predict that McKinnon will "surprise people." If he's healthy, there's no doubt Shanahan will be itching to involve him in the offense, creating yet another potential matchup nightmare for the opposing defense. Plenty can happen between now and then, but San Francisco has to be feeling good about the progress "Jet" has put on tape.

[RELATED: How Mostert's 49ers trade demand shows price of success]

If the 49ers go into the season feeling like they can count on McKinnon, Mostert inevitably will get fewer touches. There are only so many to go around, especially with receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd liable to take a few of their own. Mostert rightfully feels like he deserves a significant raise, but that's under the assumption he is going to be the lead back in Shanahan's system.

That might still be the case, regardless of McKinnon's status. But the 49ers haven't forgotten about McKinnon, and until they do, the odds are against Mostert getting what he wants.

What Raheem Mostert's agent says client wants in 49ers trade demand

What Raheem Mostert's agent says client wants in 49ers trade demand

49ers running back Raheem Mostert's trade demand carries another motive, according to his agent.

Within an hour of announcing Mostert's trade demand Wednesday, Brett Tessler told NFL Media's Ian Rapoport that Mostert "simply" wants his salary "in line" with teammate Tevin Coleman's.

Coleman's $4.55 million base salary is nearly $2 million more than Mostert's $2.575 million, according to Over the Cap. Mostert's salary is not guaranteed, whereas $2 million of Coleman's became guaranteed on April 1. Coleman can earn nearly $4.9 million after workout and roster bonuses, and Mostert can make up to $2.825 million if he hits all his roster bonuses.

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Mostert (151) and Coleman (158) had nearly the same number of total touches during the regular season, with each player rushing an identical 137 times. But Mostert led the team in regular-season rushing yards (772) and rushing touchdowns (eight), becoming the 49ers' top back down the stretch and having over twice as many carries (117) and touches (126) as Coleman (55; 58) from Week 13 onward.

Prior to that stretch, Mostert had 113 rushing attempts and 127 touches in the preceding 31 games. Coleman, meanwhile, signed with the 49ers as a free agent in 2019 after averaging 165.5 touches per season in four years with the Atlanta Falcons.

[RELATED: How Mostert's 49ers trade demand shows price of success]

Whether the 49ers meet either of Mostert's demands remains to be seen.

He still has two years left on his contract (including 2020), and the 49ers currently have the NFL's eighth-highest salary-cap number on running backs. San Francisco has just over $12 million in salary-cap space, but that number conceivably could diminish if star tight end George Kittle's contract extension includes a reworked 2020 cap number.

Kittle's set to count just over $2.2 million against the cap this season. Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who has the NFL's highest cap number at the position, counts just shy of $12.5 million against the cap.