49ers

Lynch explains his reasoning for trading Kilgore a month after extending him

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AP

Lynch explains his reasoning for trading Kilgore a month after extending him

There was only one center scheduled to become a free agent the 49ers would have wanted over Daniel Kilgore, general manager John Lynch said Thursday.

But because the 49ers did not know a month ago if they would be able to get that player, they went ahead and re-signed Kilgore to keep him off the free-agent market.

Lynch said the 49ers’ top two targets in free agency were center Weston Richburg and running back Jerick McKinnon. They negotiated against a handful of teams for the services of both players and finalized the deals on Wednesday at the opening of the free-agent signing period.

After the 49ers signed Richburg, the club worked a trade with the Miami Dolphins to send Kilgore to a team that needs a starting center.

“We thought about, do we play Weston at guard?” Lynch said. “Ultimately, once we decided to invest in someone, you put him at his best position. That happens to be his best position and center is Dan’s best position, too.”

Just one month ago, Kilgore signed a three-year, $11.75 million with the 49ers with the expectation he would remain with the club that selected him in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. Because of the way the deal was structured, the Dolphins will pick up every penny of the contract. The first payment from the Dolphins is a $2.3 million guaranteed roster bonus.

“I’ve been here for seven years,” Kilgore said on a conference call in mid-February. “I consider the Bay Area my second home. And to be able to extend my career wearing the 49ers jersey was special to me. This team heading in the right direction, I wanted to be a part of it.”

The availability of Richburg changed the 49ers’ plan, Lynch said.

Richburg was the only interior offensive linemen the 49ers pursued in free agency, Lynch said.. The team did not even place a call of interest to the agent of free-agent guard Andrew Norwell, who was not considered a fit for Kyle Shanahan’s blocking scheme.

Lynch was asked if there was anything he would have done differently in his handling of the center position this offseason.

“As we looked at this situation, we asked ourselves that question,” Lynch said. “But I really don’t think we could’ve. We are happy we were able to find a nice landing spot. He’s a starting center for an exciting team.”

Lynch, who played 15 NFL seasons, has made it a point to treat players as he would have wanted to be treated. He said the 49ers tried to do what was right for both sides.

They got little from the Dolphins in compensation for Kilgore. The 49ers sent Kilgore and the ninth pick of the seventh round (No. 227 overall) to the Dolphins in exchange for the fifth pick of the seventh round (No. 223 overall).

“I think our players know we genuinely care of them,” Lynch said. “I think they really get that. That’s one of our strengths, as far as the vibe we have going here. Yes, actions have to reflect that. I will tell you, we left this in a really good place with Danny. We’ve had really good conversations with him all the way through it.”

In other 49ers free-agent news . . .

Former 49ers defensive end/outside linebacker Aaron Lynch is signing a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears, the NFL Network reported. Lynch’s defensive coordinator will be Vic Fangio, who coached him as a rookie with the 49ers. Lynch had 12.5 sacks in his first two seasons, 2.5 in his last two years. The 49ers made no effort to re-sign him.

If 49ers add running back in offseason, who drops off the depth chart?

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USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

If 49ers add running back in offseason, who drops off the depth chart?

The 49ers could add another running back in the offseason, all right.

They could draft a power back who provides a different style of running than the players already on their roster. Or, as many sentimental 49ers fans have suggested, they could sign veteran Frank Gore, who turns 36 in May.

But if they add a running back, somebody is going to have to sit.

The 49ers have Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida under contract. Raheem Mostert is likely to return as a restricted free agent. As the team’s best special-teams player and a capable No. 3 running back, a healthy Mostert is assured of suiting up for every game.

The 49ers finished 13th in the NFL last season with 118.9 yards rushing per game. They tied for 12th in the league with a 4.5-yard average. Where the 49ers struggled, in particular, was near the goal line. The 49ers tied for 30th with just seven rushing touchdowns.

Yet, the 49ers were effective short-yardage situations. On third- and fourth-down attempts of 1 or 2 yards, the 49ers were successful on 21 of 26 opportunities (81 percent).

Coach Kyle Shanahan addressed his throughts on a short-yardage back a year ago after the addition of McKinnon.

“We’ll continue to look in the draft, and we’ll always look to add running backs,” Shanahan said. “When it comes to a big bruiser for the goal line, no one is just running over guys unblocked, either. You need to find open holes and be a good running back.”

Shanahan chose McKinnon a year ago in free agency for his running, his receiving and his ability to exploit mismatches in the middle of the field.

Make no mistake, Shanahan selected McKinnon, whom the New York Jets also pursued on the open market. The 49ers were going to go about as high as necessary to make sure they signed McKinnon.

Shanahan had big plans for a restructured 49ers offense. He envisioned an offense designed around the basic principle that defenses would be compromised when making decisions on how to simultaneously cover McKinnon, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, a healthy slot receiver, Trent Taylor, and tight end George Kittle. There would be holes in the defenses, and Shanahan envisioned Jimmy Garoppolo exploiting the weak links – especially on third downs.

But all those plans were blown up a week before the start of the regular season when McKinnon sustained a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament.

McKinnon continues his rehabilitation and training, and the 49ers can only hope he can return physically to somewhere close to his pre-injury form.

In McKinnon’s absence last season, Breida rushed for 814 yards despite battling knee, shoulder and ankle injuries that kept him listed as “questionable” for a large portion of the season. He averaged a hefty 5.3 yards a carry.

Mostert is scheduled for restricted free agency. The 49ers will not let him go, and could even target him for a multi-year contract extension. Mostert proved to be a valuable player on a 46-man game day roster because of his value on special teams.

And when given a chance at running back, the speedster averaged 7.7 yards a carry before sustaining a fractured forearm in Week 9 against the Raiders.

[RELATED: As expected, 49ers will not pick up option on Pierre Garçon]

Veteran Alfred Morris is not expected back, and Jeff Wilson faces an uphill climb for a roster spot despite showing some promise late in the season after his promotion from the practice squad.

So while the 49ers could easily add another running back to their mix, the bigger question is which player would be pushed aside to create opportunities for a new player.

Settlement amounts, NFL compensating Colin Kaepernick for not playing football

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AP

Settlement amounts, NFL compensating Colin Kaepernick for not playing football

The 49ers paid Colin Kaepernick more than $43 million during his six-year career.

Presumably, the NFL is giving him one final large sum of money to not play football.

The NFL’s settlement with Kaepernick and former 49ers safety Eric Reid prevents the collusion grievances and the gathered evidence from ever being heard. How much was that worth to the NFL? Terms of the resolution announced Friday contain a confidentiality agreement, so we’ll likely never know.

Kaepernick originally sat on the team bench during the playing of the national anthem during the summer of 2016 as a protest against racial inequality and oppression against minorities, he said. After consulting with former Green Beret Nate Boyer, he and Reid decided to kneel. The protest immediately became one of the nation's biggest storylines -- and not just in sports, either. Many players on other teams joined the movement, which gained more momentum and attention a full year later when President Donald Trump addressed the issue during a political rally in Alabama.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ” Trump said.

Although Reid was just as outspoken every step of the way, his football career resumed. He played in 2017, the final year of his contract, with the 49ers. And after a slow free-agent market last year, Reid signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers in late September.

Reid’s play in the final 13 games of the season prompted the Panthers to sign him last week to a three-year contract extension worth more than $21 million.

Kaepernick’s football days came to a halt in what should have been the prime of his career.

Kaepernick, now 31, has not found employment since completing 17 of 22 passes for 215 yards and a 122.3 rating in a 25-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium on Jan. 1, 2017.

He opted out of his contract, which was scheduled to pay him $14.9 million in salary and bonuses, in March 2017. General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, who had been hired just a month earlier, already had met with Kaepernick and told him that if he did not opt out, he would be released.

The 49ers never seriously considered having Kaepernick on the team in 2017 because he was not considered a fit for the team’s offensive system, Shanahan said.

Instead, the 49ers signed quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the first day of free agency. They also drafted C.J. Beathard and signed undrafted rookie Nick Mullens. The 49ers later added Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade with the New England Patriots in the middle of that first season without Kaepernick.

Based on his production alone, Kaepernick should have signed with some team. He ranks tied for No. 2 all-time with Tom Brady and behind Aaron Rodgers in interception percentage at 1.8.

Kaepernick’s career consisted of 58 starts in the 71 games since he took over for Alex Smith during the 2012 season. In Kaepernick’s first season as the starter, the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl, as he posted a 98.3 passer rating in seven starts. He rushed for an NFL quarterback-record 181 yards against the Green Bay Packers in his first playoff start.

Kaepernick’s best full season as a starter was 2013 when he threw a career-best 21 touchdown passes with eight interceptions for a 91.6 passer rating.

The 49ers went 21-8 in Kaepernick’s first two seasons as the starter, including a playoff record of 4-2. In his final season with the 49ers, they went 1-10 in games he started.

Surely, Kaepernick’s style of play wasn’t a fit for some coaches. Also, it is fair to surmise, his form of peaceful protest did not fit the styles of many other owners.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed Kaepernick’s seemingly permanent free agent status two weeks before the settlement during his press conference in Atlanta for Super Bowl 53.

“I think if a team decides that Colin Kaepernick or any other player can help their team win, that’s what they’ll do,” Goodell said. “They want to win and they make those decisions individually in the best interest of their club.”

The NFL made the decision to settle the grievance because it was in the best interest of its clubs. After Kaepernick filed his collusion grievance in October 2017, some notable NFL names were deposed, including, reportedly, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Patriots owner Bob Kraft, Texans owner Bob McNair, Broncos general manager John Elway, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

It also is safe to assume members of the 49ers organization were included in the evidence gathering, as individuals associated with the NFL and linked to Kaepernick were required to turn over emails and text messages.

What those interviews and electronic messages disclosed likely factored into the NFL's willingness to negotiate a settlement. Was there anything that pointed to outright collusion? There's no telling. But the NFL had its reasons for keeping private communication private.

And around the time, Kaepernick filed his grievance, the New York Post reported he had signed a $1 million book deal with Random House.

[RELATED: Settlement doesn't mean Kap will play again]

Kaepernick came through with his promise of $1 million to community charities to advance his goal of empowering individuals in under-served communities in 2016 and '17. He continues to work toward his originally stated goal of helping those whose voices are not heard.

Nothing has changed there.

But the settlement announced Friday appears to block the possibility of Kaepernick publishing a tell-all book. And, clearly, the NFL concluded that was worth the cost of one final paycheck.