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NFL free agency rumors: 49ers made Le'Veon Bell 'strong' contract offer

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NFL free agency rumors: 49ers made Le'Veon Bell 'strong' contract offer

It seemed like a quiet Tuesday of NFL free agency for the 49ers from the outside, but that apparently wasn't the case inside the organization.

The team agreed to a trade for, then contract terms with Kansas City Chiefs edge rusher Dee Ford in the early evening, and they also reportedly were in the Le'Veon Bell sweepstakes before the All-Pro running back chose the New York Jets.

Bell's most likely landing spot always was the Jets, but the 49ers evidently were interested, just as they were with Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who reportedly was traded to the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday.

It’s always interesting when a team is mentioned after a superstar trade or signing is made public. What makes the Bell-49ers discovery even more curious is what it says about San Francisco's current roster.

If the 49ers were willing to pursue Bell -- who reportedly landed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with $35 million guaranteed in New York -- what does that say about their backfield? Is the team not sold on Jerick McKinnon’s return to the field after ACL surgery? Is Matt Breida’s durability a concern?

[RELATED: Why 49ers were right to trade for Ford, not OBJ]

Obviously that would require reading between the lines, and 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan preach that they always closely look at players who could improve the team. Lynch even confirmed that the team “went real hard” for Khalil Mack before the Raiders traded the star linebacker to the Chicago Bears last year.

Beckham and Bell are playmakers who clearly would have improved the 49ers. So of course the team kicked the tires … and even negotiated with the salesperson. A deal just couldn't be brokered.

How George Kittle's 49ers contract could be affected by fan-less NFL games

How George Kittle's 49ers contract could be affected by fan-less NFL games

NFL games being held this fall without fans in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic would affect the league's bottom line, and that could impact George Kittle's contract extension with the 49ers.

How, you might ask? Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer wrote Monday that a revenue shortfall could lead to a lower salary-cap figure than currently projected. That, in turn, could lead to a flat salary cap moving forward, as the NFL "would borrow cap dollars from future years" in order to prevent a drastic one-year drop.

"[Teams] at least have to be prepared for the idea it could happen, which will lead at some teams to be conservative with their spending," Breer explained. "And that’s without even considering that the threat of a revenue shortfall might make teams more conscious of their cap spending too."

Breer listed Kittle, Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa and New York Jets safety Jamal Adams as players who "could find the financial going a little tougher over the next couple months" as they try to become the highest-paid players at their respective positions. 

Re-signing Kittle is the 49ers' biggest offseason priority, now that the NFL draft and front office are in the rearview mirror and as the tight end approaches the final year of his rookie contract. General manager John Lynch told NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco that the 49ers aren't putting a timetable on Kittle's extension, and the GM was confident that Kittle would re-sign in "due time."

[RELATED: Why Warner, Greenlaw are so key to 49ers' elite defense]

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on May 18 that the state could hold sporting events without fans as soon as June, but said in April that spectators couldn't attend games until "Phase 4" when the state lifts its shelter-in-place orders. Newsom said at the time the state won't reach "Phase 4" until a vaccine or widespread treatments are developed.

Other states have gone further in reopening its economies, however, and NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said last week that the league is expecting fans in the stands this fall until medical professionals say otherwise.

Kittle could sign before the 49ers truly know how a revenue shortfall would impact the salary cap moving forward. The longer Kittle goes without signing an extension, the more the NFL's projections will be worth monitoring.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Why Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw are huge keys to 49ers' elite defense

Why Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw are huge keys to 49ers' elite defense

The 49ers' defense was a quarterback's worst nightmare last season. And that's being nice. 

San Francisco led the NFL by only allowed a measly 169.2 passing yards per game last season. Quarterbacks completed only 61.4 percent of their pass attempts against the 49ers, and were sacked 48 times, good for fifth in all of football. 

Richard Sherman locking down one side of the field certainly helps. As does Nick Bosa constantly putting pressure on QBs. But a key to the 49ers' defense also is the coverage ability of their linebackers at such young ages. 

Pro Football Focus' website also actually has Greenlaw's overall coverage grade as 72.6 last season. The fifth-round pick stepped in for an injured Kwon Alexander -- who posted a 68.6 coverage grade across 423 snaps -- and came up clutch multiple times, especially against the 49ers' biggest rivals

Warner is a tackling machine -- averaging 121 tackles per season through his first two years -- but he already is among the elite linebackers when it comes to breaking up passes. Warner had a 74.5 coverage grade across 1,166 total snaps last season. That was the fifth-best grade of any linebacker who played at least 1,000 snaps.

Through two seasons with the 49ers, Warner has three interceptions and 15 passes defensed. 

[RELATED: This stat shows how 49ers were most balanced team last year]

While Sherman rightfully grabs the spotlight by taking away top receivers, defenses have to be able to slow down tight ends and cover running backs out of the backfield. That's what makes Warner and Greenlaw so valuable. 

There aren't many defenses that have two linebackers like this.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]