WASHINGTON – Yes, the 49ers’ victory over the Los Angeles Rams last week was impressive.
But is their Week 7 game an even bigger test? Let’s see how the 49ers treat flying cross-country as a prohibitive favorite against Washington. This is the kind of game that good teams handle with a business-like approach.
The 49ers are good, no doubt. But in the NFL, every week offers its own unique challenges and questions to be answered.
And speaking of that, it’s another edition of 49ers Mailbag.
Let’s kick it off . . .
Both receivers, A.J. Green and Emmanuel Sanders, are on the wrong side of 30. Green has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons and has not suited up for a game in 2019 due to an ankle injury. Sanders is having a solid season on a really bad Denver offense.
Both players are signed only through this season, and I doubt the 49ers would willing to give either the kind of contract extension each would want. And because the 49ers would be getting Green or Sanders for just eight or nine games, the 49ers would probably be willing to part with only an inconsequential late-round draft pick.
Sanders makes the most sense because he is healthy now. The 49ers don’t need to occupy their 53-man roster with another rehabbing player.
The 49ers had some opportunities to deal either Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard before the start of the regular season, but their asking price was too high. My guess is the 49ers were asking for no less than a third-round draft pick. Unless their asking price drops, Mullens and Beathard will remain with the 49ers through the season and into next offseason as insurance for Jimmy Garoppolo.
The 49ers, I’m sure, would like to work out a contract extension with DeForest Buckner before he enters his fifth year. Also, the 49ers are allowed to begin negotiations on a new deal for George Kittle after this season. (Because Kittle was not a first-round draft pick, they do not have the fifth-year option with him.)
Buckner and Kittle are equally high priorities because each can reach unrestricted free agency after the 2020 season. The organization can keep one of them around in 2021 on the franchise tag.
Remember, every unspent dollar on the salary cap this year carries over to next year. That’s part of the reason the 49ers might not want to add Green or Sanders or someone who might eat up $6 million or so for the remainder of the season. They have the following players on the final years of their contracts right now: Arik Armstead, Matt Breida, Jimmie Ward and Ronald Blair.
Maybe if the 49ers started the season 0-5 and Armstead got off to the kind of start that he’s enjoying right now, the 49ers would have been looking to deal him. But to trade away such an important member of the most important part of the team would not be very smart.
The 49ers will DEFINITELY be adding not just one offensive tackle . . . but TWO offensive tackles in the coming weeks: Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. Staley might be back on Oct. 31 for the game against Arizona, while McGlinchey is looking at a mid-November/early-December return.
I know you were asking about Trent Williams. I doubt Daniel Snyder will be doing business with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers. Plus, I don’t think the 49ers feel like the price that it would take to acquire Williams is the best long-term strategy. And after Staley and McGlinchey come back, what would you do with Williams?
The focus has always been on developing Dante Pettis as a wide receiver. He got injured last season on a punt return, and that set him back early in his career. Pettis is a starting wide receiver, so I believe the 49ers do not want to take any chances with subjecting him to more risk of injury.
In my opinion, Pettis’ return game is better-suited for success in college. He is patient and shifty. In the NFL, guys who don’t get up the field immediately get tackled immediately. Richie James continues to gain experience in that role, and he ranks among the best in the league with an 11.5-yard average. There is no reason to make a change at this point.
Yes, Jalen Hurd can return to play any point after the Nov. 24 game against Green Bay after going on injured reserve with a stress reaction in his back. Back injuries can be unpredictable, so we’ll see. The 49ers have four players who are eligible to come off injured reserve: Hurd, wide receiver Trent Taylor, defensive lineman Kentavius Street and cornerback Jason Verrett. A maximum of two players per team are allowed to come off IR during the season. I believe Taylor is the most likely. Hurd might be second-most likely.
I don’t see why not. The 49ers (5-0) the only team in the NFC with an unbeaten record. Right now, the 49ers are among the best teams in the conference, along with New Orleans, Seattle and Green Bay. Some other teams are in contention, too. Plus, the 49ers will be getting many key players back over the next month, including Kyle Juszczyk, Joe Staley, Mike McGlinchey and Ahkello Witherspoon.
[RELATED: When each 49ers injured player is expected to return to action]
The 49ers have to make it through just one more game before they get long-snapper Kyle Nelson back. He had to serve the final six games to open this season from a 10-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. I believe the problems with Robbie Gould have been due to timing of the snap and hold, as well as confidence in the moving parts of the 49ers' field-goal operations. We'll see if the struggles continue after that.
Kyle Juszczyk? Richard Sherman? Jimmy Garoppolo signed a multi-year extension after being in the building for half a season?
My point is it seems like the 49ers have not had difficulty convincing good players with options that they were building something even when the record did not reflect it.
I don’t know that the 49ers will be big players on the free-agent market in the coming years. They have a good young nucleus that they want to keep together. They want to be able to re-sign their own. And they want to draft well to keep replenishing their roster.
By and large, successful teams use free agency, not to land big-name, high-priced players, but to find pieces in positions or roles to bolster the middle-to-lower end of their roster.