/ by Brian Witt
Presented By RadioRow

The 49ers are just a few days away from taking the field in Super Bowl LIV, but it's never too early to look ahead to next year.

San Francisco came out of nowhere to meet the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl after a nine-win improvement over the previous season, and while the Niners are the league's surprise team, that won't be the case in 2020.

"There were definitely issues with the 49ers last year that they fixed not only quickly, but fixed in a way that will make them have staying power," NFL Media's Ian Rapoport told NBC Sports Bay Area's Scott Bair on Thursday. "Like, I feel like this team, if they were back here next year, I'd say, 'Okay, that makes sense.'"

"They didn't need a ton," Rapoport added, "but they needed a little bit, and the way they're constructed, they could be around a while."

One could argue the 49ers are playing with house money in Miami, but they might want to save some for the offseason in order to re-sign a number of key players, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.

"They're going to have to shed money," Rapoport said on Radio Row. "They absolutely are."

Among the players that are due for contract extensions are tight end George Kittle, defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead and safety Jimmie Ward. While Rapoport assumes San Francisco will prioritize Kittle, he believes the salary cap could make it challenging to bring back all of the defensive standouts.


"He has played really, really well," Rapoport said of Ward, who is due to hit unrestricted free agency. "Might have even priced himself out of San Francisco, which for him would be good news."

[RELATED: Kittle identifies key in 49ers going from 0-9 in '17 to SB]

Rapoport notes that the 49ers have done a good job of extending their players early and getting creative with the salary cap, so he doesn't rule out the possibility of anyone returning. He also expects both linebacker Kwon Alexander and edge rusher Dee Ford to "probably" return next season.

You can watch the full interview with Rapoport at the top of this article.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8:30 p.m. Thursday, 9:30 p.m. Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.