49ers

Why Rich Eisen believes 49ers have had best offseason of all NFL teams

Why Rich Eisen believes 49ers have had best offseason of all NFL teams

How the 49ers have performed this offseason relative to their NFL counterparts can be debated. Their place atop the NFC and among the league's premier teams cannot. 

And frankly, that context should be considered when evaluating the moves they've made since Super Bowl LIV.

It's for that reason that NBC Sports' Rich Eisen argued Friday that San Francisco has had the best offseason in the NFL, as opposed to the handful of teams that have dominated the offseason storylines.

"The reason why the 49ers have had the best offseason of anyone," Eisen said Friday on "The Rich Eisen Show," "... when you're in the Super Bowl, when you're in the cream of the crop, you don't make all of those moves. What you do is you tweak, and you get smart, and you use your opportunity that is available to you, cap and draft-wise."

Eisen's comments came in response to Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab giving San Francisco a C-minus for its offseason grade, to which Eisen was staunchly opposed. In addition to re-signing safety Jimmie Ward, Eisen pointed to the ways in which the 49ers have filled major needs on the fly as reasons for why their offseason has been so strong.

"They have a guy on the offensive line, Joe Staley, who has got Hall of Fame credentials who decides to retire," Eisen said. "What do they do to fix that, in the middle of the draft? They get Trent Williams! They get Trent Williams! The Rams' head coach Sean McVay was just basically flat-out saying, 'Where the hell did that come from?' The whole league needs Trent Williams. Who got him? The defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers, that's who got him."

In addition to arguably being a superior talent to Staley, Williams also is nearly four years younger. Getting younger without sacrificing anything major was a common theme in Eisen's assessment.

"I love Emmanuel Sanders," Eisen added, "... but he's also 32 years old. So what do you do? You let him walk, and then manipulating your draft board with the pick that you get from Indianapolis and the own draft pick that you have, you go and you replace the guy you traded away in DeForest Buckner with Javon Kinlaw, who everybody believes might be the best D-tackle in the draft. And then you get Brandon Aiyuk of Arizona State to replace Emmanuel Sanders.

"Now the only issue with this offseason is Deebo Samuel hurt himself. We're assuming he's going to be back. But they get younger, they get better, they rearrange their cap properly, and on top of it all, they didn't lose anybody from their staff, which normally happens to any team that goes to the Super Bowl. They didn't lose anybody from their staff, and they signed their coach to a multi-year extension."

Samuel's recent Jones fracture arguably was the low point of the 49ers' offseason thus far, but he said his surgery went "perfect" and San Francisco is optimistic he'll be able to return in time for the Week 1 home game against the Arizona Cardinals. He broke out as a rookie under the same coaching staff he'll have in his second NFL season, which as Eisen noted, certainly wasn't ensured at the start of the offseason.

Locking coach Kyle Shanahan -- one of the brightest minds in all of football -- in for another six years shouldn't be overlooked. He surely would have been in extremely high demand the closer his contract got to expiring. It wouldn't be surprising if general manager John Lynch received a contract extension soon as well, given the cohesion the two have displayed so far.

And then there's George Kittle. Yes, his contract negotiation is going to be a challenging one, but both sides want him to be a 49er for a long, long time to come, and the expectation is that something will get done. If and when it does, a lot of the money San Francisco has saved this offseason will have been put to good use.

[RELATED: NFC West moves show fear of 49ers' extended dominance]

So, yes, the 49ers might not have added the quantity of big names that other teams have since March, and many of them have made tremendous strides this offseason. But, none of those teams were in San Francisco's situation, and that's really what Eisen's stance boils down to.

"None of those teams were in the Super Bowl, rearranged for the future, got smarter and kept the people they need to keep more than the San Francisco 49ers."

The 49ers were tough enough to beat during the season. They've done quite well ever since, too.

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

49ers' free agency, draft options also working against Raheem Mostert

49ers' free agency, draft options also working against Raheem Mostert

From Week 12 through the entirety of the playoffs, Raheem Mostert's 760 rushing yards trailed only Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry's 1,154 for the most in the NFL over that span.

Henry was rewarded with a four-year, $50 million contract Wednesday that reportedly includes $25.5 million guaranteed and makes him the fifth-highest paid running back in the league in terms of annual average salary. Naturally, Mostert -- who also is seeking a salary bump to the degree that he has demanded a trade -- will be rewarded, too. Right?

Wrong.

Aside from the obvious facts that Henry is nearly two years younger than Mostert and has a far larger sample size of success, the Titans simply couldn't afford to not lock up their lead back for the long term. You can be a believer in Ryan Tannehill's resurgence if you'd like, but you cannot view it in a vacuum. Henry is the straw that stirs the drink in that offense, and it's not a coincidence that Tannehill had his best season yet behind the NFL's leading rusher.

Mostert did lead the 49ers in rushing yards last season, but he is nowhere near as personally essential to San Francisco's offense as Henry is to Tennessee's. For one, coach Kyle Shanahan favors a running back-by-committee approach, which is why you'll likely never see the 49ers offer a running back a salary similar to the one Henry got. There's also the argument that Mostert's breakthrough was the product of Shanahan's system, and that he might, therefore, be replaceable.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

It's not that Mostert doesn't deserve a raise. It's just that he's highly unlikely to get exactly what he wants because San Francisco holds all of the leverage. Assuming he isn't traded, he can either play for the 49ers or potentially risk losing an accrued season. And that leverage disparity doesn't even include the bevy of external options San Francisco could fill Mostert's spot with, whether in the immediate or the near future.

Let's go in chronological order, shall we? 

If we're operating under the assumption that Mostert will not play under his current contract, nor will he receive what he deems an acceptable raise, there are a few potentially intriguing options on the free-agent market. Shanahan deploys an outside-zone running scheme, so any free-agent back the 49ers brought in likely would already have to be familiar with those concepts.

All of the backs currently on the free-agent market are there for a reason, mind you. They all have certain knocks against them, but it could also be the result of an oversupply and lack of demand.

Devonta Freeman's best seasons certainly would appear to be behind him, but it's worth noting that the two best seasons of his career -- in which he made the Pro Bowl both times -- came with Shanahan as his offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons. And who did he share the backfield with during those two seasons? None other than current San Francisco running back Tevin Coleman.

There's Chris Thompson, who Shanahan surely had a say in drafting in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft when he was Washington's offensive coordinator. There's Isaiah Crowell, who spent his rookie season with Shanahan as his offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns. Then there are veteran backs Lamar Miller, LeSean McCoy, Bilal Powell and others who might have varying degrees of experience in an outside-zone system, but might be better equipped to learn on the fly.

Again, each of those backs has some negative marks against him. But, as we've seen throughout Shanahan's coaching career, he can make magic with previously overlooked players.

That's just the current free-agent market. Looking a bit further down the line, next year's free-agent class could be absolutely stacked.

Obviously, you can remove Henry from that list now, but it's still quite a collection of big-name rushers. Many of them surely will be re-signed by their incumbent teams or be franchise-tagged, but some will sneak through the cracks. Again, the 49ers are unlikely to cough up a ton of money for a running back, but that abundance just further exasperates the current supply-demand dynamic that is working against Mostert.

Although the cost of those 2021 free-agent running backs might prove prohibitive for San Francisco, the same cannot be said for what is likely to be a loaded 2021 draft class at the position. Clemson's Travis Etienne, Alabama's Najee Harris (a Bay Area native), Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard and Ohio State's Trey Sermon headline the class. But there's tremendous depth within it, and the 49ers surely could add a talented back in the middle or later rounds at relatively little cost.

[RELATED: What 49ers can learn from Chiefs' deals with Mahomes, Jones]

Will Mostert get exactly what he is demanding? It's difficult to envision it playing out that way. The odds remain in favor of some sort of compromise, perhaps in which more of Mostert's salary is guaranteed.

In any case, there are a number of factors working against Mostert, both currently and down the line. He's not in the wrong for wanting his salary to be adjusted to meet his value. But that value is as much dependent on how he performs as it is how easily he could be replaced.

Watch 49ers rookie Brandon Aiyuk look explosive coming out of breaks

Watch 49ers rookie Brandon Aiyuk look explosive coming out of breaks

Ask anyone who has ever worked with 49ers newly drafted wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and without skipping a beat, they will talk about how athletic he is. 

Not only can Aiyuk do it all, but he can do it well. If these words don’t do it for you, just check out this clip of him working on his breaks during a workout:

Bet you’re really happy you don’t have to go up against him, aren’t you?

The 49ers moved up six spots to No. 25 overall to select Aiyuk in the 2020 NFL Draft out of Arizona State University, where he averaged 18.3 yards per reception in his final year with the Sun Devils -- with a good chunk of those yards coming after the catch. 

[RELATED: Why Aiyuk was recruited by Alabama to play at cornerback]

During the NFL Scouting Combine, Aiyuk ranked in the 90th percentile in the broad and vertical jump, as well as the 10-yard split. He also ran his 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. His 81-inch wingspan (at 5-foot-11) was the largest for anyone of his height in combine history, and was comparable to that of former All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Needless to say, he’s going to be a fantastic addition to the 49ers offense.