INDIANAPOLIS – General manager John Lynch is not allowed to enter into contract talks with prospective free agents from around the league until next week.
But he is already hearing about the positive effects from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s five-year, record-setting contract.
Lynch said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine that he is hearing buzz the 49ers are becoming viewed as an attractive destination around the NFL. One of his sources is 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who has reportedly spoken to players on other teams.
“That excites me,” Lynch said. “Some of it from our own guys, ‘Juice,’ but those guys know people in the league and they talk.”
The 49ers finished the season with a five-game win streak with Garoppolo at quarterback. The 49ers recently awarded Garoppolo a contract worth up to $137.5 million.
Lynch has received congratulations from some of his NFL peers, but he’s keeping things in perspective.
“I appreciate it, but we haven’t done anything, yet,” Lynch said. “In fact, we were 6-10.”
Here are nine other updates from Lynch:
TALKS WITH HYDE’S AGENT
The 49ers are in contact with agents for all of their scheduled free agents, Lynch said. The club will hold discussions with Carlos Hyde’s representatives during the NFL Scouting Combine.
“We’ll talk to him this week,” Lynch said of agent Doug Hendrickson. “Carlos is a really good football player for us. We’ll see what happens there.”
Among the team’s other scheduled free agents are Eric Reid, Tank Carradine, Brock Coyle, Aaron Lynch, Brandon Fusco and Dontae Johnson.
“The reality, not all of them will be signed before free agency,” Lynch said. “We have a plan, and we’re working toward that.”
COACHES, FRONT OFFICE ON SAME PAGE
In Year 1, the personnel department was presented with a clear picture of exactly the kinds of players coach Kyle Shanahan wanted for his offense.
“It’s how you find a Matt Breida in free agency, because you know exactly what you’re looking for,” Lynch said.
This offseason, the defensive staff should be able to articulate a more-defined model of the skillsets for which they’re looking in the players for Robert Saleh’s scheme, Lynch said. That’s because the 49ers implemented a new system that took shape as the season progressed. The roles of specific positions are in sharper focus this year.
Like a year ago, free agency is not expected to yield many options for teams looking to upgrade their pass rush. So Lynch said a lot of focus has been placed on developing the players who are already on the team.
“We spent so much time last year studying Chandler Jones and Melvin Ingram and (Jason) Pierre-Paul and every single one of them, franchise, franchise, franchise.,” Lynch said.
On Tuesday, one of the top pass-rushers was removed from the market when the Detroit Lions placed the franchise tag on Ezekiel Ansah.
“A big focus for us is to tap into that ability we already have,” Lynch said.
Eli Harold has some pass-rush ability that the 49ers will look to develop. Also, the club expects improvements from recent first-round draft picks DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead.
Pita Taumoepenu rarely got on the field as a rookie, but Lynch said there are high hopes for him, too.
“Sometimes people read into the fact that he wasn’t getting active, that he wasn’t making progress,” Lynch said. “He progressed tremendously. We’re really excited about him. We remain excited about his opportunities.”
KICKING TIRES ON CORNERBACKS
The 49ers recently hosted a visit with cornerback Vontae Davis, whom the Indianapolis Colts released late in the season. The club also talked to the Kansas City Chiefs about the possibility of a trade for cornerback Marcus Peters.
The 49ers decided not to pursue Davis, who signed this week with the Buffalo Bills. And the 49ers did not over-extended to acquire Peters. Instead, the Los Angeles Rams surrendered second- and fourth-round draft picks to obtain Peters and a sixth-round pick.
“We had conversations. We never made a formal offer,” Lynch said. “We felt at some point it was best to duck out. We’re comfortable with that.”
Lynch spoke about his philosophy.
“Just because a guy has been a really productive, really good, great player, doesn’t mean he’s a fit,” Lunch said. “It’s not just who’s been productive, it’s who’s a fit for you.”
49ERS HAVE AMPLE CAP SPACE
The 49ers at one point had more than $100 million in projected cap room. Now, after some contract extensions and factoring in the rookie pool, the 49ers are working with more than $50 million under the salary cap.
“We’re extremely well-equipped to do what we wish,” Lynch said.
The 49ers were aggressive at the start of free agency last year with the announcement of seven signings. Lynch does not expect that much activity next Wednesday on the first day of the new league year.
“I don’t think it will be that volume,” he said. “That was thick and active and fun. I felt we improved out team greatly at spots we frankly needed. We’ll be a little more selective. That’s the aggressive. We won’t flinch if we think a guy has an opportunity to fit into that approach of sustained success that can help us do that.”
TRENT BROWN UPDATE
Right tackle Trent Brown is not expected to be cleared for football activity for several months. He is undergoing his rehabilitation in Florida after season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
The 49ers’ athletic trainers are in close contact with Brown, Lynch said.
Brown has played three NFL seasons and is eligible to sign a contract extension this offseason. But Lynch said there are more pressing issues at hand for the 49ers. Lynch described Brown as a “special talent.”
He said, “I thought he made great strides last year. It’s just a reality, when you’re that big of a man, certain things are going to be a lot tougher. He’s a huge man, which is also a great strength for him. He’s a unique talent. I think he really responded and answered the call of what was being asked of him. It wasn’t perfect, and there are some things that he’s always going to deal with, but I was proud of him.”
MALCOLM SMITH WILL BE READY
The 49ers’ biggest free-agent splash on defense in free agency last year was linebacker Malcolm Smith. This year, they expect that move to pay off.
Smith missed the entire season due to a torn pectoral sustained in training camp. Lynch said Smith should be ready for full participation when the 49ers’ offseason program begins in April.
“Malcolm is doing great,” Lynch said. “Right at the start of offseason, he’ll be full-bore. I’ve been assured of that. . . . (I’m) excited to see him in a 49ers uniform. We’re excited to see him play for us.”
STRENGTH OF DRAFT CLASS
A year ago, the 49ers were connected with every top quarterback in the draft. This year, they do not have a strong need at the position with Garoppolo locked up as the long-term answer.
Still, Lynch has formed some opinions about the free-agent market and draft class.
“We aren’t one of the teams looking at it, but if you need a quarterback, it’s not a bad year,” Lynch said. “It’s rare that you have a lot of options in free agency. A lot of quarterbacks never get to free agency. It seems like there’s a lot this year. The top end of the quarterback class is stronger than it was last year. If you’re looking for a quarterback, this is a good year to be in the market. I’m really happy we aren’t, but we still study these guys.”
Lynch pointed out that the running back class is deep, too.
“Running back has some good options,” he said. “There’s strength at running back – some really good players.”
FIFTEEN MINUTES AT A TIME
The work started Tuesday night for Lynch and his staff, as they held their first of their maximum 60 interviews with draft prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine. Each team is allowed 15 minutes with each player on its list.
Lynch said he gets the most out of those interviews with prospects as he tries to gain an understanding of the individual’s makeup.
“A lot of people ask, ‘What can you get in 15 minutes?’ But we try to be very effective with that time.”