Carlos Hyde

10 updates from 49ers GM John Lynch at the NFL Scouting Combine


10 updates from 49ers GM John Lynch at the NFL Scouting Combine

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:

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

Size matters for 49ers at cornerback


Size matters for 49ers at cornerback

With the start of the free agency just a couple of weeks ago, here is one man's opinion of the 49ers' top offseason needs:

1. Cornerback
2. Guard
3. Edge rusher
4. Wide receiver
5. Inside linebacker

Here are some other questions for the latest edition of 49ers Mailbag submitted via Facebook:

What corners are the 49ers likely to be looking at in free agency/draft? (Stépheñ Bůrkę)
There are few things of which I am certain when it comes to NFL free agency and the draft, but here is one of them:

If there’s a cornerback available, the 49ers will do their homework and consider the possibility of pursuing him to add to their roster.

Ahkello Witherspoon showed during his rookie season the ability to be a starter-caliber NFL cornerback. Nobody else on their roster, including free-agent-to-be Dontae Johnson, proved capable of being a starter on a team with playoff aspirations.

The 49ers have already done their homework on free agent Vontae Davis, who visited Santa Clara this week, and Marcus Peters, whom the 49ers chose not to pursue from the Kansas City Chiefs with a trade offer.

The personnel department will looking into the entire upcoming free-agent class, including Trumaine Johnson, Aaron Colvin and Kyle Fuller.

As for who might be available in the draft, Iowa’s Josh Jackson and Ohio State’s Denzel Ward appear to be the only candidates who the club would consider with their first-round draft pick. Jackson could have the edge on the 49ers’ draft board due to his size advantage. The 49ers, like the other teams that run their Seattle-influenced defensive scheme, place emphasis on tall corners on the outside.

After their first pick, the 49ers could look to Colorado, again, with 6-foot-1 Isaiah Oliver. Kameron Kelly (6-2) of San Diego State could be a player the 49ers would consider on the second or third down with the idea of moving him back to cornerback.

It seems after the Eagles won the Super Bowl a good back up QB is important. What do you think the Niners will do at backup QB? (Philip Malan)
My first thought is that the 49ers feel pretty good about their quarterback situation. C.J. Beathard definitely has a lot of what Kyle Shanahan wants from a player at that position.

Beathard showed some good things in his time as a rookie, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Obviously, the 49ers will bring in one or two other quarterbacks. More than likely, there could be a journeyman-type and an undrafted rookie. Although I would not rule out a player from the outside beating out Beathard for the No. 2 spot, I’d be surprised if the top two QBs on the 49ers’ roster at the start of the 2018 season are not Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard.

Who do you see taking the lead role at RB if Hyde isn't signed? (Ben Gomez)
I don’t think the 49ers necessarily want a so-called “workhorse” at running back. Shanahan would likely prefer to employ multiple backs for different roles.

That said, the 49ers have certainly not given up on re-signing Carlos Hyde. If the price is right, there are plenty of scenarios in which he returns to the organization in 2018.

Joe Williams demonstrated the skillset at Utah that would easily make him the team’s premier back. But the game appeared too big for him last summer during training camp before he was shipped to injured reserve with a relatively minor injury. If Williams returns in April for the offseason program ready to play, he and Matt Breida could easily be the 49ers’ top two backs.

But, certainly, the 49ers are in no position to depend on Williams. It seems unrealistic the 49ers would spend big money on a free agent. They can be expected to add a veteran or two, but nobody who would come in as the no-questions-asked starter. (Remember, a year ago, the 49ers added Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs, and neither made the regular-season roster.)

There will certainly be plenty of low-cost, dynamic options available in the draft – as there is every year.

49ers Mailbag: Next targets for contract extensions


49ers Mailbag: Next targets for contract extensions

In the past two weeks, the 49ers have signed Cassius Marsh, Jimmy Garoppolo and Daniel Kilgore to multi-year contract extensions.

We open this edition of 49ers Mailbag with a question about where the 49ers will go from here. The 49ers own sole negotiating rights with their own free agents until March 12, when the early negotiating period begins.

The list of 49ers scheduled for unrestricted free agents includes:
S Eric Reid
RB Carlos Hyde
DL Tank Carradine
DL Aaron Lynch
CB Dontae Johnson
LB Brock Coyle
OG Brandon Fusco
TE Logan Paulsen
DL Leger Douzable
OL Garry Gilliam

Here are some of the questions from readers on Facebook:

Who is the next FA to get re-signed? (Max Moorman)
The most-likely candidates for new contracts before the start of free agency could be inside linebacker Brock Coyle and defensive lineman Tank Carradine.

Coyle underwent shoulder surgery right after the season and faced a five-to-six month rehabilitation. In light of the uncertainty surrounding Reuben Foster, the only thing that would likely prevent the 49ers from pursuing a new contract with Coyle is if their medical staff is not optimistic about a full recovery.

Carradine proved to be a good fit for the 49ers’ 4-3 scheme on run downs. He believes he has more to offer as an inside pass rusher, but the 49ers did not have him on the field for any third-down play all season.

Other notable pending free agents, such as running back Carlos Hyde and safety Eric Reid, are expected to be available to other teams for the early negotiating period from March 12-14.

Under the right circumstances, the 49ers would like to bring back Hyde and Reid. But it seems unlikely the 49ers will blow them away with contract offers to prevent them from hitting the open market. The chances of them returning to the 49ers appears to be in direct correlation to how other teams value them as free agents.

There are a lot of fans so excited that they are talking about the Super Bowl next year. What are the expectations internally for next year? (Philip Malan)
The expectations internally are for the 49ers to continue to build their roster, strengthening positions of need, and put themselves in a position to compete for a spot in the playoffs.

But there are so many variables – namely, injuries – that it’s difficult to have a black-and-white goal and at the end of the season declare a season a success or a failure.

Coach Kyle Shanahan did his best last week to tamp down any expectations for the 2018 season.

“Obviously, we're more excited going into this year because we know our team and we've added guys and we've kind of built this the way that we've wanted to,” Shanahan said. “But by no means are we done or even close to done. We have to continue to get better every single day, and it'll start with free agency. That comes first, and then it'll be the draft and then it'll be working in phase one, two and three, all the way into OTAs, and then it'll start with training camp. There is no quick answer to anybody.

“This league is so balanced, so competitive, it is so hard to win in this league that you never go into a year saying, ‘All right, we're good, we're (going to be in the) playoffs.’ You have to earn everything you get, and if you think anything differently, you will be humbled and embarrassed very quickly in this league. That's why I'm ready to go to work.”

Is there is some sort of timeline for the Niners to decide on what to do with Reuben Foster? (Jeremy Denton)
In the past, when the 49ers have released a player due to off-field issues, they have done it immediately. The optics are that the 49ers did not find enough to convince them to immediately cut ties with Reuben Foster. He was arrested Sunday in Los Gatos on charges of domestic violence, threats and possession of an assault weapon.

The 49ers have only two decisions: Release Foster or keep him.

The collective bargaining agreement prevents the 49ers – or any other team – from doling out any punishment for actions that fall under the NFL’s policies on personal conduct or substances of abuse.

The normal course of events will have Fosber back in court for an arraignment on April 12, if the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office decides there is enough evidence to pursue charges. The 49ers’ offseason program is set to begin April 16.

In all likelihood, everyone should know a lot more about Foster's situation -- and his status with the 49ers -- at that time.