Trent Williams

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

The 49ers ran through the NFC playoffs, held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV and arguably have improved this offseason. So, they've got to be the favorites in their own division, right?

It wouldn't exactly be going out on a limb to take that stance, as San Francisco currently is the betting favorite to emerge not just from the NFC West, but the conference as a whole. There's a reason for that, and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon doesn't disagree.

"You'd have to go with San Francisco right now," Moon said Thursday on 95.7 The Game's "Joe, Lo and Dibs" show when asked which team is the favorite in the NFC West. "I mean, they're the defending NFC champs. They bring back pretty much everybody from that football team. 

"They've lost a couple of receivers, but I still think they have a lot of good talent on their team. Their strength is going to be in their running game. I think their offensive line just got strengthened by signing (Trent Williams). So, they're going to be the team to beat, but this is going to be one of the more competitive divisions in the NFL.

"You've got Seattle, who's going to be right there. ... And then you always have the Rams, who you just don't know how good they're going to be. And then Arizona is going to be much more improved. So this is going to be a very, very competitive division, as it usually is."

[RELATED: Report: 49ers' Mostert requested pay raise this offseason]

The 49ers might be the deserved favorites in the division, but Moon is correct. The NFC West was tough enough last year, when San Francisco split the season series with the Seahawks and went down to the wire in both meetings with the Cardinals. As good as the 49ers are, claiming a second straight division title will be no easy task.

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

49ers' Nick Bosa excited for challenge of facing Trent Williams in camp

49ers' Nick Bosa excited for challenge of facing Trent Williams in camp

Nick Bosa and Joe Staley were at opposite ends of their NFL careers.

It became a regular post-practice scene during 49ers training camp last summer when the player in his first NFL season would walk off the field and compare notes with the player taking part in the final training camp of his 13-year career.

Staley, an NFL All-Decade left tackle, certainly made Bosa better. Bosa likely did the same for Staley.

Staley no longer is with the 49ers after announcing his retirement in April. Now, Bosa should have a chance to advance his game even further with daily practices against another top-flight offensive tackle -- assuming camp takes place as scheduled during the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The 49ers acquired Trent Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowl performer, in a trade with Washington in April. Williams takes over at left tackle, where he and Bosa will go up against each other plenty during practice sessions.

“My impressions are, the tape I’ve watched of him, it’s pretty impressive,” Bosa said last week during the 49ers’ State of the Franchise virtual event. “I’m just excited we have a player like that on our team.”

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Williams rejoins Kyle Shanahan, for whom he played his first four NFL seasons. In the first year of Mike Shanahan's tenure as Washington’s head coach -- and with Kyle as offensive coordinator -- Williams was the team’s 2010 first-round draft pick at No. 4 overall.

“I’m excited that he’s familiar with Kyle’s offense, so (he's) just a great replacement for Joe and I’m going to have a really good challenge all training camp,” Bosa said. “It’ll be interesting.”

[RELATEDHow Nick Bosa's D-line knowledge impressed 49ers legend Bryant Young]

Bosa registered nine sacks during the regular season and was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He collected four more sacks in three postseason games.

Williams did not play last season. He held out through the first eight weeks of the season after alleging that Washington team doctors misdiagnosed a cancerous growth on his head. After reporting to the club, he ended up going on the non-football injury list.

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]