After a brilliant 2019 season, the Niners are primed to continue to be a very dominant team. Like all teams and all seasons, they do have to make some decisions on their roster going into the 2020 season.
Three key free agents have opening said that they would like to re-join the team but the financials may not allow that to happen:
- E-Man Sanders is 32 and at an age where WR’s start to lose their speed. Having said that, he is a valuable team leader and sets an example for the rest of the young WR’s. His will be a difficult decision for the Niners Management.
- Arik Armstead is still very young (26) and had a break-out season. There is no question that he will be paid and remain a Niner. It could take the form of a long term contract or a one year franchise tag.
- Jimmie Ward also had a break-out season at FS. He is still in his prime at 28 years of age and was signed to a one year $4.5 million last year. He is now worth much more after his stellar season so it will be difficult for the Niners to hang onto him. It will boil down to whether Jimmie is willing to take what the Niners can offer or leave for a more lucrative contract.
Two key leaders that must be given long term extensions:
- George Kittle is acknowledged to be one of the two best TE’s in the NFL along with Travis Kelce of the Chiefs. He will be given a long term contract that will keep him as a Niner for a very long time.
- DeForest Buckner has become one of the best DL’s in the league and will also be extended with a very lucrative contract.
One key player who has been a staple on this team for 13 years (35 years old), Joe Staley, may call it a career and retire. The entire team felt the most sorrow for not being able to bring home the Lombardi Trophy for Joe.
Key players on Injured Reserve (IR) who are expected to make contributions to the team:
- DE Ronald Blair III was having a great season until he tore his ACL in the first Seahawks game in November.
- OT Shon Coleman was signed to be a swing tackle being able to play either right or left tackle. But he suffered a significant right ankle injury in a pre-season game. If Staley retires, he’ll be a serious candidate to become the starting LT.
- WR Jalen Hurd, a rookie suffered a back injury in a pre-season game and never saw action during the regular season. Jalen is 6’4” and weighs 247 lbs. having the skills to be the big Red Zone WR that the Niners have sought.
- DT D.J. Jones may have been the MVP on the Niner DL this past year until he broke his ankle in the New Orleans game in November. He was the dominant force in the middle who plugged the running back holes and also forced QB pressures up the middle allowed Dee Ford and Nick Bosa to be more effective.
- RB Jerick McKinnon was hand-picked by Shanahan 2 years ago and given a very high $30 million contract. The problem is that he has yet to play a single play for the NIners as he tore his ACL 2 years ago in pre-season and suffered a significant set-back this past year. If he is brought back, he’ll have to take a significant salary cut and compete and earn a job in a crowded RB group.
- C Weston Richburg was having an All-Pro season at the all-important Center position until he suffered a torn patellar tendon injury in the New Orleans game in November.
- DL Julian Taylor was a very valuable rotational player on the D-Line but he tore his ACL in practice in December.
- WR Trent Taylor broke in foot in pre-season and had multiple setbacks having to endure problems with the screws inserted into his foot and serious infections requiring 5 surgeries to repair. Losing Trent was a serious issue as Garoppolo and Taylor had developed a great chemistry together much like Tom Brady and Julian Edelman.
Following are questions that I have about the current roster:
- RB Matt Breida fell from being the starting running back to third behind Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert as he began to fumble the ball. Since these trio of RB’s are good but very similar, it would make sense to make some changes. Will Jerick McKinnon come back and become the impact elusive runner and elite pass catcher out of the back-field? Will the Niners draft a strong and powerful RB? Regardless, it appears that Breida is the odd guy out.
- DE Dee Ford provided the Niners with their badly needed edge rusher. He had 6.5 sacks this past season but also showed that he is injury prone. With a 5 year $85 million contract, it would be advisable for the Niner Management to evaluate his performance against his very high contract.
- WR Dante Pettis did not develop in his sophomore year. As a matter of fact, he regressed. It is time to cut bait and let him go.
- CB Richard Sherman, 31, had a great year but started to show his diminished speed during the playoffs. He is a great leader and an inspiration to the team. If Jimmie Ward and the Niners can’t come to an agreement, perhaps an option would be to move Sherman to Free Safety. Sherman should remain a starting CB but the Niners must look for his replacement now.
- DL Soloman Thomas has yet to live up to his #1 draft pick expectations. This will be a crucial training camp for Soloman with the real possibility that he may not make the 2020 roster.
Off season needs:
- A very speedy WR to stretch the field allowing Garoppolo options to either go deep or find open receivers in the mid-level.
- A shut-down CB who ultimately will replace Sherman.
- Another Edge Rusher.
- A Left Tackle if Staley retires and Coleman isn’t the guy.
- A power RB.
- A stout Guard.
With respect to this year’s draft, the Niners have the following picks:
Round 1 (own)
Round 5 (own)
Round 5 (via Broncos in Sanders trade)
Round 6 (own)
Round 7 (own)
Round 7 (via Lions in Eli Harold trade)
With a very deep draft class, I am hoping that the Niners trade down from their #1 pick to accumulate more picks. Also, Lynch/Shanahan should look to see what they may be able to get in terms of additional draft picks for guys like Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Dante Pettis and Soloman Thomas.
Whatever they do, I have utmost confidence in Lynch and Shanahan to make this great team even better!!!