Even though I’ve been a diehard Niner fan since the John Brodie days in the 50’s and 60’s and a season ticket holder for 40 years, this year’s NFL season hasn’t really sparked my interest due to COVID-19 and the deadly California wild fires. Daily prayers go out to all who have been impacted.
I have steadfastly followed the Niner offseason and am so thrilled with what Lynch and Shanahan have been able to do. I’m confident that the Niners will be in the mix for the foreseeable future.
I support every move they made:
- Traded DeForest Buckner to the Colts for the Colt’s #1 draft pick (13th pick overall). With that pick, the Niners drafted Javon Kinlaw, perhaps the best defensive lineman in the draft, to replace Buckner. Management had to make a decision to sign either Buckner or Arik Armstead to a long term deal. They couldn’t sign both so dealt Buckner who had a higher trade value. Armstead had a breakout season and had 10 sacks along with being a rock of a run stopper. Armstead was signed to a 5 year $85 million contract with $40 million guaranteed. Buckner signed a 5 year $96 million contract with $44 million guaranteed with the Colts. They then signed Kinlaw to a 4 year $14.5 million contract for a substantial cap space savings.
- Did not re-sign Emanuel Sanders due to his salary and age. Sanders signed a 3 year $24 million contract with $10 million guaranteed with the Saints. To replace Sanders, the Niners selected Brandon Aiyuk with their own !sr round pick (25th overall pick). The Niners had Aiyuk as their best WR on their draft board in a very rich WR group. They signed Aiyuk to a 4 year $12.5 million contract for another cap space savings.
- With the cap space savings, they locked up George Kittle with a 5 year $75 million contract with $40 million guaranteed, making him the highest paid TE in NFL history.
- The team also re-signed DL Ronald Blair, FS Jimmie Ward, OL Ben Garland, CB Dontae Johnson and CB Jason Verrett. They are all very important pieces to the team’s makeup.
- Re-structured Dee Ford’s contract saving $9.5 million from their cap space.
- On draft day, the Niners engineered perhaps the best trade of the year by acquiring LT Trent Williams while giving up only a 5th round pick in the 2019 draft and a 3rd round pick in the 2020 draft. An absolute steal for the best LT in football. The LA Ram’s coach Sean McVay reacted to this trade by saying, “Thanks for reminding me,” McVay said according to Andrew Siciliano. “I need to go drink a couple of more beers.” Joe Staley stayed quiet about his retirement until the trade was announced, another very wise move as if the announcement would have been made earlier, this trade would have been much more costly.
- Acquired TE Jordan Reed, who has a history of injuries but was an All-Pro when healthy. With potentially both Kittle and Reed on the field at the same time, Shanahan can create some nightmare match-ups for the opponent’s defense.
- After being on IR for the past 2 years, Jet McKinnon is finally healthy and could be an impact player as he fits the Shanahan offense perfectly. Fast, shifty runner with great pass catching abilities and a nightmare in the open field. This made Matt Breida expendable so they traded him to the Dolphins for a 5th round pick. They used that pick to select Colton McKivitz, an offensive lineman, who made the 53 man roster. Breida was a good Niner but lost playing time at the end of the year due to inexplicable fumble issues.
While the Niners will be in the playoff hunt again this year, it’s not clear if they can win the West as the Seahawks also look scary good. It’ll come down to the wire between the two teams. Also, watch out for the rising Arizona Cardinals as Kyler Murray may be as good as Russell Wilson. The Cardinals also added DeAndre Hopkins, in my view the best WR in the NFL. Along side Larry Fitzgerald, they will be a monster.
My only off season disappointment is that WR Jalen Hurd went down with an ACL and will be lost for the season again. He is the big Red Zone receiver that the Niners were counting on. Hurd was lost for the season last year with a back injury so he is in the same company as Jet McKinnon in terms of losing 2 years of football due to injuries.
Following are my predictions:
- Jimmy Garoppolo will have a better year than last year (which was great even though many analysts look at him as a weak link). While at Atlanta, in Shanahan’s 2nd year, Matt Ryan had an All Pro year and lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl. Jimmy G’s 2nd year under Shanahan will be much better and could move him towards elite status.
- Jet McKinnon will have an impact year.
- Jimmy Ward will have an impact year.
- Fred Warner will have an impact year.
- Jason Verrett may be the surprise at Corner Back opposite Richard Sherman. He has had an injury plagued career since 2015 but he appears to be healthy and ready to compete.
- With a healthy Dee Ford and a more experienced Nick Bosa, watch out!
- With a defensive line rotation of DJ Jones, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, an improved Soloman Thomas, newly acquired Kerry Huder from the Cowboys, a healthy Kentavious Street and Kevin Givens, the D-Line may be better than last year.
- The WR’s will be much better than last year. Trent Taylor is back after missing last year with a foot injury. He will have the most receptions on the team. Deebo Samuel is coming back from a foot injury and is a game time decision for this week’s opener vs the Cardinals. Brandon Aiyuk will have a solid rookie year. Kendrick Bourne may have a break out year. The dark horse is Dante Pettis who had an awful 2019. If Jalen Hurd not been injured, Pettis would not have made the team. He has a lot to prove so let’s see what he can bring to the team this year.
To wrap things up, I want to pay tribute to Joe Staley, the best LT in Niner history. It was so sad to see him after the Super Bowl loss as he knew that this would be his last ride. He was and is a class act and I look forward to the day that he is added to the Niner Ring of Honor!!!
Go Niners !!!