by Mario Granata
Imagine that you are given a blank canvas to create a masterpiece. Now, imagine that you have unlimited funds to put anything you want on the canvas and paint the picture in your image. Now, the only problem that you have is that it is your first painting, and the “artist” before you left out all the paint, and now it’s all solid and dry. This is the scenario that John Lynch finds himself in. He has been given the keys to the car in San Francisco with the uphill task of restoring one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. How are they going to do it?
Head Coach: Kyle Shanahan
Career Record: 0-0
Offensive Coordinator (Rank): Curtis Modkins
31st YPG, 32nd Pass, 4th Run
Defensive Coordinator (Rank): Jim O’Neil (New: Robert Saleh)
32nd YPG, 14th Pass, 32nd Rush
With the Chip Kelly experiment finally over in San Francisco, the 49ers can get back to their winning ways (or at least they hope so.) It seems that everywhere the 49ers went last year, Colin Kaepernick’s behavior overshadowed the fact that they were just a bad football team in all phases of the game. Now, I know that the 49ers were 4th overall in terms of running the football, but when teams have double-digit leads, they are willing to concede the run because the clock is on their side. Rare is the team (not named Cleveland) that manages to go 32nd in defense, and 31st in offense. At least 49ers fans can say for 2017 “it can’t get any worse.”
When you are over 81 million dollars under the salary cap, you really aren’t pressured to make tough decisions in restructuring contracts, but if the 49ers are on a 5-year plan for Lynch and Shanahan, they might want to look at NaVorro Bowman and/or Amhad Brooks.
It is no secret that Bowman pretty much needs a can opener to get out of bed during the season due to the injuries that he has sustained over his career. With the addition of Robert Saleh as Defensive Coordinator, who comes in from Jacksonville who ran a 4-3 defense, asking Bowman to be the man in the middle might not last 16 games. If the 49ers designate Bowman as a post-June 1st cut, they will save around 4.3 million.
Brooks, who just celebrated his 33rd birthday, is in a similar boat as Bowman. His age being a factor and added in the fact that he already restructured his contract in 2014 to stay with the team, and coupled with the aforementioned fact that he is mainly a 3-4 OLB, he might not fit in what Saleh is going to run.
These moves might be foregone conclusions as the 49ers have signed Dakoda Watson, Brock Coyle and Malcolm Smith. Brooks and Bowman’s contract details are below:
Of the 22 Free Agents that the 49ers could have resigned, many of them either don’t fit the scheme of the defense or are holdovers from other coaches who have philosophies that differ from Shanahan. With Shanahan being the 4th coach in as many years, that is 4 years of free agents, draft picks, and chaos that he needs to sort through to build a team. The biggest name being Colin Kaepernick, had his option declined by the team. Either Shanahan thinks that Kaep will be a distraction, or he doesn’t fit what he wants to do. I am thinking that its more of the latter, even though he has seen what distractions can do to a team. (ex. Uh, Dad, I have a question for you?)
Many of the signs have the 49ers going with a defensive player with their #2 overall pick. This makes sense as its harder to build chemistry on the offensive side of the ball, so if the defense can take care of business while the offense starts to click, the 49ers can be in some games in 2017. Just ask the GM who he would rather have?
While Shanahan plays the waiting game when it comes to Kirk Cousins, the 49ers look to take Jamal Adams, S, LSU or Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford.
Having a quality “quarterback” in the secondary is probably something that Lynch has been telling Shanahan over the past few weeks, and could become a louder cry if the 49ers get Cousins. Adams can set the tone of the defense and be one of the more impactful safeties that the 49ers have had since Ronnie Lott.
Many scouting reports have Thomas as a “tweener” and label that as one of the reasons he might fall in the draft. Well, if there is one thing that Saleh knows, its how to maximize the talent of a tweener (Google Telvin Smith) as Saleh was Smith’s linebacker coach in Jacksonville. Also, being that Thomas will have his hand in the dirt most of the time, and be able to set the edge, maybe the 49ers won’t surrender 165 rushing yards a game as they did in 2016.
Being that the dust has settled on Free Agency, many of the moves have already been made for the 49ers. As mentioned above the acquisition of linebackers Dakoda Watson, Brock Coyle and former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith may be the end of Bowman and Brooks, but with Coyle and Smith having spent time in Seattle, taking care of the division is a priority.
Watson started his career with the Bucs, and since 2013 has played for 5 different teams. San Francisco signed him to a 3-year deal, and sometimes it just takes a team to believe in a player for him to reach his max potential. Watson already has a chip on his shoulder being a former 7th-round pick, so this could be a breakout year.
Smith looked like he was taking the Larry Brown route to success by winning the Super Bowl MVP and then taking the money in Oakland. He is also looking to resurrect his career in the Bay area and what better way to tell the team that you should have been paid then beating them twice a year? He will look to improve.
On the offensive side of the ball, the 49ers added Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin to fill in for the departed Torrey Smith. While Garcon is more of a possession receiver at this stage of his career, many think that he was overpaid, but when you are trying to lure Kirk Cousins, having a familiar face sometimes helps.
Garcon has not done it alone, though. He enjoyed his success in Washington because there was someone taking the coverage back a bit so he could be open enough on those underneath routes: Enter Marquise Goodwin. Hopefully Goodwin is a bit more durable than DeSean Jackson was. Oh wait.
In Shanahan’s 9-years as an offensive coordinator his offenses have finished in the Top-10 6 times. That includes stints in Cleveland, Washington and Houston. He has the pedigree to call plays, and that is what the 49ers are banking on. Now, he just needs the players. Lynch, get to work.
A Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale: 2017
On the Clock: 2016 San Francisco 49ers
On the Clock: 2015 San Francisco 49ers