Armed with nine selections and a little space for beginners to make up the menu, the Niners envision a bundle of some of their late and upscale options. Lynch alluded to such a scenario in his press conference draft. By the time the draft ended, the Niners had not made a single deal during the draft for the first time since Shanahan and Lynch appeared.
Instead, San Francisco picked nine players with the knowledge that many of them could join the coaching squad in September but with an eye toward creating more training battles in the camps.
“We love the competition,” Lynch said. “We love our roster. We really love it. We think it’s well designed and now we have to put it together. That, there are teams that I think can compete for the thing, we think we’re one of those, and now you have to put the work into this, and have a phenomenal performance, And come together as a team.”
After moving for Trey Lance last year, this was supposed to be a quiet season. It was just the opposite, with the Niners still finding themselves in the middle of some drama when it came to future Deebo Samuel and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. With the bulk of creating the Offseason roster complete, a lot of work has been done but there is still a lot more to come.
What did they do
Despite losing starters like defensive tackle DJ Jones and goalkeeper Laken Tomlinson, the Niners spent big on promotion with linebacker Charvarius Ward, a move made with an apparent focus on place value. At Ward, the Niners believe they have a rookie player capable of instantly becoming the number one cornerback and cementing one of the team’s biggest weaknesses last season.
Ward was the Niners’ only big bit of a free-agent apple, but they’ve also made a number of sideline engagements that will improve their woefully special teams and increase depth. The Niners ranked 26th on the DVOA Special Teams in 2021, and this performance led to the subsequent idea becoming a priority. To that end, the 49ers invested in linebacker Oren Berks, safety George Odom and returnee Ray McCloud.
The Niners have re-signed some key contributors such as linebacker Aziz Al Shaer, offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill and receiver Joan Jennings, and added outsiders Kimoko Toray and Keri Haider Jr.
In the draft, the Niners didn’t think they had many important needs, which allowed them to draft the best players available on their board regardless of position. This approach resulted in early defensive end picks for USC Drake Jackson and LSU running Tyrion Davis-Price and SMU receiver Danny Gray. The 49ers also added some interesting unoccupied agents, such as Arizona State center Donovan West, North Carolina State player Jeremiah Gemmell, UCLA Quarters Knight and Texas A&M safety Leon O’Neill.
The hope is that all of these moves will make the Niners a deeper team, better equipped to deal with major injuries.
Jeremy Fowler talks about Baker Mayfield and Deboe Samuel wanting to trade despite making little or no progress during the NFL draft.
In some ways, the 49ers’ offseason was more about what they didn’t do than what they did. After losing to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game, the expectation was that the first big action – trading Garoppolo – would happen quickly. That was before it was known that Garoppolo needed surgery on his right shoulder, a procedure that wiped out the value of his trade and put his future in limbo.
Garoppolo’s shoulder is due to have it all in late June or early July, at which point the Niners will once again be looking for a business partner. And while the Niners have repeatedly said they don’t intend to release Garoppolo, it’s still hard to imagine a scenario in which he’d be on the list in the first week, at least at his current $26.95 million figure.
Garoppolo’s situation has paled in comparison to unexpected problems with Samuel, who requested a deal in mid-April. This came after positive reports from Lynch and Shanahan about the direction of extending the lucrative contract. Only the team, Samuel and his representatives know exactly what his grievances are, but the Niners remain cautiously optimistic that they can mend this relationship and keep Samuel for the long term. Nick Bosa’s termination contract extension could be soon, too, although he’s not pressing Bosa under contract for another two seasons.
The positions of Garoppolo and Samuel loom so large that other questions are hidden. While the Niners’ starting positions count mostly, it’s still fair to wonder who will play a strong position and security.
Veteran center Alex Mack has yet to decide whether to return or retire, and Lynch’s tone fluctuated when talking about Mack between the two. But the Niners haven’t drafted a position, and although they have Jake Brendel under contract, Shanahan prefers to have experience in that spot. JC Tretter is a free agent and could be an option if Mac decides to call it a career.
In strong security, incumbent Jaquiski Tartt remains unsigned, but no reunion is imminent. This leaves a group that includes Odum, Talanoa Hufanga and Tarvarius Moore to fight for the position.
“We planned and we know we can’t count on it, but we have to have a center, we like to be safe,” Shanahan said. “But we do our best with our choices, and I really like the guys we’ve added.”