The 49ers season was over before it started. A myriad of injuries derailed any chances of repeating a Super Bowl appearance, finishing the year 6-10. Kyle Shanahan relied upon third-string running backs and receivers all year and still managed to put together a solid group. However, Shanahan needs to start with a brand new quarterback because Jimmy Garoppolo cannot be the starter going forward. This 49ers offseason can put them back atop the NFC again.
Roster Needs: QB, CB, IOL, S
The 49ers currently have $17 million in cap space but cutting both Jimmy Garoppolo and Dee Ford would clear $39 million without giving creating any holes on the roster they don’t already have. In 2019, the last full season Garoppolo has played, Jimmy G finished the season with the 4th highest interception rate among starters. The offensive system features Garoppolo making simple dump-offs to receivers and letting them do the rest. Garoppolo threw for the 26th most air yards, an absurdly low 6.5 air yards per attempt in 2019. Given such a mundane job at quarterback, Garoppolo struggles with it, and a replacement is needed.
As of right now, their main target should be stud Deshaun Watson who wants out of Houston now. Despite a lackluster team around him, Deshaun Watson threw for a league-high 4,823 yards last season. His playmaking ability out of the pocket and mobility would be a match made in heaven if he joined Kyle Shanahan. Also, given San Francisco’s immense cap space, they can take on Watson’s expensive extension that begins next season with ease.
If they cannot come to terms with a deal involving Watson, San Francisco must look towards the draft to address their quarterback need. With the 12th overall pick, the Niners are prime candidates to trade up and draft their franchise guy. Teams like the Dolphins and Falcons who own the 3rd and 4th picks respectively are likely to trade down.
Prospects Justin Fields and Trey Lance will be the main targets of Shanahan. Their mobility and arm talent are second to none in this class, two traits this offense desperately needs. As of right now, Fields is the more accurate, but the upside of Lance is the highest in this class given his physical and athletic profile. Either of the two will be upgrades over Garoppolo.
Outside of acquiring a new signal-caller, a new offensive guard is another need for this 49ers offseason. The offensive line lacks holes outside of guard Daniel Brunskill. This is all under the assumption that stud left tackle Trent Williams is re-signed as his contract, which is likely given their amount of cap space. Most of the 49ers’ spending money will be shelled out towards the re-signing of Williams and holes along the defense, therefore, a cheaper more serviceable guard should be the move.
Steelers guard Matt Feiler will hit the open market and will bring a noticeable boost to the offensive line. Feiler excelled in pass blocking for Roethlisberger who was sacked at the lowest rate last season. Feiler is a versatile player who can even play right tackle if need be, bringing much-needed versatility given the oft-injured 49ers.
San Francisco must address one position this 49ers offseason, cornerback. Starters Jason Verrett and Richard Sherman are both free agents, with Sherman already expressing that his time in San Fran is over.
Verrett had a resurgence in his career in 2020, playing a career-high 13 games. He accompanied his healthy season with lockdown coverage, as the 49ers allowed the 4th least passing yards in the league. Given his injury history, Verrett can be brought back at a bargain, especially for his talent. Slot corner, K’Waun Williams has quickly become one of the best in the league and should be brought back on a cheap deal too.
After all these signings, the Niners will still have approximately $20 million in cap. More than enough to go after big-time cornerbacks and safeties, given the impending free-agent Jaquiski Tartt. The premier defensive backs on the open market are Ronald Darby and Quinton Dunbar.
Darby has been inconsistent due to injuries, but when healthy can be put on an island against opposing receivers. He possesses top-tier speed and agility forcing tight windows for quarterbacks. Dunbar had one of the best seasons in 2019 before an injury-riddled 2020 campaign derailed his production. Dunbar can get back up to speed on a Niners’ defense where he is not asked to do-it-all as he did in Seattle.
At safety, Marcus Williams is one of the top-ranked free safeties at just 24-years-old. The Saints are in financial hell and cannot afford to keep Williams on the roster. Williams could boost this defense to the top of the league by forcing the highest incompletion rate and being a great addition in the run-game.