Kwon Alexander

John Lynch On Draft, Trades, Staley

With the draft approaching, 49ers general manager John Lynch conducted a teleconference with the local media Monday where he revealed several interesting nuggets. When asked about a report from earlier today that he was shopping veterans Kwon Alexander, Dee Ford, Jaquiski Tartt, and Marquise Goodwin, Lynch denied the first three but acknowledged the fourth.

Marquise is the one guy out of that group that you mentioned where there’s active discussions going on,” Lynch said, via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports.The other guys, we love and are really looking forward to playing with moving forward.” It hasn’t been any secret they’ve been looking to trade Goodwin, and we heard last month they’d likely have to end up cutting him. However Lynch claimed there has been legit interest, saying a Goodwin deal “came close a couple of times” this offseason. Goodwin had a career year with San Francisco in 2017 with 962 yards, but injuries sapped his effectiveness and in 2019 he had only 186.

Also late last month we heard longtime left tackle Joe Staley wasn’t necessarily committed to playing in 2020, although Lynch assuaged some of those fears. “We’ve heard nothing that would lead us to believe that Joe is not going to play. So we’re encouraged with that. We’ll see where that goes,” he said. While that still is far from ironclad, it looks like Staley returning for a 14th season is a good bet.

The 49ers hold the 13th and 31st picks in the draft, and there has been speculation they’ll look to trade down since they currently don’t have any selections in the second, third, or fourth-rounds. Lynch confirmed he has talked to teams about potentially trading both picks, per a Maiocco tweet.

However, he said he’d stand pat at 13 if the team could land a “difference maker.” Lynch said that he and head coach Kyle Shanahan have so far identified six players they’d draft with the 13th pick before opting to trade down, Matt Barrows of The Athletic tweets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Shopping Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander

The 49ers are shopping several notable names in advance of the draft, according to Mike Lombardi of The Ringer (on Twitter). Execs around the league tell the former GM that edge rusher Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Jaquiski Tartt have all been made available for the right price. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who was dangled earlier this year, also remains on the block. 

The level of interest in those four players isn’t immediately clear, but the Niners are exploring every avenue in advance of the draft. Ford is set to enter his second season with San Francisco, just one year after coming over via trade with Kansas City. He’s in the midst of a five-year, $85MM contract and coming off of an injury-riddled season.

Thanks to knee, quadriceps, and hamstring issues, Ford was limited to just eleven regular season contests. And, when he was on the field, the 49ers had to ease the 29-year-old into action. All in all, he played on just 22% of the defensive snaps.

Alexander, 26 in August, has three seasons left on his four-year, $54MM deal. The off-ball ‘backer is remarkably tough – he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in November and somehow managed to return for the Niners’ playoff run. Alexander also battled a biceps injury that required surgery in February. These maladies emerged after he missed much of the 2018 season with an ACL tear. They will also drop his potential trade value.

The 49ers used rookie Dre Greenlaw for much of the season in Alexander’s place but reinstalled the highly paid outside linebacker in the starting lineup in the playoffs. Greenlaw has three years left on his rookie deal.

San Francisco had initially constructed Alexander’s contract to make it easier for the franchise to move on from him after 2019. But after a November restructure, that becomes more difficult. The 49ers added void years to Alexander’s contract to create cap space. Because of this, Alexander does not become a realistic cut candidate until 2022. But it appears the 49ers are trying to offload the former Buccaneer’s contract on another team and move forward with a younger player at the position.

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NFC Notes: Falcons, Quinn, Freeman, 49ers

Falcons coach Dan Quinn managed to save his job by rattling off some wins down the stretch last year. If his team has a repeat performance in 2020, he won’t be so lucky. It’s the consensus of just about everyone that Quinn will be fired if Atlanta doesn’t get things turned around next year, and Falcons owner Arthur Blank more or less confirmed as much in recent comments to the media. Blank wouldn’t divulge the exact number of wins he was expecting, but he did say “yep,” when asked if making it back to the postseason was the standard he was setting, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “I can definitely say that’s right.”

Blank went on to say some nice things about Quinn and the team’s turnaround in the second half of the season, but it’s clear that Quinn will be on a short leash. Just about everyone thought he was a goner before the Falcons finished the year 6-2, so perhaps he’ll pull a rabbit out of his hat once again. The former Seahawks DC fired both of his coordinators after a lackluster 2018 campaign, and it didn’t help much right away. Matt Ryan is already 34 and Julio Jones is 31, so Blank’s impatience makes a lot of sense as he wants to capitalize on the core that took his team to the Super Bowl just a few short seasons ago.

Here’s more from the NFC as we head into the weekend:

  • We heard earlier this week that Falcons running back Devonta Freeman could be on the chopping block, and Blank certainly didn’t do anything to quash that story. “Well, I love him, too,” Blank said of Freeman in McClure’s same piece. “But this has nothing to do with love. It has to do with building a roster. The salary cap is not unlimited.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, and that doesn’t bode well for Freeman’s chances of sticking on the roster. “Sure, I love what [Freeman] brings to the team. I also know we’ve drafted well and we’ve got some really good backups now today. We’ll see how all that works out,” he continued. Freeman has three years left on the five-year, $41.25MM pact he signed with Atlanta a couple years ago, and he seems increasingly unlikely to be back with the team in 2020. As of right now, it looks like the team will be moving on. The Falcons can save around $3MM against the cap by releasing him, but they’d still be taking a significant dead cap hit by shedding his expected $6.5MM salary.
  • 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander tore a pec in November, and was expected at the time to miss the remainder of the season. He improbably battled his way back with remarkable speed, and ended up being activated off injured reserve for San Francisco’s playoff run. Not only was Alexander dealing with the pec issue, he also played in the playoffs and the Super Bowl with a significant bicep injury that required surgery, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapsheet reports that Alexander underwent the procedure on his bicep Friday, and will make a full recovery for the 2020 season. The 49ers signed him to a big contract last offseason, and he’s one of their leaders on defense. This kind of grit shows why. Alexander has been bit by the injury bug recently, as his 2018 season in Tampa was cut short by a torn ACL. Hopefully he can stay healthy this year as San Francisco gears up for another run.

NFC West Notes: Rams, 49ers, Alexander

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is gone, but the Rams will continue to operate in a 3-4 base under new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, as ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry writes.

Still, personnel changes may be on the horizon – defensive lineman Michael Brockers, outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., and inside linebacker Cory Littleton are all slated for free agency. The Rams will also be on the lookout for safety help following the retirement of 13-year pro Eric Weddle.

Things are fluid at this stage of the offseason, but it seems as though Brockers and Littleton are likely to find paydays elsewhere. Fowler, on the other hand, could be cuffed with the $15MM+ franchise tag or signed to a new deal.

Interestingly, Thiry also frames cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman as a cap casualty. Despite coming off of another strong season, she believes the Rams could drop the final year of his three-year, $15.7MM contract and fill the void internally by giving more slot snaps to Troy Hill.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander agreed to restructure his contract back in November, but word of the revised deal only started to trickle out recently. According to Over The Cap, the Niners prorated $333K of Alexander’s 2019 salary to signing bonus while adjusting his 2020 salary from $11.25MM to $976K with the rest to be paid as an option bonus on April 1. Meanwhile, three added three voidable years were tacked on. Alexander’s contract will now void on the 5th day of the 2023 waiver period. This will make Alexander an unrestricted free agent in 2023, same as he was scheduled based on the original contract. Ultimately, these changes resulted in $8.1MM in badly needed cap space for the NFC champs.
  • Even with the Alexander restructure and tweaks to Weston Richburg‘s deal, SF still has only $13MM to spend. To carve out more room, the 49ers could dump running back Tevin Coleman to create another $4.9MM in space, ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner suggests. Coleman, 27 in April, averaged 4.0 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns off of 137 totes. Through the air, he had 21 grabs for 180 yards and one score.
  • The Seahawks – who finished second in the NFC West – will soon find out whether they’ve won the Greg Olsen sweepstakes. After meeting with the ‘Hawks, Bills, and Redskins, the tight end is expected to make his decision this week.

49ers To Activate Kwon Alexander

The 49ers will activate Kwon Alexander for Saturday’s divisional round game against the Vikings, according to Matt Maiocco of NBCSportsBayArea.com. Still, it remains to be seen how much he’ll play.

When healthy, Alexander is an every-down linebacker for the Niners. However, he’s just nine weeks removed from pec surgery and only just returned to practice last week.

I know Kwon will fly around,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He’ll hit. He’ll be energetic. He’ll get everyone going. I think everyone will feel his energy on the field. And we’ll see how it goes. We’re not going to throw him out there, just down-in and down-out. But we don’t have a plan, where it’s only going to be ‘this’ amount. He’s looked good in practice, but we’re also not laying people out in practice.”

Without Alexander in the second half of the season, the Niners used rookie Dre Greenlaw at the weakside linebacker spot. It sounds like Greenlaw will continue to see snaps, but the balance between him, Alexander, and the other LBs will be dependent on Alexander’s effectiveness.

You got to wait to see how the tackling goes and how he feels,” Shanahan said. “(He is) someone we’ll be communicating with throughout the game.”

Alexander is undoubtedly eager to play. Even before the pec tear, the linebacker missed 14 games between the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Ingram, 49ers, Thielen, Fuller

With every team booked into divisional-round action having now begun practice, here is the latest from the injury front going into Round 2. We’ll start with a midweek Vikings setback:

  • Stefon Diggs has missed two Vikings practices because of illness this week, but Mike Zimmer expects him to suit up in San Francisco. However, Adam Thielen suffered an ankle injury at practice and was limited on Wednesday as a result. Thielen was not on Minnesota’s Tuesday injury report. The Pro Bowl wideout missed much of this season with a hamstring injury. He caught seven passes for a game-high 129 yards against the Saints.
  • The NFL’s other purple-wearing team will likely go into its second-round game with backfield uncertainty. Previously expected to return for the Ravens‘ playoff opener, Mark Ingram has missed both Ravens practices this week. Ingram experienced a setback with his injured calf last week, leading to the Ravens to shut him down for a bit, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). The Ravens are indicating there is a “realistic chance” Ingram plays. Baltimore backup Gus Edwards‘ 5.2 yards per carry ranked third in the NFL this season.
  • 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander has been cleared for game action, per Rapoport (video link), meaning it’s now Kyle Shanahan‘s call on whether to redeploy the high-priced defender Saturday. The 49ers used their second IR-return spot on Alexander, who is attempting to return from a midseason pectoral tear, but have not activated him yet.
  • Winding down an oft-injured season, Dee Ford is back at 49ers practice and appears ready to return at a key juncture. The veteran defensive end has dealt with a few maladies, his most recent being a hamstring issue that he aggravated in December. Ford’s gone through limited practices the past two days.
  • One of the NFL’s most important No. 2 wideouts, Will Fuller is trending in the right direction for the Texans‘ divisional-round rematch in Kansas City. The Texans expect their deep threat to return against the Chiefs, Rapoport tweets. Fuller was limited Wednesday. Deshaun Watson‘s QBR figure is 16 points higher when Fuller is on the field compared to when he’s not. The injury-prone wideout missed six games this season, the latest because of the groin injury he sustained in December.
  • Among the healthiest of the divisional-round teams, the Packers will have their right tackle back in the mix. Bryan Bulaga suffered a concussion in Week 17 but passed the protocol Wednesday, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes. Kenny Clark, however, missed practice with a back injury. The contract-year defensive lineman played all 16 Packer games this season.

49ers Designate Kwon Alexander For Return

Kwon Alexander will have a chance to suit up for the 49ers in the playoffs. On Thursday, the Niners designated the linebacker for return, as Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports tweets

It’s not a given that Alexander will be able to play the Niners’ divisional round game so soon after suffering a pectoral injury. However, the move to bring him back from IR leaves that possibility open, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com says Alexander has a good chance to play next Saturday.

Alexander, 25, was said to be done for the year after landing on IR with a torc pec on November 1st. In eight games, Alexander rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 33 ranked linebacker in the NFL, but it’s worth noting that PFF’s metrics have never been high on his work.

Getting Alexander back on the field in time for their Jan. 11 game would be a huge left for SF, particularly after their rash of injuries in the front seven.

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NFC West Notes: Cardinals, Rams, Alexander

The Cardinals are in the market for a new special teams leader. They fired ST coordinator Randall McCray, Alex Marvez of Sirius XM Radio tweets. After 26 seasons in the college ranks, McCray joined Steve Wilks‘ Cardinals staff. This was his first NFL job. Additionally, Arizona will sever ties with defensive line coach Chris Achuff, Marvez adds. Also a holdover from Wilks’ staff, Achuff had made the college-to-pro transition, with his most recent role marking his initial NFL gig.

Here is the latest from the NFC West, pivoting first to the Cardinals’ most famous player:

  • The NFL’s oldest active wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald led the Cardinals with 804 receiving yards and did not miss a game for the fifth straight season. But yet again, the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer will take time to ponder retirement. Fitz, however, did add that he enjoyed this season more than recent ones, per Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. The 2004 first-round pick moved into second place on the NFL’s all-time receptions list this season, currently sitting between Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez with 1,378. Kliff Kingsbury plans to give Fitzgerald an offseason sales pitch to return for his age-37 season.
  • While the Rams received considerably worse play from their highly paid offensive trio of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks this season, Les Snead pushed back on the notion the recent extensions were the wrong decisions. “From a salary cap standpoint, and I assume the cap does go up, there’s a new collective bargaining agreement that’s coming that’s another variable that we don’t know about,” Snead said, via ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry. “We’ve shown in the past that when you have commodities that you might move on with via trade to collect draft capital that maybe the perception says you don’t have and to clear cap space.” That said, the Rams’ top-market extensions caused them to lose key role players this offseason and have Michael Brockers, Cory Littleton, Austin Blythe and Dante Fowler looming as threats to defect in March. The team soon must shape a Jalen Ramsey re-up as well.
  • Another of the Rams’ many key free agents, Andrew Whitworth is now 38. But the Rams will meet with the veteran left tackle to determine if he still fits into their equation, Thiry adds (via Twitter). Snead said Whitworth’s place on the team is “a harder piece of the puzzle.” He signed a three-year, $33.75MM deal in 2017 to head to Los Angeles and has been a key part of Sean McVay‘s three Rams offenses. Should Whitworth not be brought back, youngsters Joe Noteboom and Bobby Evans stand as successor options, per Thiry.
  • J.J. Watt‘s return from a torn pectoral muscle has prompted questions about Kwon Alexander potentially doing the same. The 49ers linebacker is eligible to return for the team’s divisional-round game, but Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area hears such a re-emergence remains unlikely. The 49ers, however, have not completely given up on their highest-paid linebacker coming back for a potential NFC championship game. (Though, Kyle Shanahan deemed this unlikely.) The 49ers have yet to use their second IR-return slot. Like Watt, Alexander missed his team’s final eight regular-season games.

NFC West Notes: Watson, Penny, 49ers

Current Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, who enjoyed a strong run as the Cardinals‘ HC from 2013-17, nearly brought one of the league’s best quarterbacks to the desert prior to his final year in Arizona. Deshaun Watson was selected by the Texans with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2017 draft, and the Cardinals held the No. 13 overall pick that year. As Patrick D. Starr of SI.com writes, Arians was poised to nab Watson if he slipped one more spot.

It’s unclear whether the Cardinals tried to trade up to select Watson, but they ultimately took linebacker Haason Reddick with their choice. Of course, Arizona seems to have found its QB of the future in Kyler Murray. and who knows how things may have turned out if Watson ended up with the Cards, but it’s always fun to play the butterfly effect game when reports like this surface.

Now for more from the NFC West:

  • Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny is undergoing ACL surgery Friday morning, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. We recently heard that, in addition to an ACL tear, Penny may have sustained additional knee damage, but Schefter says the 2018 first-rounder is expected to be ready to go for the 2020 season.
  • The 49ers have sustained a number of injuries lately, but they will have CB Richard Sherman back this week. Though recent reports indicated that Sherman may not be back until the playoffs, Matt Barrows of The Athletic says the three-time First Team All-Pro will play in San Francisco’s matchup against the Rams on Saturday night (Twitter link). The Niners, of course, are trying to get back into one of the NFC’s top two seeds after a bad loss to the Falcons on Sunday dropped them to the fifth seed.
  • Speaking of Sherman, Field Yates of ESPN.com points out that the 31-year-old earned a league-high $1MM incentive by being named to this year’s Pro Bowl on the original ballot, and he also increased his 2020 base salary by $1MM (Twitter link). Sherman is currently under contract with the 49ers through the 2020 season.
  • 49ers LB Kwon Alexander, who was ruled out for the season in November with a torn pec, does have a chance to return at some point in the postseason, as Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. However, head coach Kyle Shanahan conceded that the odds of that happening are slim, and it seems much more likely that the team will have to wait until next year to see Alexander back in action.

49ers’ Kwon Alexander Done For Year

That’s a wrap on Kwon Alexander‘s season. The 49ers linebacker will miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets

Earlier today, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters that he was nervous about the MRI. After doctors reviewed the scans, they confirmed his (and Alexander’s) worst fears.

The Niners signed Alexander to a four-year, $54MM deal in March with $27MM guaranteed. Former Bucs star and current 49ers GM John Lynch was high on Alexander – perhaps a touch higher than other clubs this offseason – but things haven’t gone according to plan in the 25-year-old’s first season with SF. After missing 14 games between 2017 and 2018, he’ll miss the second half of the ’19 campaign, plus the playoffs.

Through eight games, Alexander rates as Pro Football Focus’ No. 33 ranked linebacker in the NFL (though, PFF’s metrics have never been high on his work). At the time of his season-ending ACL tear in 2018, PFF had him as the 53rd-ranked LB in the league.

On the plus side – Shanahan believes that tight end George Kittle’s knee injury is a short-term issue. Also, the 49ers are 8-0 – that also helps to ease the pain of losing one of their defensive starters.

The 49ers topped the Cardinals on Thursday night to keep their undefeated streak going. On Monday Nov. 11, they’ll return to action to face another division rival when they take on the Seahawks.

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