- The 49ers’ future under center could hinge on whether the Redskins are able to lock up Cousins, opines Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. The Niners entered the current offseason lacking under center, yet they just made modest free agent acquisitions (Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley) and only used a third-rounder on the position in the draft, taking C.J. Beathard. Without an obvious long-term answer at QB, the 49ers figure to chase Cousins in 2018 if he hits free agency, especially considering they have a Cousins fan in head coach/ex-Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and will possess a boatload of cap space next winter.
Earlier this month, DeAngelo Williams told ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter that he wanted to continue playing in 2017. However, he said that there were four mystery teams he refused to play for. The running back has now revealed the identity of those teams (audio link).
Surprisingly, the Panthers are one of the teams that Williams says he will not sign with. The 34-year-old spent the first nine seasons of his career in Carolina, but he left there with a bad taste in his mouth because of the way his departure played out. He also said that he would not sign with the Cowboys, because he grew up a 49ers fan. The Browns and Jaguars, Williams says, are also not in consideration, because of their losing seasons. Williams was not exactly delicate as he broke down his reasons for crossing off each club.
“They don’t ever show up during the playoffs,” Williams said of the Cowboys. “They always disappear in the playoffs.”
In theory, that leaves 28 teams for Williams to possibly join this summer. However, his age and odometer are clearly working against him as we have heard little chatter around the veteran tailback. They say that beggars can’t be choosers, and Williams is being a chooser in the most unorthodox way by ruling out four teams that he could possibly join.
As of this writing, all four of the teams listed by Williams seem pretty well set at running back. However, if one of those clubs loses an RB to injury this summer, he may regret his words.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Cardinals running back David Johnson says that he is paying close attention to Le’Veon Bell‘s contract negotiations with hopes that he’ll get a big payday. Johnson feels that things are about to change for top running backs and believes that big money is on the way.
“I feel like, especially now, with the running backs we have in this league, we’re going to definitely change the mentality of the running back and those contract deals,” Johnson told Andy Benoit of The MMQB. “We’re going to definitely make it [understood] that running backs are more important than you’d think. Everyone thinks it’s a passing league, but I think running backs are starting to show up and show out and prove that you need a good one to be a capable team.”
Unfortunately for Johnson, teams are still paying close attention to the odometers on running backs and it’s hard to net a monster deal after you’ve already logged a certain number of NFL carries. There are exceptions, but the perception remains that running backs are fungible with a limited shelf life and that impacts their pay day.
Here’s more from the NFC West:
- Former NFL running back Glen Coffee will be participating in Saturday’s Spring League Showcase, Mike Florio of PFT writes. The 29-year-old was a former third round pick of the 49ers who retired after one NFL season. He announced earlier this year that he would be attempting a comeback. Given his age and time away from the game, he’ll really have to impress scouts in order to get a camp invite.
- New Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth is the best newcomer to the NFC West this year, Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com argues. Whitworth takes over for failed former No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson and should give Jared Goff better protection on his blindside. Whitworth is 36, but he has three Pro Bowls on his resume and is considered to be one of the game’s very best tackles.
- Seahawks cornerback DeShawn Shead is likely to begin the year on the PUP list.
“At the end of the day, that’s our brother,” Brockers told SiriusXM. “We’ll go to war with him and for him. We respect any decision. He deserves it. You look at the record, being the most dominant defensive tackle in the league, and he’s just making all these phenomenal numbers and stuff like that. And, obviously, pay the man. Obviously. He’s put in him some major work for this team and I think he deserves it.”
Donald is slated to have a $3.225MM cap number in 2017 before his salary jumps to $6.892MM in 2018 under the fifth-year option. A new deal for Donald will likely reset the market for defensive tackles and he wants it now, not next year. The 26-year-old has managed 28 sacks during his first three years in the league and last year graded as the NFL’s No. 1 interior defender, according to Pro Football Focus.
Here’s more from the NFC West:
- Despite losing defensive tackle Calais Campbell and safety Tony Jefferson this offseason, the Cardinals are still the team with the best chance of challenging the Seahawks for the NFC West crown, ESPN.com’s Sheil Kapadia opines. The Cardinals still have question marks, including their passing game and pass protection, but the playmaking ability of David Johnson gives them a chance at making some noise in the division.
- Was the Alex Smith trade a good deal from the 49ers‘ perpsective? Smith is not an elite quarterback, but he has become a great game manager with Kansas City and the Niners watched Colin Kaepernick decline from 2013 onward, Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Smith’s completion percentage was also much higher than Kaepernick’s over the last few years. Still, the trade worked out for the Niners, Lynch argues, because the second-round pick they got in the deal was flipped in order to net five draft picks instead. One of those picks turned out to be Carlos Hyde, the team’s top running back.
- Will the Seahawks miss the playoffs in 2017? Click here to tell us which 2016 division winners will fall short this year.
John Lynch acknowledged the 49ers‘ effort to add some picks for the 2018 picks may have had an ancillary motivation. The 49ers signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley in free agency and used a third-round pick on Iowa’s C.J. Beathard. While the new San Francisco GM hopes Hoyer or Beathard can be the franchise quarterback he covets, he’s aware of the higher-profile passers expected to be part of next year’s talent pool and doesn’t sound averse to adding another passer in 2018. Josh Allen (Wyoming), Josh Rosen (UCLA) and Sam Darnold (USC) headline that group, with Louisville’s Lamar Jackson lurking as a wild-card threat with obvious top-flight athleticism.
“I think we have been very up front that we understand that you have to have a big-time franchise quarterback to have success on a year-in-and-year-out basis. We want that and we are aware of that,” Lynch said during a radio interview with KNBR, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “We are hopeful that it’s one of the guys that we already have. There is a quality QB class coming. We just felt like the opportunity to get a lot of players this year that we really valued, plus be able to stockpile for next year as we are trying to rebuild this thing, we want to build this with a nucleus of players that really fit our mold.”
The 49ers acquired 2018 third- and seventh-round picks during draft weekend, the first in the Mitch Trubisky deal with the Bears, and traded a 2018 fourth-rounder to the Broncos for running back Kapri Bibbs.
John Lynch has vouched for Colin Kaepernick‘s desire to play football throughout this offseason, but the new 49ers GM doesn’t think all of his peers believe him. Lynch said it would be in Kaepernick’s best interests to communicate these desires to remain in the league publicly.
Kaepernick remains a UFA despite several less accomplished quarterbacks landing backup jobs. While he visited the Seahawks and has maintained a public profile on social media, he hasn’t spoken out about his football career this offseason. Late last month, a 49ers employee questioned Kaepernick’s commitment to football, saying he only wants to return to stay relevant.
Here’s more from the Western divisions, first shifting to the 49ers’ Los Angeles-based rival.
The odds are against receiver DeAndre Smelter making the 49ers‘ final cut, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee writes. Even though he’s 6’2″ and the rest of the team’s WRs are lacking size, the numbers crunch will make it hard for him to stick. The starters right now are Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, and Jeremy Kerley. Meanwhile, Kyle Shanahan favorite Trent Taylor is almost assured a roster spot and Aldrick Robinson has a leg up thanks to his familiarity with Shanahan’s system. That leaves seven receivers, including Smelter, vying for one potential spot.
- One 49ers employee tells Albert Breer of The MMQB that Colin Kaepernick wouldn’t stay late at the facility during the season like many quarterbacks routinely do, opting instead to take work home. That didn’t set well with coaches who felt that his mediocre prep work led to bad mistakes in games. When asked if he thinks Kaepernick wants to continue playing, another team employee said, “I do think he wants to play—to stay relevant.” It should be noted that Kaepernick tossed only four interceptions against 16 touchdowns last season, so his errors did not result in a ton of turnovers. However, a player’s TD/INT rate obviously does not take other play-reading errors into account, such as missing an open receiver.
Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner played more than 1,000 snaps during his rookie campaign with the 49ers last year, a figure that new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh calls “criminal,” as Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee writes. Not only will San Francisco be transitioning to a 4-3 front in 2017, but the club will look to run a rotation along the defensive line in an effort to keep individual players fresh. 2015 first-round pick Arik Armstead should see his snaps increase during the upcoming season, while the additions of No. 3 overall selection Solomon Thomas and free agent signees Earl Mitchell and Elvis Dumervil will also give the 49ers more options up front. San Francisco ranked 20th in adjusted sack rate and 29th in adjusted line yards.
The 49ers earned a “B” grade for their offseason in the eyes of ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner. The offseason, of course, saw the Niners hire a new GM in John Lynch and a new head coach in offensive guru Kyle Shanahan, two major moves that could put the organization in the right direction. Wagoner liked the fact that the Niners didn’t sell the farm to try and get a quarterback, opting instead to stockpile picks and resources for 2018. However, he wasn’t crazy about everything that went down in SF, including the five-year, $26.5MM deal for linebacker Malcolm Smith, a pact which included $11.5MM guaranteed at signing.
Here’s more on the 49ers:
- 49ers draft pick Trent Taylor was Shanahan’s favorite player in the draft, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. That’s high praise considering that the Niners grabbed the small wide receiver in the fifth round at a time when some analysts believed he’d go undrafted. Taylor’s former college offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin, also sees Taylor making a mark in SF. “A lot of times you hear people say, ‘This guy is the next Wes Welker,’” said Franklin. “Every small, white kid’s been Wes Welker since Wes Welker became a star. I’m telling you, Trent Taylor really is.”
- The 49ers announced a host of promotions within the team’s personnel department. Chip Flanagan, RJ Gillen, Jacob Nierob, John Stevenson, and Josh Williams have all been elevated to new roles, as outlined in the team’s press release.
- Good news for the 49ers as linebacker Reuben Foster could be a full participant in training camp.