San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch was asked if there was a theme in the team’s recent draft after it concluded last Saturday. His response was revealing. He seemed confident that his club – which have had long playoff runs in two of the past three seasons – were in a good position.
“I think one of the themes was that we didn’t have a lot of needs on our list,” Lynch said. “But we had a few that were there.”
Among the reasons the team didn’t have urgent needs was one of the biggest developments of the draft weekend: the team decided not to give in to the catcher’s trade request. Deebo Samuel. Lynch decided there were no offers from the New York Jets or Detroit Lions that would justify moving away from San Francisco’s best player in 2021.
“Losing a player like Deebo, it’s hard to see how it helps your organization,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “You try to look at every aspect of it and what people are willing to do, and nothing was even remotely close that we thought was right for us or right for the Niners.”
Keeping Deebo Samuel
Deciding not to trade Samuel signals a few important things. First, Shanahan and Lynch are convinced that the relationship with Samuel can be fixed. For reasons Samuel and the team remain close to the vest, the philosophical differences became public knowledge when Samuel made his trade request known to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, making things awkward for both sides heading into the draft.
Second, not trading Samuel indicates the 49ers are willing to pay him the going rate in a booming receiver market, which means something in the neighborhood of $25 million a year and in the region of $60 million. millions of dollars in guarantees.
Perhaps some clarity came when the Titans sent star receiver AJ Brown, who shares an agent with Samuel, to the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia signed Brown to a four-year, $25 million-a-year contract with $57.2 million in practical guarantees. This provides insight into Samuel’s agent, Tory Dandy, and San Francisco’s chief negotiator, Paraag Marathe.
You also have to think about the context. The 49ers had no problems paying players at the top of their respective markets. George Kittle’s 2020 contract extension made him the highest-paid tight end, Fred Warner became the highest-paid linebacker when he signed in 2021, and Trent Williams became the highest-paid offensive lineman in history last offseason with his six-year-old, $138 million. contract at the start of free agency. Defensive lineman Arik Armstead is expected to make $24.3 million and $25.9 million off the cap over the next two seasons.
The 49ers are brimming with money from Levi’s Stadium and the salary cap is set to skyrocket in 2023 and 2024 when new media rights deals kick in. And the team should be helped by quarterback Trey Lance on a manageable rookie contract. The idea that the front office in San Francisco would be unwilling to meet Samuel’s demands was never followed through as Samuel’s takeover fell on deaf ears.
It came on Wednesday this week when Samuel re-followed the 49ers on Instagram, after his unfollowing of the team’s account drew attention to his displeasure.
Perhaps the 49ers and Samuel have already started patching things up ahead of the team’s offseason program, with the voluntary part continuing ahead of the mandatory June 13-15 minicamp. Kittle and Warner’s deals both took place on the same day of their respective training camps in late July. and August.
“It’s part of the business,” Shanahan said of Samuel’s trade request. “There are certain things that people have to go through. There are certain things that everyone is trying to get and do, and you see what you can and work from there. I mean, you can fix everything. Hopefully when all of that is said and done, we get the best thing for the Niners, the best thing for Deebo, and hopefully the same thing because we’d like to continue the way we’ve been doing. But we know it’s in front of us right now.
49ers salary cap space
As it stands, the 49ers should have just under $42 million in cap space for 2023, according to Overthecap.com, based on a cap projection of $225 million for this season. . That doesn’t include the potential savings of $25.5 million if quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s money is taken off the ledger. (Here’s a way-too-early projection from OTC: The 49ers with nearly $115 million in cap space in 2024 with a cap projection of $256 million.)
Garoppolo remains one of the big questions of spring and summer. The Subway pitcher’s money hits the salary cap if he’s on the roster after the latest cuts. Otherwise, the team could roll that money over to the next season, giving the 49ers more than enough wiggle room to account for Samuel’s new contract and star defensive end Nick Bosa (who’s in the same position. than Samuel, but hasn’t had a look at negotiations this offseason).
So the 49ers are on hold on the Samuel, Bosa and Garoppolo fronts, which isn’t a terrible place. They still have time to settle things with three of their most important characters.
In the cases of Samuel and Bosa, those contracts probably need to be done before training camp begins. With Garoppolo, the team is about a month older. They need him to regain his health and be able to pitch before other teams consider trading him before the start of the regular season. A strong training camp and pre-season would likely open that door.
Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers carrying Garoppolo’s $27 million unless he beats Lance somehow. It sounds like the most unlikely scenario left on the board. My bet: The 49ers find a business partner sometime in August or ask Garoppolo to take a dramatically reduced salary as a backup.
But even then, having Garoppolo around wouldn’t give Lance much room to breathe in his first full season as a starter. If Lance were to falter, the dynamic could get complicated, given that the team went to the NFC title game with Garoppolo playing mediocre football last season and through the playoffs as he dealt with injuries.
But it’s a bridge the 49ers will cross when they get there. As Lynch said, the spring theme so far has been to ride with what the team has. After all, the NFC is wide open, and San Francisco finished last season as conference runners-up.
On draft picks
drake jackson — USC’s pass rusher, the 49ers took 61st overall — was a logical choice. Defensive End is a premium position worth tackling with premium resources. San Francisco went to the Super Bowl in 2019 largely on its passing rush. If Jackson had had stability with the Trojans, instead of several defensive coordinators asking him to move from defensive end to outside linebacker, there’s a chance he wouldn’t have been available in the second round. He goes to an ideal situation with position coach Kris Kocurek there to help him become a complementary force at Bosa.
San Francisco’s second pick was a headache. Finding running backs was never an issue with Shanahan as head coach, but they used a third-round pick on LSU. Tyrion Davis Price, a player many expected to take a round or two later. It’s a lot like the third-round pick the team made a year ago for running back Trey Sermon, who the team doesn’t seem to like too much. Davis-Price struck better, as making a possible miss on Sermon worse would put far too much pressure on Elijah Mitchell to carry the charge.
Third-round pick Danny Gray is intriguing. The SMU receiver ran a blistering 4.33 in the 40-yard dash and plays as fast as he tested. He runs away from defenses with the ball in his hands and could provide a superior version of what Richie James Jr. has given San Francisco in recent seasons. Gray should partner well with Lance on deep passing while diverting attention away from Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
The team believes Spencer Burford (UTSA) has guarding and tackling flexibility. I guess he provides depth and competes for the “swing” tackle role. He started 43 games in four seasons in college. Cornerback Samuel Womack could be the last fifth-round find for San Francisco. He didn’t go on college recruiting trips in high school because he played AAU basketball, which likely cost him Division I scholarship offers. team twice in Toledo after obtaining a scholarship as an extra.
offensive lineman Nick Zakelj has a tough road to make the roster given the number of guards, but could be a development option for the practice squad. Another sixth-round pick Kalia Davis could have been taken a round or two sooner if not for an ACL injury. The nose tackle could use 2022 as his redshirt season. If he returns healthy, the 49ers believe he has a chance to develop like DJ Jones, who signed a three-year, $30 million deal this offseason with Denver. Tariq Castro Champs was another player expected to play long before Round 6, but the 49ers will gladly give him a chance to compete for a roster spot given his height (6-foot, 195 pounds), 4.38 speed and of his experience after starting 30 games at Penn State. Last draft pick, quarterback Brock Purdy, could be the next Nick Mullens, Shanahan said. Like Mullens, the 49ers hope they don’t have injuries to other quarterbacks that would force him to act.