SANTA CLARA, Calif. — With the first win of their new regime finally under their belts, the San Francisco 49ers will get a chance this week to rest, relax and recover during their long-awaited bye week.
Given how the first 10 games of the season have played out, this might be the last, best chance for coach Kyle Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and their respective staffs to come up for air for quite a while.
It’s also why the 49ers didn’t hold back in celebrating that first victory.
It’s hard to envision a scenario in which San Francisco doesn’t either re-sign or tag quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Sergio Estrada/USA TODAY Sports
“I think it’s been a long few months,” Shanahan said. “I think you build up and you go through a lot, a lot of emotions through all those losses. Guys really trying to compete and constantly being disappointed and to try to get up each week and try to fight again and come up short a number of times, and we started over last week again. We came in for those Wednesday meetings talking about there are four days left in our season, and we’ve got three days to prepare for four hours. And that’s really all we wanted to talk about, all we wanted to see.
“I felt like the guys went about that all week from Wednesday on. And to act that way still doesn’t guarantee you anything. Playing hard doesn’t guarantee anything. All of it to me just gives you a chance. But, to act that way all week, to go through that game where that game was not perfect at all, some of the turnovers, some costly penalties in some situations, but to be able to recover and rebound from all that stuff and overcome some adversity in those games, just to put everything in that week and to get rewarded with a win, I think, that’s just how guys felt.”
At 1-9, the Niners still have six games to go. But with clear needs emerging all over the roster, this figures to once again be a busy offseason, even if there finally is stability with the coaching staff and front office.
Which makes this as good of a time as any to take stock of what the Niners have in place and take an early peek at what they will have at the top of their shopping list when the season is over:
49ers scheduled to be unrestricted free agents: DE Tank Carradine, LB Brock Coyle, DT Leger Douzable, OL Brandon Fusco, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, OT Garry Gilliam, CB Leon Hall, RB Carlos Hyde, CB Asa Jackson, CB Dontae Johnson, DE Datone Jones, C Daniel Kilgore, DE Aaron Lynch, WR Louis Murphy, TE Logan Paulsen, S Eric Reid.
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Projected 2018 salary-cap space: $111,138,196 (includes current projected rollover of remaining $60,242,741 left on this year’s cap)
Who could be back: The Niners under Lynch and Shanahan have not been afraid of change, turning over the bulk of the roster and then parting ways with veterans like linebacker NaVorro Bowman during this season. With that in mind, it’s possible that only a few of their unrestricted free agents will return.
Clearly, Garoppolo is at the top of that list. One way or another, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which San Francisco doesn’t either re-sign or tag Garoppolo. Aside from that, it’s hard to get a read on who might come back considering the Niners haven’t been in a rush to bring back players already on the roster with the exception of nickel corner K’Waun Williams, who already signed an extension.
At this point, Shanahan isn’t tipping his hand on whom he’d like back, but he did acknowledge that there are some players he wants to keep.
Aside from Garoppolo, Hyde and Reid are probably the most interesting names on the list. Before season-ending injuries to Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt, Reid moved to linebacker, which seemed to be an indication he could be the odd man out. Still, Reid brings experience and versatility, and if his price isn’t outrageous, he could return.
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Hyde is having perhaps his best season despite the 49ers not running all that much. He’s been more involved in the passing game and is still the team’s best runner. Much of his chance for a return will depend on where his price tag goes. If he walked, the 49ers would create another pressing need.
Others who would be worth another look assuming the price is reasonable: Carradine, Coyle, Fusco, Johnson and Kilgore.
Positions of need: Edge rusher, WR, CB, interior OL
Free-agency outlook: It’s too early to try to identify specific players who might hit the market and be available to the Niners, especially since most of the big names set to be free agents often end up tagged or re-signed before the new league year begins. But obviously the 49ers will have plenty of cap space to throw around. A big chunk of that will have to go to Garoppolo, but there will still be plenty left to pursue needs. Investing in the offensive line would make the most sense considering how much more difficult it is to get NFL-ready linemen from college. On the flip side, impact edge rushers and No. 1 receivers almost never hit the market, even if some good players do become available occasionally. Cornerback is more of a mixed bag and depending on how you feel about the Rams’ Trumaine Johnson and New England’s Malcolm Butler, there could be some opportunities for the Niners come March.
NFL draft picks: Nine selections, including one in Rounds 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 and two in Rounds 3 and 7.
Draft possibilities: The early read on this draft is that there will be some talented edge rushers and defensive backs but not so much in terms of a true No. 1 wideout. The Niners are all but certain to pick in the top three and in a perfect world, they could trade their top pick for a bunch of other picks, move back a few spots and still get a top edge rusher or corner. Or, perhaps someone like Penn State’s Saquon Barkley will be too talented to ignore, especially if Hyde departs. Of course, a lot will change between now and the draft, but this much is certain: The trade for Garoppolo helped open the Niners to a world of options.