The San Francisco 49ers have been among the busiest teams during the free agency period. Have they made the right moves to push them closer to the playoffs in 2019?
The 49ers had a boisterous free agency period, acquiring premium talent and premium conundrums.
Let’s dive in and see what to make of it by grading each acquisition to the 49ers roster.
Any player coming off an ACL tear wouldn’t honestly believe the market would be hot for their services considering they suffered a potentially career-altering injury.
However, general manager John Lynch and company felt more than comfortable paying Kwon Alexander by making him the second highest paid inside linebacker in the NFL with a four-year, $48 million contract.
With the self-inflicted departure of Reuben Foster at the weakside linebacker position, the 49ers had a glaring void at a paramount position of their defensive scheme.
Alexander is known as a violent player who is particularly strong at effecting the game off the ball and covering tight ends.
However the former Buc does not come without his faults, and some of them may be glaring.
Alexander led the league in missed tackles from 2016 to 2018. His tackling form is rather weak, a product of his reckless style, but punishes ball carriers when he does make the tackle.
The 49ers may have found a good one in Alexander, and they may have chosen a player forever more deficient due to his recent injury. One thing is certain, though, he’s better than anything they had before at the weakside position.
Ford was acquired for a 2020 second round pick and signed a five-year, $87.5 million contract.
When Kris Kocurek took over as the 49er’s defensive line coach one thing moved to the top of the list in the way the 49ers evaluated defensive lineman; get off. If there’s one thing Dee Ford can do its get off.
His get off is insanely fast, his first step is comparable to Von Miller in just how quick they both burst around the tackles and bend with a smooth blend of acceleration and balance. Dee Ford jumps off the tape as a player that can change football games as he posted seven forced fumbles (led the league) and 13 sacks (tied for 1st) providing the 49ers with the venerated pure edge usher they have coveted since the John Lynch/Kyle Shanahan era began. This is the “closer”, they pinned for, and now they have one of the best.
To finish the deal, San Francisco sent Kansas City a 2020 second round pick, which is small peas for one of the best players at one of the league’s most important positions. Having him on the outside will open opportunities for Pro Bowler Deforest Buckner, along with Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, and DJ Jones. The 49ers found the piece to make the defensive line pop, and it seems they aren’t done either.
Holding the number two overall pick, the 49ers could pair Ford up with the likes of Nick Bosa or Quinnenn Williams, two of the more dominant players along the defensive line the collegiate level has produced in the past decade. With either Bosa on the other side of the edge or Quinnen Williams at the pure DT position, Ford opens up everything for this 49ers defense and will provide them with a speed rusher to torment the division and ascend their chances to clinch a playoff birth.
Everybody knows Shanahan loves versatile players, and one could argue the epitome of that player in the Kyle Shanahan scheme is the $10 million man Tevin Coleman. For the 49ers to land Coleman, which was much to their surprise and elation, is huge for this offense.
Supposedly, the 49ers were never planning on acquiring another running back for the offense, but when Shanahan learned Coleman was still available he jumped at the chance, and it’s no surprise why.
In 2016, Tevin Coleman was one of the NFL’s most dangerous weapons, his speed from the backfield position to run smooth routes past linebackers and underneath wide receivers developing routes, made the Shanahan system with Coleman close to unstoppable. Coleman posted eight rushing touchdowns on just 118 attempts. His 13.6 receiving yard average on 40 receptions for 421 and three touchdowns back in 2016 in the fully loaded Shanahan offense will look to be closely emulated with the red and gold.
The immensity of Shanahan now having two legit receiving backs out of the backfield with Coleman and Jerrick McKinnon is exciting if you’re a Faithful. Giving Shanahan a capable quarterback and true receiving backs along all three wide receivers positions and absurdly athletic tight end can equal a lot of wins. The 2019 49ers may have found the perfect combination of talent.
The 49ers signed cornerback Jason Verrett to a one-year, $3.6 million deal this offseason.
This one fits the classic low risk, high reward signing most teams do, and should, make in the offseason. Back in 2015, Verrett looked to be on the brink of NFL stardom, earning a Pro Bowl selection and posting a ridiculous 85.1 and 88.4 cornerback grade in 2014 and 2015 according to Pro Football Focus. After that, however, Verrett couldn’t escape the injury bug, as he tore his ACL in 2016 and was placed on injured reserve after developing “knee soreness,” after one game in the 2017 season. He again tore his ACL again on the first day of the 2018 training camp.
Things have been difficult for Verrett and his road may seem steep to reach his past heights, but if he can stay healthy he can end up being an absolute steal for the franchise.
The 49ers re-signed safety Jimmie Ward to a one-year, $4.5 million prove it deal.
Similar to Verrett, Ward simply can’t stay healthy. When he’s on the field it’s a bit of a different story.
The 49ers can’t seem to decide where they like Jimmie Ward most, as they have moved him from corner to safety multiple times throughout the years. Ward never excelled completely in either role. However, an argument can be made he never had the time to fully settle in one specific position due to his fluctuating availability and lack of continuity.
The 49ers probably hope that an improved pass rush will help their secondary finally have their potential realized. Not saying it’ll work, as this guess is as good as any.
The polarizing Jimmie Ward stays on the 49ers for one more roll in the hay.
The 49ers finally signed a receiver over 6’1, after signing Jordan Matthews to a one-year, $2 million deal. No, they didn’t end up getting Odell Beckham Jr., but Matthews is a pretty good consolation prize, right?
According to Shanahan, Matthews is playing the “best football of his career”, noting he has improved in each of his last five seasons between the Eagles, Bills, and Patriots. Only time will tell if this analysis rings true.
Shanahan said he envisions Matthews as a big slot receiver who is able to shoulder harder hits in the middle of the field and provide Garropolo with a bigger target. Matthews certainly has the lateral quickness to separate from opposing linebackers.
Matthews serves as another low risk, high reward signing for the 49ers this offseason.