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49ers news mailbag: Red zone weapons, draft day trades, free agency additions and more

The 49ers wrapped up the Senior Bowl last week, getting a first-hand look at some of college football’s top prospects. The focus for general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan is now squarely on NFL free agency approaching on March 13th, and the 2019 NFL Draft, which starts on April 25th. It’s a critical offseason for the 49ers’ leading pair as they approach Year 3 at the helm.

We’re back with your latest questions in this week’s offseason mailbag. You’re welcome to drop questions in here for our next mailbag or tweet me @Rob_Lowder.

“Do you feel the 49ers’ redzone deficiencies are a product of personnel we have right now, or could it be a schematic issue? How can this be improved this offseason?” Shiga

It’s difficult to criticize the 49ers’ schematic success in the red zone while the team deployed an injury-riddled offense led by a third-string quarterback in 2018. Shanahan’s options were admittedly limited after the loss of both starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and versatile running back Jerick McKinnon. For now, the focus should be placed on the healthy return of those key pieces, while adding talent capable of threatening defenses inside the 20-yard line. With a healthy amount of cap space and an early draft pick, the opportunity is there for Lynch to add impact talent on offense and give Shanahan the tools he needs to find pay dirt on a more frequent basis.

“What do you think needs to be fixed the most for the #49ers red zone offense to improve in 2019?” Bobby Horne

To expand on the last question, the surest way to address the 49ers’ red zone woes is to add talent capable of making plays when it matters. Tyrell Williams would be among my first suggestions in free agency. The 6-foot-4 Los Angeles Chargers wideout possesses an intriguing blend of size and speed that would command respect from defenses as the team approaches the end zone. Williams caught 41 passes for 653 yards and five touchdowns in 2018 within a stacked Chargers offense.

A receiver to keep an eye on in the draft is Deebo Samuel. The South Carolina receiver attended the Senior Bowl and excelled under the 49ers’ coaching staff, putting his crafty route-running and reliable hands on display. At 6-foot and 210 pounds, Samuel has a similar frame to Pierre Garçon. Samuel would make an ideal replacement for the 49ers’ veteran receiver that may be on his way out before the season. Samuel racked up 62 receptions for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018.

Adding a pair of scoring threat like Williams and/or Samuel would give the 49ers new life in the red zone.

“What do u think the Denver Broncos would offer the 49ers to move to the 2nd pick?” Ninerguy77

The Denver Broncos and general manager John Elway are said to have eyes for Missouri Tigers quarterback Drew Lock. If they want to ensure they get their guy, Elway, who holds the draft’s 10th pick, may give Lynch a call in the hopes of swapping picks with the 49ers at No. 2.

In 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles traded up from No. 8 to No. 2 with the Cleveland Browns, surrendering a third- and fourth-round pick in 2016, a first-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018. The Eagles did this knowing they’d have their pick between quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins is widely considered the draft’s top quarterback, but neither he nor Lock seem to have the stock that would prompt team’s to trade up into the first-overall pick. This doesn’t mean that Elway won’t consider trading up, but it may not command the same haul the Browns pulled from the Eagles three years ago.

“Seeing a lot of Trent Brown this week. I know he wasn’t a good fit for Shanhan’s scheme, but did we get anything in return?” Mike Dallorso

Before the season, the 49ers traded right tackle Trent Brown and a fifth-round pick to the New England Patriots in exchange a third-round pick. The 49ers’ starter on the right side of the line became expendable when the team selected Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey ninth-overall in 2018. Brown, known for his pass-protecting ability, struggled with run-blocking in Shanahan’s scheme. The 49ers wanted to get more athletic at the position and did with McGlinchey.

Lynch used the pick acquired from the Patriots to select Southern Mississippi’s Tarvarius Moore. The former safety was converted to cornerback by the 49ers and started in 2018 replacing the injured Ahkello Witherspoon. The jury is still out on Moore, who was inconsistent, albeit inexperienced, when forced into the starting spotlight.

“Assuming Bosa goes #1 and no pass rush is addressed in free agency, Quinnen Williams may makes the most (objective) sense. If this happens, what EDGE/pass rush player(s) would you target in the next three rounds?” Panda Express

Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams is widely considered the draft’s No. 2 player behind Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, with Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen a close third. If the 49ers were to select Williams, the fourth defensive lineman in five years, their next choice would come 34 picks later at 36. Pass rushers targeted in the second round could still provide immediate impact for the 49ers. Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson, Old Dominion’s Oshane Ximines and Miami’s Joe Jackson would all be names to consider with pick No. 36. Beyond that, your guess would be as good as mine.

“Why would the 49ers risk a trade down in the first for an EDGE who is more of a crap shoot versus just taking a blue chipper like Allen or Bosa? I think it’s not time to get cute with the draft we need an EDGE! Period!” Christopher Peterson

I tend to agree with Christopher, however, the 49ers only own six picks in the 2019 draft. With the team still in the midst of a rebuild, Lynch can use all the picks he can get to infuse talent into the roster. If the 49ers are to consider trading out of second-overall, it should only be for a truly blockbuster deal that’s too good to pass up. The 49ers’ roster is in dire of the impact player that is typically guaranteed by a second-overall pick. For now, the plan should be to stand pat and turn in the card come draft day.

“With only five picks in the draft, what are the chances that John Lynch trades back and gets extra picks?” Mr. Washington

The 49ers now have six draft picks after receiving a sixth-round compensatory selection for losing linebacker Aaron Lynch, who signed a $4 million deal with the Chicago Bears in the offseason. Still in the midst of a rebuild, the 49ers could use all the draft capital they can get, in 2019 and beyond. Lynch and Co. will consider trading back, but the offer will need to be significant enough to pry them away from the top-tier players that will be available at second-overall. For now, I’d ballpark the chances of a trade at about 20%.

“What’s up with this/these/that switching from Josh Allen to Nick Bosa…then DT Rashan Gary? ” Patricia Alegria

Patricia is referring to recent mock drafts from NFL’s Daniel Jeremiah and Lance Zierlein that pegged the 49ers with Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary. With the vast majority of mocks focusing on Kentucky’s Josh Allen, Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, or Ohio State’s Nick Bosa for the 49ers, it would seem Jeremiah and Zierlein are attempting to inject some fresh content into a scene that can become quite repetitive during this time of year. Mocks will deserve a lot more attention when March’s free agency is in the rear-view mirror and team’s are preparing for April’s draft.

“Do you think 49ers are pressuring Jimmy by saying he will be at OTA’s?” Sean Herring

The 49ers wouldn’t risk Jimmy Garoppolo’s health for the sake of OTAs. If the team believes he’ll be ready, it’s safe to say they feel comfortable with Garoppolo’s recovery from a torn ACL suffered in Week 3 of 2018. The 49ers have endured more than their fair share of backup quarterbacks over the past two seasons, and will give Garoppolo all the time he needs to return to the starting lineup.

“What should we do about our five running backs?” Gold by the Lake

The 49ers currently have five running backs on the roster, all of which got significant playing time in 2018 with the exception of Jerick McKinnon, who tore his ACL before the season. Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., and Alfred Morris all shared a portion of the workload throughout the season. If I had to make an early prediction, I’d presume all except for Morris remain on the roster in 2019.

“How much longer should we be patient with Solly?” David

Solomon Thomas has disappointed in his first two seasons with the 49ers after they made him the draft’s third-overall pick in 2017. The former Stanford defensive lineman only managed 24 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack on the season. 2019 will be a critical year for Thomas and proving to the 49ers that he’s a part of the team’s future along the defensive front. Patience will be hard to find beyond next season.

“How much cap space do the 49ers now have after rolling over $35 million?” Harris Chisolm

The 49ers currently hold $61.8 million in salary cap for 2019, per Over the Cap. That number places them at seventh-most in the NFL. The team should see $2.95 million added to that amount after the expected departure of defensive lineman Earl Mitchell.

“What is the biggest free agent you think the 49ers will realistically target seriously?” Vamsee Vemula

I’d place my bet on the 49ers strongly pursing safety Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks.



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