Offseason to-do list for the San Francisco 49ers

While the 49ers will be outside looking in on the postseason, it's never too early to be thinking about how to improve this offseason.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Offseason to-do list for the San Francisco 49ers

From 2003 through 2010, the San Francisco 49ers went through eight dismal seasons with a record of 46-82, and no playoff appearances under Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan, and Mike Singletary.

Everything would change with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh in 2011. The 49ers four-year mark under Harbaugh was 44-19, with two NFC West division titles and one NFC Championship. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked the 49ers as the top team overall in two of Harbaugh’s seasons.

So, what did CEO Jed York and G.M. Trent Baalke decide to do next? They let Harbaugh walk, and replaced him with a coach who had been in charge just once over his 26-year coaching career, and that was with the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe, Jim Tomsula.

Needless to say, that decision has not translated into a positive season for the franchise. San Francisco went from the 12th-ranked overall team for PFF last season, to its current 31st-ranking in 2015.

From top to bottom, the 49ers have holes nearly everywhere, with their top-ranked position player on the roster being FB Bruce Miller (eighth overall fullback). Not good.

With $40 million in cap space to spend, ownership needs to take a serious look again at their decision makers before they hand them too much power, considering how things ended with Harbaugh.

Once you decide what to do with the front office and staff, the roster needs an almost complete overhaul, starting at QB. The team will save another $12 million in cap space by parting ways with Colin Kaepernick, who currently ranks 36th out of 37 at the position for PFF.

Former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert has shown flashes since taking over in Week 9, but the jury is still out on whether he has the tools to be a long-term starter. So, unless they decide to take a chance on Sam Bradford via free agency or pull the trigger on a trade, the chances are good that the 49ers will be drafting a QB early next April.

As of today, San Francisco owns the fifth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but depending on how the rest of the season turns out, they could be drafting anywhere from first through 12th overall.

If they pull the trigger on a QB with their first pick, hometown boy Jared Goff from California would be a very popular choice. If Goff were not available, Memphis’ Paxton Lynch would be the only other QB considered in the top 12. Personally, I’m a Kevin Hogan fan, and since he played his ball down the block at Stanford, he could be a nice pick-up later on if they decide to go in another direction early.

Once the 49ers find their QB, he’ll need some weapons to throw to. With free agent WR Anquan Boldin turning 36 next season, there is little chance to expect he’ll want to return for a rebuild, but money does talk. That would open a big hole for a No. 1 receiver.

In reality, the 49ers need two starters there. For some reason, Baalke gave an average player like WR Torrey Smith a five-year, $40 million deal before the season. Smith currently ranks 61st overall for PFF, just ahead of teammate Quinton Patton (69th). The difference is that Patton makes less than $700,000 per year.

The tight end position is also an issue, as former second-round pick Vance McDonald just hasn’t developed as hoped, and ranks 50th at the position this season for PFF, with an overall grade of 60.6.

The offensive line has taken the biggest hit over the last five seasons, especially in the running game. San Francisco had a top-five run blocking unit under Harbaugh. The current run blocking unit ranks 31st in the NFL.

Re-signing LG Alex Boone should be a priority, but the right-side of the line, including their pivot, Marcus Martin, has major issues. Martin has actually regressed from his rookie season, and ranks 37th of 41 centers for PFF, at 27.3. RG Jordan Devey ranks 77th (37.5) and RT Erik Pears ranks 50th (42.6) at their respective positions this season.

Injuries, suspensions, and retirements have decimated the defense over the years, and the only key player left standing from their one-time dominant unit is ILB Navarro Bowman. Bowman has yet to recover to form after suffering a torn ACL in the 2014 NFC title game, and ranks 55th overall among NFL linebackers this year.

Considering Bowman’s age and contract, he’ll get at least one more season to prove he can once again become a force and a leader for the defense, but inside teammate and FA Michael Wilhoite likely won’t be returning after a dismal season. He ranks 89th out of 94 NFL linebackers, at 33.1.

On the outside, second-year man Aaron Lynch has been rock-solid, and ranks 21st overall among NFL edge defenders. The hope is that rookie third-round selection Eli Harold can improve upon a disappointing season to date, as the 86th-ranked edge defender for PFF, but 35-year old Ahmad Brooks could be cut, as his best days are behind him. Brooks can save the team $6.5 million in space if he departs a year early.

The future appears bright along the line, and should be the least of the 49ers’ worries. NT Ian Williams has been an underrated performer the past two seasons, and ranks 26th overall for interior defenders. No chance the team lets him walk after the season.

First round pick LE Arik Armstead is a freakish athlete at 6-foot-8-inches, 285 pounds, and is developing into a major piece up-front as the 29th ranked interior defender for PFF.

The wild-card is RE Tank Carradine. The former second-round pick in 2013 is starting to make plays, as he continues to progress, following an ACL injury that came late his final season at Florida State. He basically took a red-shirt in 2013, and did not see the field as a pro until Week 10 last season. If he continues to show signs of progress, San Francisco will have a solid up-and-coming line across the board for years to come.

The secondary is young and promising, but with salary cap limitations in Carolina, it might not be a bad idea to throw money towards impending free agent Josh Norman, the second-ranked CB for PFF at 90.9, and see if he’ll take the payday I’m not sure the Panthers can afford.


  • sc00by_d00

    This is an excellent assessment of the current state of the 49ers. There is a lot of work to do with this team, but I hope the management starts by reading this article.

  • anon76returns

    What a mess of an offense. Yay Staley and Hyde, I guess.

  • J Orion

    What about RT Anthony Davis possible return? What do they do with Bethea, with Tartt doing well? Do they extend Reid?

    • Christopher Stadel

      Pears will be released no matter what Davis decides. If he returns, that’s great. We’ll see if he’s in shape and ready to start again. If he doesn’t return, let’s see if Brown is ready to start. The real question is what will Boone do? I don’t see him coming back unless the FO offers him as much as Iupati was offered by Arizona. Bethea could get traded for mid-round draft picks. Reid is still under contract for 2016 and they could pick up his 5th year option in 2017 being a 1st round pick.

      • Dave

        You say Pears will be released but I don’t think that’s a forgone conclusion. Baalke gave him 2 yrs $4.7 mil last year. That was 3 months before turning 33 and after being ranked the 76th guard out of 78 qualifiers by PFF. It was a stupid move then just like the trade for and starting of Jordan Devey for 9 games.

  • hartjdave

    Ahmad Brooks is 31.. I think it would be a mistake to draft a QB like Goff that high — especially when you have no offensive line. Also, QB’s drafted in the first round who aren’t the #1 pick have a dismal track record. Keep Kap and Gabbert (11 mil isn’t THAT much these days), rebuild the OL and spend some money on a pass rusher and maybe a cornerback. The Niners do have some young talent. They need to play those guys.. And give Jarred Hayne a real shot.. :)

    • james may

      No NO NO,let Kap walk,Draft Goff and go from there,its time to stop “oh no don`t draft a QB that high CRAP” git her done, and move on.

  • Rodgohard

    David Lorenzo Shaw head coach at Stanford, Shaw was the team’s offensive coordinator for the entire tenure of head coach Jim Harbaugh from 2007 to 2010. Previously, Shaw was a four-year letter winner playing as a wide receiver for the Cardinal from 1991 to 1994, where he was coached by Dennis Green and Bill Walsh and assistant coach in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, and Baltimore Ravens. Offensive mind and motivator similar to Mike Tomlin.

  • geep

    As long as Baalke is doing the drafting, it’s a waste of time to talk about WHO the 9ers should draft, BECAUSE HE WILL”F” IT UP!
    Even if Balkee accidentally draft a good player, the coaching staff
    would “F” them up….. and if by some miracle, the 9ers hired a good HC and staff, Balkee and Dork would run them off!

  • Keith R Mathews

    The first priority is to revamp the entire coaching staff, with the exception of the running back coach, an ex-49er fullback of real talent.
    Then revamp the right side and center of the offensive line,including tight ends and get a competent QB to lead it all.
    Whew! I would not want the job of fixing the 49ers. [Call Harbaugh! Help!]

  • crosseyedlemon

    No matter what the 49ers do it will be very difficult to steal away fans from the Giants and Warriors after the great success they have had in their respective sports.

  • Gordon Gurley

    It’s clear that Baalke can’t draft offensive talent. He’s been pretty decent on the defensive side. Question is: will he bring in someone to help draft a QB and WR? Oh let’s see, who might be around? Joe Montana? Steve Young? Jerry Rice? Ronnie Lott? Mike Holmgren? They seem willing to help. We’ll see if Baalke/York venture outside the building. Not likely given past experiences.

    • Christopher Stadel

      He picked Bell who has a lot of potential to be a really good TE. He’s just a rookie and only started playing the position last year. He has looked good so far despite getting limited snaps. He also picked Thomas in the 3rd round last year and was redshirted due to his ACL injury he sustained at a pre-draft workout. He was considered a late 1st – early 2nd round talent that looked pretty good in preseason this year but hasn’t been active for a regular season game. Didn’t he pick Hyde too? He’s a beast and one of the best young RBs in the NFL when he’s healthy. He also picked V Mac who is one of the best blocking TEs in the NFL. He’s still quite young and just recently started to show his full potential. He also drafted Miller and Kilgore in 2011. Miller is one of the best fullbacks in the NFL and Kilgore looked great last year. Kilgore has some rust to knock off after not playing football for just over a year.

      • ChickenHunter

        Dude, stop it. Baalke has put on the one of the worst teams in the lague. He had 5 years to bring in a #1 WR and he’s failed at that. Boldin is not a #1 WR, he’s always been a great #2 possession WR but not someone that takes the top off the D and keeps them from clogging up the short/middle routes or the running lanes. Baalke has failed to find a replacement for Alex Smith in 5 years or a tall big bodied TE to go over the middle and keep the chains moving. Vance Mcdonald was drafted as a pass catcher that couldn’t block to replace Delanie Walker who is now the #2 TE in the league. He has failed to acquire OLinemen that match Kaps style of play or skill players that match his style of throwing. Baalke has some fetish with big linemen with long arms that can block in a straight line but are not agile and can’t pass block if they’re life depended on it. Now look at all the misses on D and that’s where his strength is supposed to be. Pile on his lack of people skills to deal with successful coaches and player agents that keeps big talent from coming here, both coaches and players.

        But the bottom line is that Baalke’s team is 32nd out of 32 teams on Defense; 30th on offense; 32nd in point differential; last place in the NFC West; blown out by the worst team in the league. Most GMs don’t have 5 years to implement their plan, he has and this is the result.

  • Christopher Stadel

    We drafted Smelter in the 4th round last year and redshirted him due to his ACL injury in college. The NFL scouts considered him a 2nd round talent and maybe a poor man’s version of Anquan Boldin.

  • Christopher Stadel

    Wasn’t Tomsula the interim head coach during the final game of 2010 after Singletary was fired? Other than NFL Europe, he had a little head coaching experience in the NFL.

  • zinn21 zinn21

    The Niners need to draft Goff first and foremost. That would solidify the position for years to come. Gabbert is good and with help will move the team. His big play victory over Chicago speaks volumes on his mental desire.. He should start in 2016. Cleveland will draft a QB with their first pick. If it’s Goff the Niners need to move up to #1 and get him. Sign Boone, get a commitment before the draft or FA and sign recently retired Anthony Davis and sign or draft another quality O lineman. The mindset should be 7-8 starter quality O lineman. Depth is a must in the trenches where the game is won and lost most Sundays.